How to Grow and Care for Boston Ferns in Containers

Boston fern

Intro: Boston ferns are a staple of New Orleans’ beautiful wrought iron balconies and southern porches. They grow well in plant containers and hanging containers, and are also easy to care for in indoor gardens. The beautiful Boston fern grows very large, so this is not a plant for the small balcony garden. Their largeness is useful if you’d like one large focal point in your balcony garden or if you’d like to hide equipment or clutter behind it.


Scientific Name: Nephrolepis exaltata

Plant Type: Perennial fern

Light: For best results, provide Boston ferns with partial to full shade. It can do well next to a north-facing window.

Water: When it comes to watering your Boston fern, keep its potting soil damp, but not soggy. Mist the plant if it is too dry. The Boston fern will grow best in humid areas (Florida, Louisiana), but it can be grown successfully in drier climates.

Fertilizer: Fertilize your Boston fern plant with a houseplant fertilizer monthly from April to September and every other month from October to March.

Temperature: The Boston fern does best in warm, humid climates and can be kept outdoors in Hardiness Zones 8 to 10 if the air is not too dry. Keep this fern plant indoors if temperatures dip below 30 degrees. The Boston fern grows best at temperatures around 70 to 80 degrees. If kept indoors by a window, it will grow spectacularly.

Pests and Diseases: Boston ferns are generally very healthy and do not develop problems with pests or diseases. That being said, insect pests that can plague Boston ferns include scale and mealy bugs. Ferns are sensitive to certain pesticides, so try organic methods of pest control before using harsh chemicals. Diseases can include root rot, blight and leaf tip burn.

Propagation: Boston ferns can be propagated by division. Some people like to collect the spores and grow them in a sterile environment, which is much more complicated than division, but can be a fun gardening project.

Misc. Info: Boston fern care is easy, but this container plant gets large; if you provide a large plant container, it will grow huge, but it also can be kept smaller if in a smaller plant container. It is actually not necessary to repot a Boston fern unless you want your fern to get larger. Keeping a Boston fern may be difficult for you if you can’t give it the humidity it needs. This plant does better in outdoor gardens (as long as you don’t live in a super-dry climate, like Arizona), rather than indoors, because indoor garden environments are usually quite dry (especially if the heater is on).


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