How to Propagate Boston Ferns in 2022

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How to Propagate Boston Ferns

It is easy to propagate Boston ferns. The steps below will help you with the propagation of Boston fern so that you can add more greenery to your garden!

Easy to grow ferns like Boston ferns are an excellent addition to any houseplant collection or garden. It is easy to keep Boston ferns as houseplants, mainly because they don’t need much sunlight. As a result, their foliage looks beautiful and remains evergreen. The blue-green, sword-like fronds feature tiny leaflets that start to erect and arch with their growth.

Also known as sword ferns, they are popular and grow in abundance in tropical areas. However, like any other fern, Boston ferns are also fairly slow-growers, so it is best to plant them in the spring or fall. Though it is easy to propagate Boston ferns, they take time and patience.


Beautiful ferns leaves green foliage natural floral fern background. stock image
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Below, you will learn how to propagate Boston fern, as well as some valuable tips to keep it thriving.


Steps Showing How to Propagate Boston Ferns

If your plant is no longer producing leaves, or the leaves it produces are smaller than usual, or the fern center is dead, it’s time to propagate the fern. However, regardless of whether or not your fern is showing these signs, you should still divide Boston fern to encourage new growth. Moreover, whether you want to grow ferns indoors or outdoors, it is a good idea to divide the ferns every three to four years.

Propagation of Boston fern is not too difficult, and there are various methods that you can use to grow more Boston ferns. For example, you may propagate Boston fern through Boston fern runners (Boston fern shoots) or divide the houseplant.

Before you divide your houseplant, it must consider proper root structure and the right time to grow your new divisions. Here is how to determine the root structure:

  • Water Generously

Before you start digging it up to divide your houseplant, make sure it is well-hydrated. It is because the houseplant’s ability to store moisture will be diminished for at least a week once it is divided as the root structure will be compromised. So, make sure to water a couple of days generously before you start the process.

Need an easy way to ensure your fern absorbs enough water?

Try setting it in a large bucket or tub. Make sure it fits without tipping over. Now, water completely until some water drains from the bottom holes. Then add a little more water. The tips of the roots will sit in the water but most of the root remains above. In this way, you avoid drowning the roots while still allowing your plant to continue drinking as much as it wants.


  • Dig Up and Outdoor

Use a shovel to dig up an outdoor plant. When digging up, make sure to push the shovel down into the soil and away from the stems. Then, lift the fern by pushing in the shovel again.


  • Get the Fern Out of its Pot

It may be challenging for you to get the fern out of its pot if planted indoor. In this case, gently grasp the fern leaves between your fingers and tip the pot upside down. Your plant should quickly drop out of its pot.


  • Rinse the Soil Off the Roots

Once your houseplant is out of its pot, rinse the soil off the roots. Avoid tearing or ripping the roots and wash them gently with a low stream of water.


  • Examine the Roots, an important step in propagating Boston Ferns

Now, you can examine the roots to determine whether they are clumping or spreading. Depending on the structure of the root, there are multiple methods for dividing your Boston fern.

Rhizomatous roots are thick and have underground stems that grow small fibrous roots. Ostrich ferns usually have rhizomatous roots. If you see a mass of fine, fibrous roots after washing off the fern roots, it means they are clump roots that grow from the center of the fern. Finally, the spreading root system is generally found in Sword fern, originating from the underside of the fern rather than the center.

When dividing ferns with rhizomatous roots, make sure each has several leaves and at least one healthy fibrous rhizome root.

If you have fern with a clumping root system, you can cut them into sections to divide Boston fern for propagation. In this case, keep the knife between the leaves and over the fleshy crown. Make sure that each division has a section from where roots are originating.

If your fern has a spreading root system, you can make it apart using your fingers. First, however, ensure that each new division has healthy roots and leaves.


Boston Fern Propagation by Dividing

Boston Compacta Fern Isolated on White. Large Boston Compacta Fern Isolated on White stock images
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Here is how you can propagate Boston fern by dividing:

  1. Firstly, find a large, parent Boston fern plant, take it outside, and lay it on the paper. You can use a tarp or plastic-coated tablecloth as well to capture the mess.
  2. The second step is to remove the plant from its pot.
  3. Now, you will need a pair of forks to divide the root ball in half. However, if you don’t have them, use a sharp knife to slice through the roots.
  4. Once again, divide the plant root ball into quarters, and continue to keep splitting them as long as each has a crown of foliage with healthy root mass.
  5. Once done, re-pot the plants in separate pots or use a large container to place all of them.
  6. Water them generously so that soil around the roots can settle.
  7. Finally, make sure that your houseplant gets bright, but indirect light.


TIP: Always keep in mind that the best time to divide Boston fern for propagation is in the fall or spring. They start losing their leaves once the first hard frost in the fall pass or when they begin to show new shoots.


Propagating Boston Fern by Fern Runners

Boston fern runners may also achieve propagation of Boston fern.

  1. Firstly, carefully remove the runner from the base of your Boston fern plant using a sharp knife or with a gentle tug.
  2. Don’t worry whether the offset has roots or not, as the roots will quickly develop from the part that is touching the soil.
  3. If you have removed the offset by hand, make sure to plant it immediately. However, if the offset is removed from the parent plant, keep it aside for a few days to let the cut heal or dry.
  4. Moreover, make sure to plant the Boston fern shoots in sterile potting soil in an appropriate container with drainage holes.
  5. Also, make sure to plant the shoots deep enough so they remain upright.
  6. Now, cover the plant with a plastic bag and put it in bright, indirect sunlight.
  7. Once the offshoot starts showing the signs of new growth, remove the bag and keep it damp.


Final Thoughts

That’s all about how to propagate Boston fern. Once you have propagated a Boston fern, make sure to plant it in a fresh potting mix and keep the soil slightly moist. Moreover, keep the new divisions in a bright and warm spot and away from drafts or direct sunlight. After a few weeks, if you feel some resistance when pulling gently, it means your plant is established and has taken the roots.


Read More

Boston Fern Care, Top Tips


Re-Pot a Boston Fern


Houseplant Propagation Techniques



Boston Fern History (Wikipedia)



  1. How to grow ferns from cuttings?

    To grow ferns from cuttings, cut a healthy frond with at least 2-3 leaves, remove the lower leaves and spores, dip the cut end in rooting hormone powder, plant it in a pot with well-draining soil, cover with plastic to maintain humidity, place it in bright, indirect light, keep the soil moist, and wait for new growth to appear after a few weeks.

  2. What is the effect of propagating ferns from cuttings?

    Propagating ferns from cuttings can have several effects, such as creating new plants that are genetically identical to the parent plant, increasing the number of plants in your collection or garden, and potentially saving money by not having to purchase new plants. Additionally, propagating ferns from cuttings can be a fun and rewarding way to learn about plant propagation and to grow your gardening skills.

  3. How do you propagate ferns from spores?

    To propagate ferns from spores, collect mature fronds and let them dry for a few days until the spores are released. Fill a shallow tray or pot with a mixture of peat moss and sand, sprinkle the spores over the surface, cover with plastic to maintain humidity, and place it in a warm, bright location. Mist the soil mixture as needed to keep it moist and wait for small green plants to appear. Once they grow a few inches tall, transplant them into individual pots or a larger container with well-draining soil.

  4. What are fern fronds used for?

    Fern fronds have several uses, both practical and decorative. In some cultures, fern fronds are used as a traditional medicine to treat various ailments. They can also be used as an ingredient in cooking, particularly in Asian cuisine. Decoratively, fern fronds are often used in floral arrangements or as a backdrop for other plants in landscaping. They can also be pressed and preserved for use in crafts such as card-making or scrapbooking. Additionally, fern fronds are used in botanical research and education to teach students about plant structure and identification.

  5. How do fern spores work?

    Fern spores are reproductive structures that enable ferns to reproduce asexually. These spores are produced on the underside of mature fronds and are typically released into the air when the fronds are mature and dry. Once the spores land in a suitable environment, they can germinate and grow into new fern plants. Fern spores contain both male and female reproductive cells, and fertilization occurs when these cells combine to form a new fern plant. This process of fertilization and spore dispersal allows ferns to colonize new areas and spread their genetic material without the need for pollinators or seeds.

how to propagate boston ferns
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Boston Fern


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