Boston Ferns: A Classic Houseplant

Boston Ferns happen to be a house plant and patio plant making a comeback, both in quantities grown and varieties available.

Let’s take a quick look at Nephrolepis exaltata, a sword fern commonly known as the “Boston Fern”.

fronds of a boston fernPin

In the past few years, there have been quite a few new introductions of “houseplant ferns”. Davallia (rabbit’s foot), Blechnum, and some with interesting common names such as “Macho fern”, Kangaroo fern, Dallas fern, Kimberly Queen fern,  and Green Wave.

“Boston Ferns,” are often grown in a pot, in hanging baskets, or similar container and is really the house plant that started it all.

Boston ferns were popular houseplants along with the Kentia (Howea) palm in the 19th-century Victorian era. When the true beginnings of the house plant business got underway back in about 1914 (more than a hundred years ago) Boston ferns were there.

One of the things making the Nephrolepis variety of Boston ferns so unique is they always seem to be mutating (in a good way).

Therefore always providing “new” varieties. You can find Boston ferns with fronds ranging in length from 2′ feet to 5′ feet.

The Kimberly Queen Fern (Nephrolepis obliterata) is a bushy popular variety used on the patio or covered deck during the spring and summer, but can also be used as a houseplant.

We can also consider some fern family members to grow such as:

Boston ferns are known to handle considerable neglect. If you follow some basic care rules to enjoy a relatively problem-free plant.

Where Does It All Start with Boston Fern?

Boston ferns like most house plants want consistency – just like the Ficus Benjamina tree plant.

To avoid problems maintain proper care by providing an even moisture level and staying away from the extremes – too wet or too dry. Boston ferns like soil that is rich in nutrients, damp (use peat moss) but not soggy.

Don’t Allow the Pot to Sit in a Saucer of Water


During the winter Boston ferns (or anytime really) are not fond of dry heat, try to keep the humidity up around them. Try to keep the temperature in the range of 65°-72° degrees Fahrenheit.

If you’ve ever gone to buy Boston ferns one of the things you may notice is a large number of dead leaves or fronds that fall off when you pick them up.

This is from the new leaves that cover or shade out the older leaves. Without the light, the bottom foliage turns brown.

Boston Fern Care

Boston ferns indoors have the usual house plant bugs and pests. Mealybugs, scale, spider mites, and others. Some of these “problems” can be passed on from other infested plants.

Most of these pests can be handled naturally by just monitoring your potted plants and looking for anything out of the usual.

Everyone works to fight bug problems from time to time! But, homeowners have few safe solutions… until now!

Neem oil insecticide is an easy, safe, natural organic solution for your houseplant pests!

WATCH OUT in using any kind of chemical spray on Boston ferns since they are very sensitive to chemicals that can burn the foliage, try natural insecticides.

One thing nice about the Nephrolepis family – you can normally cut the foliage off and grow the plant out again.

Boston Ferns can also be very aggressive with its root system. If you notice that the leaves have a grayish look check the soil. It may be time for repotting.

One way to help Boston ferns in their transition to your new home is by placing them in the brightest area of your home (not full, direct sun) for one week.

Then move it to its final place. This helps in acclimating to the lower light levels.

Keep on the lookout for an “Old-Timer” – The Boston Fern and bring back the Classics!

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