If you want to add more greens to your home, Boston ferns are a good way to go. Their lovely foliage makes them perfect for pots as well as hanging baskets.
They can likewise get very bushy if you let them. Thus, taking up more space and adding a focal point to blank or boring areas in your home.
If that’s not enough, they’re ranked among the best air purifying plants around.
Here’s how to properly care for Boston ferns.
About Boston Ferns
The Boston fern is commonly known as the sword fern. It gets this name from the shape of its fronds which look like long, sharp blades.
That said, it is one of the most popular ferns and a quite common houseplant. That’s because in addition to its good looks, it’s also inexpensive and fairly easy to care for indoors.
Blessed with lovely long fronds, these plants make for good showpieces inside your home because of their size and ability to be placed in many kinds of containers.
They grow to between 1 to 2 feet tall with fronds reaching over 12 inches or more depending on the conditions they’re grown in.
And, like most houseplants, you can place them in pots on tables or over furniture. However, they do just as well in hanging baskets as well as other containers above eye level.
Best of all, these are tough ferns. They tolerate indoor conditions much better than most other houseplants not minding less sunlight.
Boston Fern Plant Care
The Boston fern enjoys bright, indirect light. That means it prefers to stay away from the direct path of the sun’s rays. To do so, you can place it in a north-facing window.
Likewise you can position in windows facing south, east, and west. However, when you do, keep about 5 feet away from the opening. That way it still gets light. But, not direct sunlight.
Alternatively, you can likewise put light curtains or other tings to slightly cover the light coming in from the window. Trees right outside the opening work just as well since your plant will only receive dappled light as the branches and leaves block the brunt of the rays.
However, in any of these cases, make sure to give your Boston fern at least 2 hours of bright, indirect light daily. And, like all potted houseplants, do rotate it every so often so that each side of the plant gets even exposure. This prevents it from tilting towards the sun. Or, one side looking more alive than the other.
Temperature & Humidity
Boston ferns trace their origins from tropical regions. But, they now grow worldwide thanks to their ability to adapt to different conditions, including temperature.
As a result, they can thrive in a fairly wide temperature range between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Although, they still enjoy the warmer end of that range.
In fact, they won’t complain if you give then warmer temperatures.
For example, when grown outdoors, they’ll enjoy temperatures of between 80-85 degrees during the daytime and around 60-70 degrees at night.
Indoors, you probably won’t want to set the thermostat that high unless you wanted to get your sweat out. Thus, they’re likewise happy with indoor climates of 70 degrees during the daytime and 60 degrees at night.
But, the problem comes when you go under that range. It isn’t a fan of the cold. So, it’s not a good idea to go far below 60 degrees.
Leaving it at temperatures that are 50 degrees or lower for a few hours is enough to make it unhappy. Also, it doesn’t like cold blasts or drafts.
It likewise enjoys fairly humid conditions of between 50-60%. While this is a little bit higher than what’s in most homes, there are simple ways to increase humidity above the plant, like placing it on top of a pebble tray with water.
When it comes to watering, the goal is to keep the soil moist at all times. This means not allowing it to dry up. And, not to overwater such that the soil gets soggy or wet.
This can be somewhat challenging during the summer or if you have the plant somewhere very warm. If that’s the case, you’ll likely need to water more frequently.
In any case, do so when the top inch of the soil gets dry. And, when watering, always aim for the soil and not the fronds. The goal is to water the surface and not the foliage. Otherwise, you increase its risk of disease.
Once winter swings by, you’ll start to notice your Boston fern slow down and stop growing. When that happens, you can cut down on watering as well.
But, never allow it to completely dry out. That will be devastating for your plant.
Coming from tropical environments, the Boston fern is used to soil that’s rich in organic matter. Thus, it’s a good idea to give it to them.
Although, not necessary, it will help them grow healthier.
Here, you can use a mix of peat moss and good potting soil. You can likewise add some compost to boost the organic content if you have some on hand.
More importantly, make sure that the planting medium drains very well. It also helps that it’s able to retain moisture as well in order to keep the soil moist.
When it comes to ferns and plant food, slow and steady wins the race. As such, it’s not about feeding it a lot. Instead, it’s doing so consistently, little by little.
You can use a balanced houseplant fertilizer and apply it once every 2 weeks diluted to half-strength. And, when you do so, apply it on the base of the plant and not on the fronds.
Boston ferns don’t require much pruning. But, you’ll still need to do so by way of cleaning up old fronts and those that are browning.
This helps keep your houseplant looking good. More importantly, it helps revert any energy it puts from these older and unhealthy parts to new ones.
Here, a pair of sharp scissors comes in handy. As always, make sure to use a clean pair so that they don’t pass on any contamination onto your plant. After all, you’re wounding it each time you trim.
Boston ferns aren’t the longest living houseplants around. They typically last for 2 years or so.
Thus, it can be a good idea to propagate them sooner rather than later. This way, you’ll be able to keep enjoying them in your home indefinitely.
The good news is, they’re fairly easy to propagate via division.
- Let the soil dry a little more than you usually do.
- But instead of watering, remove the plant from its container.
- Allowing the soil to dry out a bit makes it easier to dig up the root from the soil since it isn’t wet.
- Using a serrated knife, cut the root ball into sections. How many will depend on how many plants you want to get from it. Each section will be planted into a new pot. Thus, making them new separate plants from the original one.
- After cutting them apart, repot each one.
- Then water until the soil is moist.
With your Boston fern, repotting is needed when one of these 2 scenarios happen.
- You want it to grow bigger. Moving plants to a bigger container encourages them to grow. So, this might be something you want to do. But, in most cases, it isn’t.
- It outgrows your pot. The more common reason people repot their houseplants is that the plants have outgrown their containers. Here, you also have 3 options when it comes to the Boston fern. You can,
- Keep it in its pot. Even when it has outgrown its pot, it’s not always necessary that you move it to a bigger pot. This is especially true if you want to limit its growth (size).
- Repot it to a bigger container. But, if the plant shows signs of stress, like wilting leaves or overcrowding, then not repotting can affect its health. This is a sure sign that you need to repot to a larger container.
- Divide your plant. Since you’ll be taking out your plant from its pot, you can likewise take advantage of this opportunity to divide it. Thus, in doing so, you can keep the plant in its original pot and put the other segments in new pots to grow more Boston ferns.