How to grow & care for a Boston Fern
Boston Ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata) are elegant plants with long, slender leaves that cascade over the sides of their pot. You can grow a Boston Fern indoors in all climates, or outdoors in a warm, frost protected and shaded spot.
Boston Fern prefer a moist, but not soggy soil and they like a humid environment. You can mist the leaves regularly, group them with other plants or use a humidifier to give them the conditions they prefer.
Plant Boston Ferns in hanging baskets or position them high on a shelf so their dramatic, cascading foliage is on full show.
Top 5 steps to growing Boston Ferns
- Boston Ferns prefer a spot with medium to bright indirect light - direct afternoon sun can burn their leaves. If growing them outdoors choose a part to full shade spot.
- Use a premium, like Scotts Osmocote Premium Potting Mix for Indoor Plants to give your plant the best start possible
- Boston Ferns like a moist, but free draining soil. Make sure the pot has drainage holes and don’t allow water to collect in saucers or the base of cover pots.
- Fertilise Boston Ferns with an indoor plant fertiliser like Scotts Osmocote Pour+Feed for Indoor Plants once a month during spring and summer, to encourage strong healthy growth.
- Boston Ferns prefer an environment with high humidity, away from drying drafts. Mist the leaves regularly or position it in a naturally humid spot like a bathroom or kitchen.
- A Boston Fern
- If growing in a pot
- If growing in the ground
- A potting mix scoop or garden trowel
- Defender Pyrethrum Insect Spray
Growing in a pot
Choose a pot for your Boston Fern that’s roughly 2 times the size of the original nursery pot - make sure it has drainage holes or use a black plastic pot that sits snuggly inside a cover-pot or cache pot (pot with no holes).
Half fill your pot with Scotts Osmocote Premium Potting Mix for Indoor Plants and gently remove the Boston Fern from the nursery pot and position it into the potting mix, backfill around the root ball with more potting mix so that the potting mix is level with, or slightly below, the top of the pot.
Water your new Boston Fern in well and tip out any excess water from the base of the cover-pot or saucer (if using). Boston Ferns prefer a consistently moist soil that is never soggy. Never let water pool in the base of cover-pots or in saucers as your Boston Fern will quickly rot if their potting mix remains soggy or waterlogged.
Growing in the garden
Boston Ferns can be grown outside in a warm, frost free spot. Choose a shady spot or dappled morning sunlight spot with a rich, moist but free-draining soil. Boston Ferns like a high humidity environment, so they’ll benefit from being planted amongst other ferns or plants to create a humid environment. If your climate is naturally humid they’ll be happy in hanging baskets or pots outside in a shaded spot.
Dig the hole twice as wide as the original nursery pot and the same depth. Mix some Scotts Osmocote Compost Premium Soil Improver through the soil at the bottom of the whole.
Remove your Boston Fern from its pot and position it into the middle of the hole, backfill around the root ball with soil and water your new plant in well.
Mulch around your in ground Boston Fern to retain moisture and suppress weeds. They’ll need regular watering particularly during warm or dry weather.
Fertilising & Care
Fertilise Boston Ferns fortnightly in spring and summer with an indoor plant fertiliser to encourage new growth. Use Scotts Osmocote Pour+Feed for Indoor Plants - this is a simple to use ‘measure and pour’ feed which contains the right balance of nutrients. If you’d prefer a longer term fertilising product, with less applications, apply Scotts Osmocote Controlled Release Fertiliser for Indoor Plants in early spring and again in early autumn - this product feeds for up to 6 months.
Fertilise in ground planted Boston Ferns with Scotts Osmocote Controlled Release Fertiliser: All Purpose in spring and again in early autumn.
In the warmer months of spring and summer Boston Fern will appreciate a more regular watering and a higher humidity. To increase the humidity around Boston Ferns, group them with other plants to create a microclimate or mist them with a spray bottle regularly. You can also sit their pot on a saucer filled with pebbles and water - as the water evaporates it will humidify the air.
Remove any dead or damaged fronds at the base to promote new growth. To remove the dust that collects on Boston Fern leaves, pop it into the shower or bring it outside for a gentle hose off or use a soft, damp cloth to remove stubborn dust gently.
Pests & Diseases
The biggest problem for Boston Ferns isn’t pests and diseases - it's overwatering or underwatering. Boston Ferns prefer a moist soil that is never soggy or waterlogged. Water them well when the top 2-3cm of soil feels dry.
Mealybugs can from time to time become a problem on Boston Ferns - use Defender Pyrethrum Insect Spray to control them if needed.