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The Top Guide to Caring for Boston Ferns Indoors

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on caring for Boston Ferns indoors. If you’re a plant enthusiast or a beginner looking to add some greenery to your space, Boston Ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata) are a fantastic choice. These popular houseplants are known for their beautiful sword-shaped blue-green foliage and can thrive indoors with the right care and conditions. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Boston Fern care, from watering and humidity to light requirements and soil needs.

Key Takeaways:

  • Boston Ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata) are indoor plants known for their sword-shaped blue-green foliage.
  • These houseplants thrive in warm and humid conditions and require frequent watering to prevent the soil from drying out.
  • They prefer bright, indirect light and organically rich soil with good drainage.
  • Boston Ferns can be pruned and propagated to encourage bushy growth and can be repotted in the spring.
  • Common problems with these ferns include pests like whiteflies and mealybugs, which can be controlled with proper care.

The Basics of Boston Fern Care

To ensure the healthy growth and vibrant foliage of your Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata), it’s essential to understand its care requirements.

Temperature and Environment

Boston ferns thrive in warm and humid conditions, making them ideal indoor plants. They are sensitive to temperature extremes and drafts, so it’s important to avoid placing them near windows or air vents. The ideal temperature range for Boston ferns is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 24 degrees Celsius).

Watering and Fertilization

Proper watering is crucial for Boston ferns to thrive. They require consistent moisture, so it’s important to keep the soil slightly damp. Water the fern whenever the top inch of the soil feels dry. Additionally, misting the ferns regularly can help raise humidity levels, especially in dry climates.

Regular fertilization is also essential for the health of your Boston fern. Use a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength, and apply it every two weeks during the growing season (spring and summer). This will help promote lush foliage and overall vigor.

Pruning and Maintenance

Pruning is a simple task when it comes to caring for Boston ferns. Simply remove any dead or yellowing fronds to maintain the plant’s aesthetic appeal and encourage new growth.

Light and Soil Requirements

Boston ferns prefer bright, indirect light. They can tolerate some shade, but too much shade can result in sparse and lackluster fronds. It’s best to place them in a location that receives filtered sunlight in the morning and afternoon shade.

The type of soil is also crucial for Boston ferns’ well-being. They thrive in organically rich soil that has good drainage. Use a well-draining potting mix that contains peat and perlite for optimal growth.


Aspect Care Requirements
Temperature and Environment Warm and humid conditions, avoid drafts
Watering and Fertilization Keep soil slightly damp, mist regularly; fertilize every two weeks during the growing season
Pruning and Maintenance Remove dead fronds to promote new growth
Light and Soil Requirements Bright, indirect light; organically rich, well-draining soil

With these care requirements in mind, you’ll be able to provide the optimal conditions for your Boston Fern to thrive. The next section will focus on watering and humidity tips to ensure the health and vitality of your fern.

Watering and Humidity Tips for Boston Ferns

Proper watering and maintaining optimum humidity levels are crucial for the health and vitality of your Boston Ferns. Let’s explore some tips on how to water and create a humid environment for these beautiful plants.


The watering needs of Boston Ferns vary depending on the season and location. During the active growing stage in the spring and summer, it is important to keep the soil lightly moist. However, overwatering can lead to root rot, so be careful not to let the soil become soggy.

For indoor Boston Ferns, weekly waterings are typically sufficient. Outdoor plants in warm environments may require more frequent waterings to combat higher evaporation rates. As the seasons transition to fall and winter, reduce watering to every other week. Nevertheless, it is crucial to prevent the fronds from drying out completely during dormancy.


Boston Ferns thrive in humidity levels above 80 percent. Maintaining adequate humidity is essential to prevent leaf browning and ensure optimal growth. Here are some tips to increase humidity around your ferns:

  1. Misting: Regularly misting the foliage with water helps increase humidity levels, especially in drier climates.
  2. Tray with water and pebbles: Place your Boston Fern on a tray filled with water and pebbles. As the water evaporates, it creates a humid microclimate around the plant.
  3. Humidifier: Using a humidifier is an effective way to maintain consistent humidity levels, especially if you have multiple indoor plants.

Expert Tip:

To promote health and vitality, always water your Boston Ferns with room-temperature water. Cold or hot water can shock the roots and hinder growth.

Watering and Humidity Tips for Boston Ferns Summary
Watering Requirements – Keep soil lightly moist during active growth
– Water weekly for indoor plants
– Increase frequency for outdoor plants in warm environments
– Reduce watering to every other week in fall and winter
Humidity Needs – Maintain humidity above 80 percent
– Mist the foliage regularly
– Use a tray with water and pebbles
– Consider a humidifier for consistent humidity levels

Light and Location for Boston Ferns

When it comes to the light requirements of Boston Ferns, finding the perfect balance is key. These beautiful indoor plants thrive in bright, indirect light, but too much shade can result in sparse and lackluster fronds, while excessive sunlight can lead to burned leaves. To ensure optimal growth and lush foliage, it’s important to choose the best location for your Boston Fern.

A recommended spot for your Boston Fern is a porch that receives filtered sunlight in the morning and afternoon shade. This provides the right amount of light without subjecting the plant to direct sunlight that could be too intense. Additionally, the porch’s sheltered environment helps protect the fern from drafts, such as those from air conditioners or heating vents, which can be detrimental to its health.

Boston Fern

If you don’t have a porch, don’t worry! You can still find a suitable location indoors. Choose a room that gets bright, indirect light throughout the day, such as near a north or east-facing window. Steer clear of placing your Boston Fern in direct sunlight or areas with extreme temperature fluctuations. Drafts from open windows or heating/cooling systems can affect the humidity levels and potentially harm the fern.

To summarize:

  • Place your Boston Fern in a location with bright, indirect light.
  • Consider a porch that receives filtered sunlight in the morning and afternoon shade.
  • Avoid direct sunlight and drafty areas.
  • Indoors, choose a room with bright, indirect light near a north or east-facing window.

By providing the right amount of light and selecting an ideal location, your Boston Fern will thrive and bring a touch of greenery and tranquility to your space.

Soil and Fertilizer Needs for Boston Ferns

Proper soil and fertilization are essential for the optimal growth and health of Boston ferns. These houseplants thrive in organically rich, loamy soil with good drainage. Whether you are planting them in outdoor gardens or in pots indoors, providing the right soil conditions ensures their longevity and lush foliage.

For outdoor gardens, it is recommended to add compost and peat to the soil before planting Boston ferns. This helps create a nutrient-rich environment that mimics their natural habitat. The compost improves the soil’s fertility, while peat enhances moisture retention.

When growing Boston ferns in pots, it is crucial to use a peat-based potting mix. Peat provides the necessary organic matter and acidity that these ferns prefer. Adding perlite to the mix improves drainage, preventing waterlogged soil that can lead to root rot.

Fertilizing Boston Ferns

Boston ferns are known as low feeders, meaning they don’t require excessive amounts of fertilizer. However, they still benefit from regular feeding to support their growth and vibrant green foliage.

For outdoor ferns, annual fertilization with compost and mulch is sufficient. Apply a layer of well-aged compost around the base of the plants in the spring. This natural fertilizer supplies essential nutrients gradually and improves the soil structure.

Indoor ferns, on the other hand, can be fertilized monthly during the spring and summer using a liquid houseplant fertilizer. A 20-10-20 formulation is ideal, diluted to half strength as directed on the product label. Apply the fertilizer directly to the soil, making sure not to touch the fronds to avoid burning them.

Remember to follow the recommended instructions on the fertilizer packaging and adjust the frequency and strength of feeding based on the fern’s response. It’s always better to under-fertilize than over-fertilize, as excessive nutrients can lead to weak growth and burnt foliage.

Comparing Outdoor and Indoor Fertilization for Boston Ferns

Outdoor Boston Ferns Indoor Boston Ferns
Fertilizer Type Compost and mulch Liquid houseplant fertilizer
Fertilizing Schedule Once a year in the spring Monthly during spring and summer
Fertilizer Strength N/A Half strength, as directed on the label
Application Method Apply compost and mulch around the base of plants Apply liquid fertilizer directly to the soil

Varieties of Boston Ferns

Boston ferns come in several varieties with different appearances and care requirements. Whether you’re a seasoned plant lover or a beginner looking to add some greenery to your space, there’s a Boston fern variety that’s perfect for you. Let’s explore some popular choices:

Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Compacta’

This variety is a shorter and more compact version of the Boston fern species. Its fronds are dense and upright, giving it a bushy appearance. Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Compacta’ is a great choice for smaller spaces or as a tabletop plant.

Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Florida Ruffle’

If you prefer ferns with feathery, ruffled fronds, then Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Florida Ruffle’ is the one for you. Its delicate and intricate foliage adds a touch of elegance to any room. This variety thrives in bright, indirect light.

Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Golden Boston’

For a pop of color, consider Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Golden Boston’. This variety has vibrant yellow or golden leaves, adding brightness and warmth to your indoor or outdoor space. It requires similar care to other Boston fern varieties.

Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Rita’s Gold’

Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Rita’s Gold’ is another variety with yellow foliage. It has fronds that range from chartreuse to golden hues, creating a striking visual contrast. This fern variety thrives in shaded areas and adds a touch of exotic beauty to your home or garden.

Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Fluffy Duffy’

If you’re looking for a unique and eye-catching Boston fern, consider Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Fluffy Duffy’. This variety has small, dense, and finely textured fronds that create a lush appearance. It looks especially stunning when placed in hanging baskets, where its delicate foliage can cascade gracefully.

With a variety of Boston ferns to choose from, you can select the perfect one to suit your style and care preferences. Whether you prefer a compact and bushy fern or one with vibrant and unique foliage, there’s a Boston fern variety out there for everyone.

Enhance your indoor or outdoor space with the beauty of Boston ferns. Discover the ideal variety that captures your attention and brings nature’s charm into your home.

Varieties of Boston Ferns

Varieties of Boston Ferns
Variety Description
Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Compacta’ Short and compact with dense, upright fronds. Suitable for small spaces or tabletop display.
Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Florida Ruffle’ Feathery, ruffled fronds that add an elegant touch to any room. Thrives in bright, indirect light.
Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Golden Boston’ Features vibrant yellow or golden leaves, adding brightness to indoor or outdoor spaces.
Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Rita’s Gold’ Chartreuse to golden-hued fronds, creating a striking visual contrast. Flourishes in shaded areas.
Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Fluffy Duffy’ Small, dense, and finely textured fronds, ideal for hanging baskets and cascading displays.

Pruning and Propagating Boston Ferns

Boston ferns are resilient plants that respond well to pruning, allowing you to maintain their shape and promote bushy growth. Pruning is particularly advantageous when done during repotting, as it helps optimize the plant’s health and appearance. If you have outdoor ferns, cutting them back to four inches above the ground in preparation for winter can protect them from harsh weather conditions.

Another way to propagate Boston ferns is through division. This method involves separating a section of the fern that has healthy roots and planting it in a new pot or in the garden. Dividing the fern not only allows you to create new plants but also helps rejuvenate the original fern by removing any crowded growth. Keep in mind that it is best to propagate Boston ferns in the spring or early summer when they are actively growing.

For those who want to take a more adventurous propagation approach, growing Boston ferns from spores is an option. Spores are tiny structures formed on the undersides of mature fronds. By collecting these spores and providing them with the right conditions, you can grow new ferns from scratch. This method requires patience and attention to detail but can be a rewarding way to expand your fern collection.

Overall, pruning and propagating Boston ferns are essential techniques that can help you maintain and expand your collection of these stunning plants. Whether you’re shaping your ferns, dividing them, or growing them from spores, these practices allow you to nurture healthy and thriving Boston ferns for years to come.

Repotting and Winter Care for Boston Ferns

Proper repotting and winter care are crucial for maintaining the health and longevity of your Boston Ferns. In this section, we will discuss the necessary steps to repot your ferns and provide them with the care they need during the winter months.

Repotting Boston Ferns

Repotting your Boston Ferns is recommended in the spring when you notice the roots starting to poke out of the soil. Choose pots that have adequate drainage holes and are made of plastic or glazed terracotta. These pots retain moisture better and prevent the soil from drying out too quickly.

To repot, carefully remove the fern from its current container, gently loosen the roots, and trim any dead or yellowing fronds. Place the fern in its new pot at the same depth it was previously planted, ensuring that the roots are well-covered with fresh potting mix. Water thoroughly after repotting to settle the soil and promote root establishment.

Winter Care for Boston Ferns

During the winter months, Boston Ferns may enter a period of dormancy. Rather than trying to continue the growing cycle indoors, it’s best to let the ferns rest and conserve energy. Follow these guidelines to care for your ferns during the winter:

  1. Cut back the fronds:
  2. To prepare your indoor ferns for winter, cut back the fronds to about four inches above the soil. This helps reduce water loss and prevents the fern from using unnecessary energy during dormancy.

  3. Choose a cool, dry area:
  4. Store your indoor ferns in a cool and dry location during the winter, such as a basement or a garage. Avoid exposing them to freezing temperatures or drafts, as they can damage the delicate fronds.

  5. Water sparingly:
  6. During dormancy, water your ferns sparingly to keep the soil barely moist. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so it’s essential to let the soil dry out slightly between waterings. Check the moisture level by inserting your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle; if it feels dry, it’s time to water.

For outdoor Boston Ferns, complete a late fall cutback to remove any dead or dying fronds. The soil around the ferns should be kept barely moist throughout the winter to prevent dehydration.

Remember: While Boston Ferns may appear dormant during the winter, they still require care and attention. By providing the right conditions, you can ensure that your ferns remain healthy and vibrant all year round.

Table: Repotting and Winter Care for Boston Ferns

Steps Repotting Winter Care
Best Time Spring Winter
Pot Type Plastic or glazed terracotta with drainage holes N/A
Root Trimming Remove dead or yellowing fronds, gently loosen roots No trimming, cut back fronds to 4 inches above soil level
Potting Depth Same depth as previous pot N/A
Watering Thoroughly after repotting Sparingly, keeping soil barely moist
Storage Location N/A Cool, dry area (e.g., basement, garage)
Outdoor Care N/A Late fall cutback, keep soil barely moist

Common Problems and Pests with Boston Ferns

While Boston ferns are relatively low-maintenance plants, they can still face common problems and pests that can affect their health and appearance. Outdoor ferns that are neglected and grown in unfavorable conditions can become susceptible to pests such as whiteflies, mealybugs, snails, slugs, and caterpillars. These pests can damage the foliage and weaken the plant.

Even indoor Boston ferns are not entirely immune to pests. Spider mites, scale insects, and mealybugs can infest indoor ferns and cause problems if not promptly addressed. These pests feed on the plant sap and can lead to stunted growth and yellowing leaves.

To prevent and control common problems and pests, it is crucial to regularly monitor your Boston ferns for any signs of infestation. Inspect the foliage, undersides of leaves, and the soil for any pests, eggs, or damage. If you notice any infestation, take the appropriate measures to control the pests. This may include using natural or chemical insecticides, removing affected plant parts, or introducing beneficial predators like ladybugs.

Remember that prevention is always better than a cure. By providing proper care and maintaining the ideal growing conditions for your Boston ferns, you can minimize the risk of common problems and pests. Ensure your ferns receive adequate sunlight, water, and humidity. Avoid overwatering or underwatering, as both can stress the plant and make it more susceptible to pests and diseases. Additionally, regularly clean the foliage, remove dead fronds, and keep a clean growing environment to discourage pest infestations.


What is a Boston Fern?

A Boston Fern, also known as Nephrolepis exaltata, is a popular houseplant with sword-shaped, blue-green foliage. It is a tropical plant that thrives in swampy, humid, and forested areas.

Can Boston Ferns be kept indoors?

Yes, Boston Ferns can be kept indoors year-round. They are well-suited for indoor environments as they do not require a lot of sunlight and can tolerate lower light conditions.

How often should I water my Boston Fern?

During the active growing stage in the spring and summer, Boston Ferns should be kept lightly moist, but not soggy. This usually requires weekly waterings for indoor plants and more frequent waterings for outdoor plants in warm environments. In the fall and winter months, watering can be reduced to every other week, but it’s important to prevent the fronds from drying out during dormancy.

How do I raise humidity levels for my Boston Fern?

Boston Ferns thrive in humidity levels above 80 percent. To raise humidity levels, you can mist the ferns, set the plant on a tray filled with water and pebbles, or use a humidifier. This is especially important in dry climates.

Where is the best location for a Boston Fern?

Boston Ferns prefer a location with bright, indirect light. Too much shade can result in sparse and lackluster fronds, while too much sun can burn the leaves. They are a good choice for a porch plant that receives filtered sun in the morning and afternoon shade. Avoid placing them in direct sunlight or near drafty areas such as air conditioners or heating vents.

What type of soil do Boston Ferns prefer?

Boston Ferns prefer organically rich, loamy soil with good drainage. Adding compost and peat to outdoor gardens before planting is recommended. For potted Boston Ferns, a peat-based potting mix with added perlite for improved drainage is best.

How do I prune a Boston Fern?

Pruning a Boston Fern is simple and involves removing dead fronds. This can be done when repotting the plant. Pruning helps encourage bushy growth and corrects legginess. Outdoor ferns can also be cut back to four inches above the ground to overwinter.

How do I propagate a Boston Fern?

Boston Ferns can be propagated by division, which involves separating a section of the fern with healthy roots and planting it in a pot or in the garden. Another method of propagation is growing Boston Ferns from spores collected from adult plants.

When should I repot my Boston Fern?

Boston Ferns should be repotted in the spring when the roots start to poke out of the soil. They prefer pots that take longer to dry out, such as plastic or glazed terracotta pots with ample drainage holes.

How do I care for Boston Ferns during winter?

Indoor ferns may enter a period of dormancy during winter. Rather than trying to continue the growing cycle indoors, it’s best to cut the plant back to four inches above the soil and store it in a cool, dry area like a basement or garage. Outdoor ferns should undergo a late fall cutback, and the soil should be kept barely moist throughout the winter.

What are common problems and pests that can affect Boston Ferns?

Boston Ferns can be susceptible to pests such as whiteflies, mealybugs, snails, slugs, spider mites, scale insects, and caterpillars. Proper care and maintaining the right growing conditions can help prevent many common problems with Boston Ferns.

Anetha Bakenberg
Anetha Bakenberghttps://plantmedinsights.com
Anetha Bakenberg, founder of PlantMed Insights, is a botanist and herbal wellness advocate. Passionate about sustainable living and community gardening, she shares her extensive knowledge in medicinal plants and eco-friendly practices to inspire a healthier, greener world.

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