Boston Fern – Care Guide
The Boston Fern is a bright, tropical plant that grows well in humid areas, but can flourish with the right care in dry climates. The fern is another common indoor plant featured in the NASA Clean Air Study of 1989, which identified plants that not only oxygenate rooms but also remove significant amounts of formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene. The Boston Fern’s arching fronds (as opposed to straight/erect fronds) give the plant a distinctive and symmetrical shape, making it a popular interior design choice. Its arching mutation was discovered as a shipment was being sent to Boston in 1894, which gave the species its name!
Origin: Commonly found in many humid/tropical climates with swamplands, such as Polynesia and South America
Life Cycle: Perennial
Light: If indoors, filtered light is fine for the plant, and it can be placed near a window as long as the sunlight is not constant. If planting outside, partial shade (such as from a tree) is best, although they are very hardy plants and can be somewhat exposed.
Water: Boston Ferns like the humidity and the damp, and so their soil should be kept fairly moist. In Victoria, it’s beneficial to mist the leaves occasionally to increase the humidity around the plant (if the fern is not being kept in a bathroom or other humid area). The fern is, however, drought tolerant.
Fertiliser: Boston Ferns don’t need much fertiliser, and can be fertilised every few weeks in the warmer months, or even just a few times a year.
Pests & Problems: Boston ferns are susceptible to mealybugs and mites, which should be treated early with insecticides. If the air is too dry, the leave tips will brown, so make sure to keep misting the leaves once or twice a week to keep the humidity up.
Growth: Boston Fern fronds can grow up to 2.5m long, but are usually around half a metre, and are up to 15cm broad. Their growth depends on shaping and pruning, and can be kept quite bushy or allowed to stretch freely (such as over a hanging basket).
Repotting/ Propagation: Boston Ferns can be repotted every couple of years, either into the same pot with new soil, or into a larger pot. Boston Ferns can be divided during Spring for propagation, and the root systems can be separated by cutting. Another method of propagation is to separate runners (small plantlets that grow out naturally from the established fern) use them to start a new fern.
Written by Margaret Dunleavy