Boston Fern Plant Care (Nephrolepis exaltata)
Boston Fern plant care might seem challenging at first glance. However, this plant’s beauty need not be difficult to maintain.
And it is the beauty of those lush green leaves that makes the Boston fern such a popular indoor houseplant.
Most people consider these an easy-to-care-for plant. And, if you follow the general guidelines, indeed that’s true.
However, these gorgeous plants challenge anyone who might fail to consider their basic needs.
Yes, some people consider ferns to be a fussy plant. However, with a bit of insight into their nature, you will discover how easy and hardy these frond bearers can be.
Ferns, In the beginning…
Scientists have discovered fossils of fern plants dating back to the dinosaur ages, possibly earlier. Surviving through dinosaurs (many of whom probably relied on these tender morsels for food) and through hot and cold temperature extremes, they prove to be truly resilient. These plants are survivors.
While they prefer ideal conditions, the history of the fern plan shows us how they can manage some lack of care and bounce back. In fact, they might prove able to bounce back from near-death, with proper care.
Their native habitat explains indoor Boston Fern plant care
Boston ferns grow wild in the humid, tropical regions of South and Central America. Rooted in the moist jungle ground or on the trunks and branches of trees in epiphytic fashion, the Boston fern occasionally grows to nearly 5 feet in height.
Of course, in its native tropics, the Boston Fern never worries about low humidity. In fact, they relish the humid jungle.
However, our homes often lack the humidity level that these gorgeous greens demand. But we must provide for this need.
Water- Your fern thirsts for it.
Dry soil is deadly to the fern. Never let the soil totally dry out. Your Boston fern sadly wilts to show its unhappiness when you forget to water it. And while they may recover from an occasional dry spell, it’s best not to test it. Keep it consistently moist, but not soggy.
Getting past those frond leaves to provide the water
If your fern is lush and full, you might find it a little tricky to water properly. Use a watering can with a long spout to make watering deep into the plant easier.
Alternatively, water your plant from the bottom. Place the plant in the sink or tub with water. The plant soaks up the water from the basin from the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. When it has sufficient soaking, empty the basin to allow the excess water to drain from the pot. When the drips cease, return your now happily watered fern to it’s normal location.
Temperature is important. Always water your fern with tepid or room temperature water. Coldwater can shock the roots. Of course, hot water creates the risk of burning tender roots and killing the plant.
Boston Fern Plant Care Includes Feeding
Boston fern plant care will usually involve the use of fertilizers. Use a diluted fertilizer to feed your fern about every two weeks from early Spring through the beginning of Fall. However, it won’t need feeding during the winter months. During the winter, your plant will need water less frequently. But you must still water when it begins to dry. In fact, allowing it to dry completely can be fatal.
Native to the tropics in high humidity air, Boston ferns require the same in our homes. In a bright bathroom, they live quite happily. In fact, the steam from the shower provides your plant with the humidity it needs and loves.
However, if you don’t have a bathroom with a window, you can still have a fern in your home. Use either a humidifier or a humidity tray to provide the needed levels. For the tray, fill a shallow tray or saucer with water and pebbles, and put the pot on it. Don’t let the water touch the bottom of the pot. You don’t want the water to get into the drainage holes. Instead, it should evaporate around the plant.
Misting also boosts the humidity. Although it may not have the lasting effect of the other methods, spritzing your plant with a good dose of water each day works to provide needed humidity levels.
However, a word of caution. Your Boston Fern should never be placed near a hot air vent as this may cause it to dry out. Areas near open windows and doors can also create problems with drafts and humidity drops.
For a summer bonus:
Your plant may enjoy an outside vacation if your summer months are warm. In fact, in some areas of the south, they grow outdoors year-round.
Ferns grow in the forest undergrowth. Therefore, they have adapted to life in the shade. Avoid direct sunlight as it can quickly burn the ferns’ leaves.
At the same time, don’t place your plant where it doesn’t get any light at all. Your fern wants bright filtered light.
Another point that many neglect is to rotate your fern every week to expose all sides to light. This encourages even growth all around the plant.
Propagation – Those Baby Fronds
Root division provides the easiest way to propagate your Boston fern. Yes, it is as simple as it sounds. Remove the entire plant from the pot. Divide the root ball into smaller pieces. Put each new plant in it’s own pot.
Like most plants, Boston Ferns experience an active growing season that begins in early Spring. You will find this is the easiest time to propagate your fern. The plant will have all the energy it needs to grow and restore during this time.
Your fern will also produce new fronds. These grow by unfurling from a tight spiral known as a crozier or fiddlehead. When you repot your fern (see the information following) or when you perform a root division, you can also separate these fiddleheads to produce more plants.
When to repot
Repot your Boston fern in spring every year or two when the roots have filled the pot. Choose a well-draining soil mixed with peat moss and perlite that will provide good drainage.
For the planter, choose one with enough drainage holes. Select a size larger than the pot your fern was in before. When putting the plant in its new pot, make sure you keep your plant at the same level as before. Avoid planting it deeper in the soil. It is very important to keep the crown above the soil to prevent crown rot.
What Type of Pot to Use
The most important considerations are the size of the pot (make sure it’s large enough) and the drainage. This plant loves water, but needs good drainage at all times.
Many people choose to display their Boston Fern in a hanging pot, allowing those beautiful fronds to gracefully drape over the edges of the pot. Young fern can be placed in a simple plastic or ceramic pot using a simple plant hook. However, larger fern require a sturdier pot and fastener. Just be sure your plant will not fall from the display.
Another option that is often used is a table-top display. For young plants, this again is quite simple. Larger plants might feature atop a pillar-style table, perhaps as the focal point in the room.
Less frequently, Boston Fern plants display on a floor. Because the fronds drape over the edge, this is less common, unless it is on a ledge or stool perch.
Whichever style you choose, use caution to ensure your plant has room to grow, a well-drained potting mix, and good drainage. He will thank you with a beautiful display throughout the year.
Common Boston Fern Plant Care Problems
The Boston Fern, known for being hardy and somewhat adaptable, may still run into some health issues. However, even when these happen, know that they usually recover with good care.
At the first sign of illness, stop fertilizing. While your plant needs its nutrition, growth also provides stress. A short break from fertilizing offers it a chance to recover.
However, plan to resume normal care as soon as recovery is seen. Your fern will need the energy boost at that time.
Some common problems include:
Older, lower leaves will naturally turn brown or black when they age. That is expected in the normal growth of the plant. However, if the leaves suddenly begin to brown, you need to find the cause and remedy it.
One common cause is too much direct sunlight. Native to jungles, the fern needs indirect light. The remedy here, quite simply, is to move it away from the direct light or protect it with a sheer curtain over the window.
Not watering often enough and allowing the soil to dry out too much causes brown leaves to form, too. However, over-watering can also cause it. If you notice the leaves in the center of the fern are getting brown and crispy, you may have watered too often.
In most cases, brown leaves are caused by letting the soil dry out too much and not watering enough.
Brown leaf tips
Low humidity causes the tips of leaves to turn brown. Other possible causes include using too much fertilizer or using water that contains chlorine.
Rainwater provides the best solution for your plant’s water needs. Alternatively, you may use purified water or well water.
To use tap water. leave it out for 24-hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate out before using it.
Brown spots on the underside of the leaves
Brown spots on the underside of your fern’s leaves should not cause you concern. In fact, those brown spots, known as spores, are actually the reproductive cells of your fern. The pattern they form on the underside of the leaves makes them easy to recognize.
Occasionally, a leaf or two will drop. In fact, that is quite normal. However, if more leaves suddenly drop, you probably need to water more often. Sudden changes or any other form of stress often cause sudden leaf drop.
Look for the cause of stress. Consider a change of location, lighting problems, low humidity, or any similar stress.
When bringing your new Boston Fern home, keep in mind that the movement to your home represents a potential for stress. Give it a chance to adjust to the new surroundings.
As older leaves age, they may turn yellow. While a few causes no reason for concern, if many turn yellow, you should investigate. Possible causes include watering with cold water or keeping the humidity level too low.
Many times yellow leaves mean that the plant has been over-watered. In such a case, allow the water to drain off and let the soil dry a bit before watering again. However, don’t allow it to dry completely as that causes other problems.
What happens to damaged leaves?
One of the most important thing to remember when talking about Boston fern plant care would be how to deal with damaged leaves. If they don’t fall off on their own, just trim off the brown or yellow parts. Those sections, either the tips or the entire leaf, will not recover. However, the rest of the plant should resume its natural beauty.
Is the Boston fern poisonous?
Unlike many ferns, the Boston fern proves quite safe to people and pets. So, if your furry friend develops a taste for Boston Fern fronds, fear not. However, the same cannot be said of the plant’s fate. To avoid stressing your fern, it’s best to keep it away from tempted pets.
Have Your Boston Fern Delivered to your Door
The Boston Fern offers exceptional beauty to any home decor. Easy-to-care-for, this plant often becomes the family favorite.
However, consider another reason to own this graceful greenery. Clean air! Yes, the Boston Fern is known to be one of the best houseplants for purifying the air.