Boston Fern: Growing Nephrolepis exaltata
Of all ferns suitable for indoor growing, Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata`Bostoniensis’) is one of the easiest to grow successfully. Whereas some ferns wither up and die in the dry air typical in many homes, Boston fern thrives. Even better, this plant is one of the top choices for cleaning indoor air.
(Chas Metivier, HealthyHouseplants.com) (Jay Neill, FreeImages.com)
Featuring ruffly, sword-like, lime-green fronds, Boston fern creates an eye-catching display in a hanging basket. It also looks good cascading from a perch, such as from the top of a bookcase or entertainment center. This plant was one of a handful of popular choices during the Victorian era when houseplants often took center stage in the home.
To have luck with Boston fern, keep the following growing tips in mind.
Provide proper lighting. Boston ferns do best in an unobstructed northern window that receives medium, indirect light throughout the day, or in an eastern-facing window that gets morning light. Avoid placing Boston fern in a south- or west-facing window, as such locations are generally too bright and will burn the plant’s foliage.
Watch room temperature. Like most ferns, Boston fern requires a room temperature between 65 to 75 degrees in the day and 10 degrees cooler at night. If temperatures are higher, the plant may do okay, but will require more frequent watering. Temperatures below 65 degrees for extended periods of time tend to result in stunted or slow growth.
Keep moist. Boston fern does not respond well to drying out, so make sure to keep the plant evenly moist, but not soggy. Perpetually soggy soil will lead to yellowing fronds and can result in root rot.
Provide extra humidity. Although Boston fern responds well to the low humidity in most homes, it does best with a little extra moisture in the air. If you live in a dry climate, mist the plant on a daily basis and place Boston fern near other plants. The more plants you have grouped together, the more humid the surrounding air will be.
Plant in rich soil. Boston ferns require a soil that is rich in organic matter, such as compost. Repot yearly with an organic potting soil that is 50 percent peat moss and contains compost. In addition to adding regular compost, use vermicompost.
Fertilize monthly. Provide consistent nutrients to your Boston fern by feeding the plant with an all-purpose organic plant food monthly from April through October. This will keep the plant full and lush with plenty of new fronds.
Watch for pests. Boston ferns rarely suffer from infestations, but it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for a few annoying invaders, including mealybugs, mites and scale insects. Mealybugs can be destroyed by spraying with isopropyl alcohol (rubbing) and then rinsing the plant off. Mites can be avoided by making sure to keep the plant misted and the soil moist, as this pest thrives in dry conditions. And if you find scale insects on your ferns, cut off the affected fronds or spray the plant with neem oil.