Care Tips For Boston Fern

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How to Care for Boston Ferns

Two Parts:

Some people seem to naturally have a green thumb, or a gift for gardening, and their homes are filled with luscious, healthy greenery. If you aren’t one of those people, don’t worry – there are plants that even you can keep alive! The Boston fern is one of those plants. It’s one of the most popular ferns to grow, and its long, feather-like branches add vibrancy to any space. You can help your Boston fern flourish inside or outside of your home with just a little bit of knowledge and some TLC.


Creating the Proper Environment

  1. Gather your potting supplies.Boston ferns will do best in a potting mixture of peat moss, sand, and garden soil. You can buy all of these at your local gardening store. Your final mixture should be even parts of each ingredient.The pot should be big enough for your fern to sit comfortably without it's roots being near the drainage holes, but without a lot of extra space that could accumulate "root rot."
  2. Pot your fern.Put your mixture and plant into the clean pot with drainage holes in the bottom.The fern can be planted about half of the way to the top of the pot so that the roots have space in the soil. Fill in the rest of the pot with more potting mixture, leaving about 1 inch( 25.4 mm) of space from the top.
  3. Place your fern outdoors in a warm, humid environment.In many places, the summers are warm and humid enough to provide the perfect environment for a Boston fern. They do best in environments with humidity levels of at least 50 percent. If your daytime temperatures are between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 24 degrees Celsius), and your nighttime temperatures are between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit (13 to 18 degrees Celsius), your Boston ferns will thrive outdoors.You can place them on your porch or patio, and they should do well.
    • The cooler temperatures at night will help to prevent fungus from developing.
  4. Put your Boston fern in an appropriate room indoors.If you are keeping your Boston fern indoors, whether permanently or just for the winter months, you will need to be careful about making sure it has adequate humidity. The very best thing to do is to place it in a room with a humidifier. Keep your house between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 24 degrees Celsius), and put it in a cooler room at night.
    • If you don’t want to invest in a humidifier, there are other options. You can place your fern in a saucer filled with small stones and water. The water will create humidity as it evaporates.
  5. Provide your fern with indirect sunlight.Boston ferns do best when receiving indirect, filtered sunlight. If they’re outdoors, place them somewhere where they will get sunlight through tree branches, or cracks in a porch roof. If they’re indoors, place them near a window. You don’t want your fern to be in shade, but you don’t want them to be in direct sunlight. It’s a delicate balance.

Keeping Your Fern Healthy

  1. Keep the soil moist.Just like sunlight, you want to provide your Boston fern with enough water, but not too much. Water it with lukewarm water so that the soil is completely damp but not soaked. During warm weather months, you’ll need to water it more frequently. Make sure that the soil is never completely dry.
    • In the wintertime, the fern is not in “growing season.” You can be less vigilant about watering it, and it's actually good to let the soil become dry to the touch before watering again. As new growth appears, start watering the fern more often so that the soil is continuously damp.
  2. Feed your ferns every couple of months.Boston ferns don’t require much, but it is helpful to feed them every two months or so during the warmer time of the year. Purchase houseplant food at your local gardening supply store. Read the instructions on the packaging, and dilute it so that it is half as strong for your fern.
    • During the winter months, you can skip these feedings.
  3. Trim discolored or leafless fronds.Fronds are the branch-like pieces that extend from the plant, covered in leaves. Older leaves may become discolored or lose their leaves, which isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing. Use sharp, clean scissors to remove the fronds all the way at the base. This will allow new, healthy fronds to grow.
    • The best time to prune your Boston fern is in the spring or summer, during growing season.
  4. Protect your fern from insects.Luckily, Boston ferns aren’t typically a target for insects, but they can occasionally attract bugs. Don’t use anything too harsh on your fern. Spray it with a mild insecticide or a natural insect repellant, and observe. Hopefully, this will be all you need to control any potential pests.
  5. Keep your ferns in a dormant state during winter.Fortunately, there are things you can do to ensure that your boston ferns will live through the winter. Once the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius), bring your plants inside. It’s okay if they turn brown and shed; this is normal. Water them sparingly once per week and don’t fertilize them at all during this time of year.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    What are the pebble like pods in the roots of the fern?

    Maggie Moran is a Professional Gardener in Pennsylvania.
    Expert Answer
    These root nodules are simply part of the fern. They not only help the plant propagate itself, but also help in the absorption of water and nutrients.
  • Question
    Is morning sun okay for Boston ferns?

    Maggie Moran is a Professional Gardener in Pennsylvania.
    Expert Answer
    It's actually preferable for Boston ferns to be in morning sun. They need at least two hours of indirect sunlight each day.
  • Question
    Why are my new fern leaves turning white?

    Maggie Moran is a Professional Gardener in Pennsylvania.
    Expert Answer
    This problem is generally related to under watering. It is recommended that you thoroughly water the plant until water runs out of the bottom of the pot, being careful to not water again until soil is dry to the touch.
  • Question
    What do I do when the ends of the leaves turn brown?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Make sure your Boston fern is receiving enough water, humidity, and indirect sunlight. If your fern has a few brown leaves, you can prune them in order to make room for new growth.
  • Question
    Can a boston fern survive outside?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes. Just avoid direct sunlight -- try to keep them moist and shaded.
  • Question
    Could I take a large Boston fern indoors for the winter? It is outside in a pot.
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes. If your house is dry, you must mist them occasionally, and never let the soil become too dry.
  • Question
    What fertilizer do I use for Boston ferns?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Purchase houseplant food at your local gardening supply store. Read the instructions on the packaging, and dilute it so that it is half as strong for your fern.
  • Question
    What is the lowest temperature ferns can tolerate?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Boston ferns die if exposed to temperatures lower than 30 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit, or -1.1 to 1.7 degrees Celsius.
  • Question
    Will Boston Ferns improve air quality in my home?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes, they will. Plants use certain air pollutants that we can't use to support their natural biological processes.
  • Question
    Are they poisonous to cats?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    No, Boston ferns are not poisonous to cats. However, cats can still become ill if they eat Boston ferns, so it's best to limit this.
Unanswered Questions
  • When, if at all do Boston ferns need to be re-potted?
  • Is a boston fern a perfect or imperfect flower?
  • Is it best to cut the ferns back and cover with plastic and keep them outside in the winter?
  • The fern is growing out of the bottom of the pot, do I cut this off
  • How much Epsom Salt do I use on a Boston Fern?
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Quick Summary

To care for Boston ferns, keep them outdoors if you live in a warm, humid climate, or keep them indoors if you live in a cooler climate. If you keep your ferns indoors, place a humidifier near them so they don't dry out. Water your ferns regularly so that their soil is always moist but not damp. Also, keep them out of direct sunlight by putting them somewhere with partial shade or lots of indirect sunlight.

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of How to Care for Boston Ferns was reviewed by on July 24, 2019.

Views: 243,955
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75 votes - 95%
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95% of people told us that this article helped them.

Teresa Jones

Jun 2, 2019

"I just bought a Boston fern and where I placed it has mostly direct sunlight throughout the day. I will now move itto the front of my house that has direct sunlight through the leaves on the trees. I am also going today to buy a larger container as the fern I bought is pretty expansive. I will be buying plant fertilizer thanks to all the articles here today. Great, great help."
Rated this article:

Stephanie Cooks Barnes

Jun 14, 2019

"Just all the tips in general. I have tried these ferns year after year and I haven't had a whole lot of luck. NowI'm kind of determined to grow them. All the tips have helped. From the lighting tips to the watering tips. Now let's try this again with my more fern-wise self. Thanks."

Lauren Stygar

Nov 23, 2019

"I believe my fern is brown and shedding because it is winter. Until this article, I had no idea what my fern wasdoing. I keep a bowl of water next to her. I look forward to her growing green in the spring. She is an indoor fern."

Nadine MacDonald

Jul 29, 2019

"Your article on caring for Boston ferns was broken down into easy chunks, accompanied with illustrations (some werenot necessary, but it still made it more pleasing to the eye)."

Janet Clare

Nov 6, 2019

"I inherited this fern from a friend of mine. It is beautiful and I would like to keep it that way. Will be usingthe tips on your website as a guide. Thanks!"

C. James

Mar 7, 2019

"This article helped me by instructing me on the need for indirect sunlight, keeping the soil moist, and howtemperature below 30 could kill it."

Jock Davis

May 27, 2019

"You have been most helpful, but I still need to know how much peat and how much garden soil when planting my fern."

Rosemary Gleydura

May 5, 2019

"Great feedback. I've always loved the Boston ferns because they look great and fill up my planters perfectly!"

Sally Harris

Jun 10, 2019

"I liked the step by step, clear instructions. I also appreciated the Q&A section at the end of the article."

Catelin Buell

Apr 18, 2019

"I like the explanations with pictures. Right to the point. Answered all my questions about Boston Ferns."

Lissa B.

May 5, 2019

"I love ferns. This review with pictures and steps is very helpful. I recommend it."

Cheri Hofstater

Oct 22, 2019

"Specific tips on how to take care of my fern once I bring it in for the winter."

Clare Caseyi

Mar 12, 2019

"I have a new plant so I needed advice. It is indoors. Thanks for help."

Laura Williams

May 5, 2019

"I'm thinking of giving a Boston fern as a gift for Mother's Day."

Corliss Scott

May 18, 2019

"This is my first Boston Fern, so the whole article was helpful."


Mar 12, 2019

"Going to buy ferns and need proper care instructions. "

C.D. Leinsd

Sep 2, 2019

"Did not know anything about the ferns, so thank you."

Amrita Saha Sarkar

May 2, 2019

"It told me the temperature range for the plant.

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