Care of boston ferns

Growing and Caring for Boston Ferns

One of the most popular varieties of fern is the Boston fern. With its frilly leaves and long, hanging fronds, it’s easy to see why it is so widely admired. Boston ferns that are full and flourishing make a wonderful addition to the home, adding an elegant charm and classic beauty unlike any other houseplant available.

Many people buy Boston ferns to adorn their decks and porches during the warm months of spring and summer. The Boston fern is closely related to the Sword fern, which is found growing wild in Florida and in the tropical regions around the Pacific Rim. They grow beautifully in humid locations that receive plenty of indirect sunlight, but when the threat of frost arrives in the fall, they must be brought indoors if they are to survive.

Tip: If the proper growing conditions are not provided indoors, the fern will react by shedding its leaves and will appear dull and lifeless. Some people give up on the fern after they notice it’s not thriving indoors the same way it was outdoors. What is actually happening is the fern is having a difficult time adjusting to a lower humidity level, less light, and cooler temperatures. However, with proper winter care and the right growing conditions, a Boston fern will thrive through the cooler seasons and be ready to hang outside come next spring.

Ideal Growing Conditions

Many ferns, including Boston ferns, are native to sub-tropical and tropical rain forests. It is important that you mimic similar growing conditions the fern would have in the warm and humid forest.

While many ferns require shade to grow, the Boston fern is fond of lots of indirect light, like that which filters through the rainforest canopy. Place your Boston fern near a window that receives plenty of indirect sunshine. A bright east or west-facing window is an ideal location. They can endure dimly lit areas, but they won’t flourish and grow.

Boston ferns prefer daytime temperatures that range from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, while evening temperatures should be a little cooler. Cooler temperatures reduce the chance of fungus developing, temperatures ranging between 55 and 65 being ideal. To adjust temperatures without making your home too cold, place your plant in a naturally cooler location in the home or in a room where heat vents can be closed. Also, keep in mind that areas closer to the ceiling are naturally warmer than lower levels. If your Boston fern hangs near the ceiling, check the temperature and adjust it if necessary. Otherwise, consider placing it in a sturdy plant stand or on a table.

Tip: The fern will grow fast in temperatures of 73 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Night temperatures are critical not only to keep fungus at bay but also for growth regulation.

Providing Humidity

Rainforests are extremely humid environments and ferns are happiest when humidity is at least 50 percent. Because the humidity level inside a home is generally only 10 to 15 percent, it is important to provide supplemental humidity for your fern. When indoor temperatures rise above 70 degrees, you can provide your Boston fern with some of the humidity it requires by misting it on a daily basis. The humidity provided through misting is helpful, but it’s not the complete answer. When the drops of water evaporate, so do the benefits.
During the hot months of summer, an indoor Boston fern on a table or stand can be placed on a saucer filled with stones and water. As the water evaporates, humidity is naturally provided to the plant. Simply fill a plant saucer with gravel, and then add water, stopping just below the top of the gravel. Place the pot on the gravel, and refill the saucer as necessary.
A humidifier is by far the best way to ensure your Boston fern receives the humidity it requires. For best results, run a humidifier in the room where your plant is located, especially during winter months when the air is warm and dry.

Consider buying a hygrometer to measure indoor humidity. This handy gauge will enable you to attain the correct level of humidity for the plant’s optimal health and vigorous growth. Hygrometers are available in many stores that sell outdoor thermometers, plants, and garden supplies.

Watering and Feeding

In warmer months during the growing season, provide your Boston fern with enough tepid water to keep the soil evenly moist, but not saturated. Water it more frequently during the hottest months of summer, and try not to let the soil become dry before watering. The foliage will lose its bright, green, healthy glow if it becomes too dry.

In the winter, allow the surface of the soil to become a little dry before watering. When new fronds begin to appear, start watering more often. Generally, you’ll notice the appearance of new growth as the end of winter approaches.

During spring, summer, and fall, you will also want to apply a monthly dose of nitrogen-rich, water-soluble houseplant food, diluted to half the recommended strength.

It’s not necessary to repot a Boston fern unless you want a larger plant. When the roots fill the pot, trim them to provide more space. You can also divide the root-bound plant into smaller plants, but choose containers wisely. The pot must be clean and have drainage holes in the bottom.

Tip: It’s actually a good idea to repot a large fern, especially if it is pot bound, unless you want to water all the time.

The correct soil mix is essential to the health of the plant, too. To make a potting mixture suitable for Boston ferns, combine equal parts of peat moss, sand, and garden soil. Repot your plant, and care for it as directed.

With proper care and attention, your Boston fern will grow and thrive for many years to come.

Information On Care For Boston Fern – Care Tips For A Boston Fern

Boston ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata) are popular houseplants and proper Boston fern care is essential to keeping this plant healthy. Learning how to take care of a Boston fern isn’t difficult, but it is specific. Below, we have listed a few care tips for a Boston fern so that you can provide everything your fern needs to be happy and beautiful.

How to Take Care of a Boston Fern

The first thing you need to do for proper Boston fern care is to make sure that it’s in the right kind of environment. Boston ferns need a cool place with high humidity and indirect light.

When you care for Boston fern plants indoors, it’s a good idea to provide additional humidity for them, especially in the winter. Most homes are rather dry, even more when heaters are running. For extra humidity care for Boston fern, try setting your fern’s pot on a tray of pebbles filled with water. You can also try lightly misting your fern once or twice a week to help it get the humidity it needs.

Another step in how to take care of a Boston fern is to make sure that the fern’s soil remains damp. Dry soil is one of the number one reasons that Boston ferns die. Check the soil daily and make sure to give it some water if the soil feels at all dry. Because Boston ferns tend to be planted in potting mixtures that are high in peat moss, it is a good idea to soak the pot of the Boston fern once a month or so to make sure the peat moss is fully hydrated. Be sure to let it drain thoroughly after this.

Boston fern leaves will turn yellow if the humidity is not high enough. If your Boston fern’s fronds are turning yellow, make sure to increase the humidity around the plant

One of the lesser known care tips for a Boston fern is that they do not need much fertilizer. Fertilizer should only be given to the plant a few times a year.

Boston ferns are susceptible to some pests, especially spider mites and mealybugs. If your plant becomes infested, make sure to treat the plant as quickly as possible to keep it healthy.

Boston fern care is as simple as making sure the plant is in the right environment. If you make sure that your fern is getting the right care for Boston fern plant, your plant will live for many years to come.

Nephrolepis Exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’

Some ferns can only be grown in terrariums and others will not recover from neglect…..unlike this species that can be brought back from what looks like near death.

It is said that this species is a malformation from the Nephrolepis genus that became very popular after being discovered in 1894 within a batch of the original N. exaltata ferns (common name: Sword fern). The Boston displays graceful fronds (leaves) that arch over much more than it’s parent plant, so it’s abnormalities have become an advantage (in the eyes of plant growers). The Sword fern has very stiff and upright fronds.

Compared to most other ferns your going to find this plant a lot easier to care for in regards to light, humidity levels and propagating (see care instructions below). Some ferns can only be grown in terrariums and others will not recover from neglect…..unlike this species that can be brought back from what looks like near death.

How it looks: As mentioned above the fronds on the Boston fern arch over and grow up to about 3 ft long. The fronds are made up of a tough leaf stalk, pinnate leaflets and a rachis (leaf stalk), but in layman’s terms it’s a kind of long stalk with lots of small leaves on it, side-by-side….or you could say they have a large feather like appearance.

Displaying: How you display your plant will depend on it’s size. The Boston fern is placed in a hanging basket mostly when it’s fronds are over a foot or so long, allowing the fronds to arch over and hang boldly. Another great way to display a mature plant is to place it potted on a pedestal stand allowing the fronds to hang. A small plant can be placed near a windowsill in a normal pot.

Bathrooms are an ideal location to place this fern. this is because of the higher humidity levels provided from the water and condensation within the bathroom (a big bathroom though if the plant is mature). Conservatories with this plant planted in a hanging basket is another option and they look great, however, a grower must make sure there is not too much direct sunlight within the conservatory.

Overwintering: I will briefly mention something about overwintering that applies to those who keep their fern outside during the warmer months. If you own or your going to buy a Boston fern and live in a temperate region, you can place the plant outside within a porch, balcony or patio when temperatures are above 50ºF/10ºC….then bring it back indoors when the temperature goes down to near 50ºF/10ºC . Frost or temperatures below 40ºF/4ºC can kill the plant or make it look dead (loss of foliage) until the following growing season.

When it gets too cold this plant will go into a kind of dormancy period until conditions become correct. However, if the right conditions are provided, such as high humidity, enough indirect sunlight and warm enough temperatures, the Boston fern will be fine when taken back indoors. Many of them do lose leaves once they are brought inside, which is of no major concern…..just keep providing the right care and conditions.

Add Ferns for Summer Interest

By Doug Jimerson and Karen Weir-Jimerson
Add lushness and traditional style to your summer porch, patio, or balcony with ferns. Versatile ferns offer shade- and sun-loving varieties that improve the view when hanging on a porch, combined with pots of colorful annuals, or displayed in classic wire plant stands. Here are 11 simple ways to add fantastic ferns to your garden, yard, and patio. Plus, check out our growing tips and fun facts about the three most popular fern varieties.
Mix Containers
Ferns make a classic pairing with exuberantly colorful pots and flower-packed window boxes. Pop a large Boston fern into a tall container to add green lushness to a porch or entryway.
Here, a Boston fern complements the bold, fiery colors of croton, lananta, and annual geranium. But ferns play just as well when paired with soft, cool colors, including pinks, purples, and white. In fact, one of the most fabulous things about ferns is that their neutral green fronds play well with any color scheme and garden or decorating style. They also look right at home in just about every type of container, from modern and contemporary to country casual.
Go Classic
Upright, elegant Kimberly queen fern makes an ideal container companion for a traditional-style seating area in shade or partial shade. Elegant, timeless patio seating is simple: gray all-weather woven-wicker chairs with white cushions, a wire chandelier, white finials, and a green fern. It’s so simple and so classic!
Because ferns are so inexpensive, they’re ideal for decorating any outdoor space, especially if you need a last-minute spruce up before a party at your outdoor space. And their versatility also makes an elegant fern an ideal hostess gift!
Top a Table
Make an instant impact by simply placing a pretty vintage tablecloth on a small table and topping it with a Boston fern. Ferns’ lush leaves add visual coolness to summer porches.
Because Boston ferns are available in a wide range of sizes and container types (from hanging baskets to urns), you can incorporate them into practically any deck, patio, or balcony with ease. And it’s easy to get a consistent, cohesive look when decorating your porch by repeating ferns in your decor. For example, use a fern on a tabletop, and use another in a hanging basket.

Add Height
Ferns provide gorgeous backup color to a pair of vintage white concrete planters. An elegant Boston fern, set into an antique wire stand, adds height and texture where needed.
As long as your container has drainage so excess water can escape, you can grow ferns in any type of container, including concrete like this one, plastic, ceramic, terra cotta, clay, wood, and metal. Or, repurpose items from around the house to create customized containers oozing with charm to display your favorite ferns.

Adorn a Bench
How easy is this? Just set a fantastic Boston fern on a stone bench in a woodland garden for instant ambiance. This fern thrives under the dappled light from nearby trees. And elevating your Boston fern like this makes it easier to water, so you don’t have to bend over to maintain it. You can get the same look (with a smaller plant) by placing a fern on your favorite outdoor tabletop.
Combine Flowers and Foliage
Dark green, verdant ferns make ideal container partners with lighter-leafed coleus varieties. Ferns offer long fronds, so they don’t require elaborate containers. They can grow all summer in the grower’s pots you bought them in.
Here, a Boston fern makes for an excellent planting partner for bright red begonias and colorful coleus in shade. We’re especially fond of pairing fine-textured ferns with plants like coleus that have a bigger, coarser texture for the fun contrast.
You can also pair ferns with other shade-loving annuals, including impatiens and wishbone flower, as well as with shade-loving perennials such as hosta, ligularia, liriope, and lungwort.

Layer Textures
Sun-loving Kimberly queen fern makes an elegant garden entryway plant when combined with old-fashioned rambling roses and lady’s mantle.
While ferns fit beautifully into any garden style, they’re particularly stunning when you have a cottage/country/Victorian style. Lacy fern fronds have a classic elegance that naturally pairs well with roses, foxglove, daisies, and other informal plants.

Perk Up a Porch
Hang it up and call it a porch! Hanging Boston ferns add lovely lushness to summer porches. Just keep an eye on them in windy weather and make sure they don’t dry out.
It’s helpful to protect your ferns in especially windy weather by taking them down out of the breeze. And to reduce watering on especially hot summer days, give your ferns a break from the sun by keeping them in a shaded spot.
Create a Vignette
Here’s an easy pedestal: Upend a blue enamel bucket and set your fern on top as a pedestal. The blue bucket picks up the color of the nearby veronica. The generous nature of ferns makes them easily posed in a garden.
Garden Design Tip: Incorporate ferns and other potted plants into your garden beds and borders to add extra height, interest, and drama. Plus, because containers are portable, you can pop them around your garden as necessary if different areas could use a boost when plants go in and out of flower.
Line Up on a Ladder
An old-fashioned stepladder makes an excellent stage for ferns because it allows the fronds to drape gracefully without dragging on the ground.
You can create a cohesive look with Boston ferns like we did here, or add a little extra excitement to the planting by using different sizes or varieties of ferns.
Parade on a Pedestal
Fill in the area beneath a tree by setting a fern on a perch. This fern is seated on a large piece of architectural salvage surrounded by shade-loving perennials such as hosta and coral bells.
Ferns 101
Try three popular ferns to add elegance to your summer outdoor spaces.
Boston Fern
First discovered in 1894, Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) is a semi tropical plant that turned up in a shipment of other sword ferns on their way from Boston to Philadelphia. Its arching, dark green fronds were an instant hit and the plant quickly became a Victorian favorite, sharing the stage with other parlor plants such as cast-iron plant, snake plant, and palm.
Ideal for urns, plant stands and hanging baskets, Boston fern has become the icon for gracious summer living, particularly in South. Its fronds gently idling in the breeze, lush baskets of Boston ferns are a cooling sight on porches throughout the country.
Growing Tips: Place your Boston ferns where they will receive bright, indirect light and avoid planting them in full sun. They also like consistent moisture so water them whenever the soil surface starts to feel dry to the touch. Remember, ferns growing in baskets dry out faster since they are more exposed to drying wind. Feed Boston ferns every two months with a liquid houseplant fertilizer and, in northern climates, bring your plants indoors before frost. During very hot, dry weather, soak your fern in a bucket of water once a week. This will insure that even the center of the root ball is receiving moisture.
Fun Fact: Boston ferns will help keep the air inside your home clean. The plants help reduce toluene and xylene from the air.
Kimberly Queen Fern
A tough Australian native, Kimberly queen Fern (Nephrolepis obliterata) can take some abuse, tolerating dryness a bit better than other ferns. It is a gorgeous plant with stiff upright fronds often attractively marked with small, circular tan spores on the underside of each leaf. The plants also don’t drop leaves as often as other ferns which makes it great choice for use inside the home. Use Kimberly queen ferns to flank an entry or line them up along a garden path.
Growing Tips: Kimberly queen ferns aren’t as fussy about light as other ferns. In fact, you can grow them in the sun as long as you keep an eye on them in case they begin to burn out as summer temperatures begin to rise. Water whenever the soil feels dry to the touch. Because they can grow 3 feet tall they are at their best showcased in an urn or planter rather than in hanging baskets. Like Boston ferns, Kimberly Queen ferns will also help remove toluene and xylene from your home’s atmosphere.
Fun Fact: Kimberly Queen ferns are hardy outdoors from zones 9-11 where they make excellent landscape plants. Gardeners in other zones should bring this fern indoors before frost.

Macho Fern
The macho fern looks like a Boston Fern on steroids! It develops big, bold fronds that can grow over 4 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Because of its large size, macho fern makes a bold statement grown in a big hanging basket or large urn. Its lush, dark green symmetrical fronds are simply sensational.
Growing Tips: Place your macho fern in a partially sunny location where it is protected from strong winds. Feed the plant every few weeks through the summer with a liquid houseplant fertilizer. Water when the soil feels dry to the touch. In the north, bring your macho fern indoors before frost. Because these plants grow so large, they don’t often thrive indoors in very low light conditions. Like other ferns, the macho fern helps remove toluene and xylene from the air.
Fun Fact: Macho ferns are actually native to areas of Southeastern North America and are considered a threatened species in the wild.


SERIES 16 | Episode 22

There is a primaeval elegance and simplicity about ferns. In the bush there are oceans of them in shaded gullies. They look remarkably gentle and fragile, but really they’re amongst the toughest survivors. There is a fascination with these ancient plants. The first fern appeared 350 million years ago and they dominated the land in the carboniferous period.

Ferns and fern allies belong in a division of the plant kingdom called Pteridophyta, and there are about 10,000 species throughout the world. In Australia we have about 420, and they’re different in both form and shape. The other amazing thing about ferns is the way they reproduce. Unlike flowering plants, which reproduce by seed, these reproduce by spore found on the back of the leaves. These little brown or yellow dots are receptacles that contain thousands of spore.

Some popular ferns include the Boston fern, the dainty maidenhair fern, glorious elk and stag horns, which look great on mounts. And, of course, tree ferns such as the Dicksonia antarctica which has great long fronds. It’s called the soft tree fern because of the soft, furry material that’s at the bottom of each of the fern fronds. They are very slow growing, but quite majestic in a garden.

There are many unusual ferns. One includes Asplenium nidus ‘Osaka’, which is a bird’s nest fern, with wavy edges on its leaves. It looks magnificent planted in a pot. Another bird’s nest fern, Asplenium australasicum ‘Multilobum’ has crested and divided leaves.

For a hanging basket try the coarse Queensland tassel fern Huperzia phlegmaria. It’s one of the oldest living forms of ferns. Great in a basket, but keep it moist. Another is the grub fern Polypodium formosanum. These send rhizomes through the potting mix and then send up these wonderful black stalks with fronds. Most ferns are perennials and they sometimes grow from an underground rhizome. One of these is the hare’s foot type fern Polypodium vulgare that also looks good growing in a hanging basket.

You might think all ferns are lush and green. Lush, yes, but sometimes a little different than green. Look out for the Pteris ‘Algeria’ which has an unusual stripe of silver down its frond. And the autumn fern is known for its triangular leaves, it’s a Dryopteris erythrosora, and in autumn has coppery coloured fronds. The Blechnum wattsii is another fern with an autumn bronze tinge to its new leaves. Pteris umbrosa has creamy coloured leaves. They look great in pots especially when it’s possible to highlight the different colours.

In general, ferns prefer to grow in part shade, under the canopy of trees. Having said that, a tree fern called ‘Little Aussie Larrikin’ defies the rules because it grows in the full sun, with some summer watering. It’s a Cyathea brownii, a dwarf form that comes from Norfolk Island.

Occasionally people have problems with growing ferns because they either let them dry out or give them too much water. Ferns don’t need to be watered daily and like any garden plant benefit from mulching.

One fern that people manage to kill regularly is the delicate maidenhair fern because they forget to water it. Indoors they need to be kept away from draughts or windy spots, and certainly away from a heater. Keep moist and if they die back, remove the fronds at base level to encourage a re-shoot.

Ferns add another dimension to the garden and once you’ve got into ferns you will develop a wonderful ferny fascination.

Ferns are fabulous and make a beautiful addition to your garden. Having been around for millions of years, ferns usually grow in the forest, in rocky hills and in sand. Growing ferns in pots is also possible. You can grow it with other plants or you can mix it with other flowers.

You don’t have to worry about growing ferns in pots. This plant is not needy as it only needs little maintenance and can be useful to fill in the gaps in your container garden. Though it is not of major importance economically, it can be gathered for food, research, medicine and even for ornamentals which could also benefit you especially when you have it at home.

Though ferns could be grown in pots, you have to remember that since it grows well in a moist condition, it will dry faster in containers than those planted directly on the ground. Proper watering should be given; too much or too little watering is bad.


  1. Soil – Make sure that the soil holds moisture, drains well and is rich in organic matter. Remember that it usually grows in woodlands, on a soil that has lots of organic matter and dead leaves. A peat moss mix is recommended when growing ferns in pots.
  2. Container – A plastic pot, not deeper than 6 inches is best to use since it keeps better moisture. The plant should fit enough in a pot; if it is too big or too small, it would be hard to retain soil moisture. Make sure that the container is clean and has enough drainage.


In planting ferns, fill the pot with the soil mix. The root ball should be on top and the roots should be spread out freely. When it grows too large, it needs to be repotted by dividing the ferns and transferring it to a different container. Do not cover the crowns when planting. Pay attention to new crowns for it can start to grow on their own.


Do not be mistaken that since ferns survive in wet forest floors, it automatically needs a lot of water when placed in pots. However, too much or too little watering is bad for the plant. Water the soil and not the foliage. Watering too much can cause yellowing of leaves and shedding of roots while wilting of leaves is a sign of too little watering. White roots indicate healthy watering. Misting is not really necessary, however by doing this, it can clean the foliage from dusts and pests. Remember not to use treated water.

Ferns in pots love to be placed in humid environment similar to the wet forest floor. It can be placed in the bathroom since it is the most humid part of the house. You can also prepare a tray of water near or under the pot. Do not let the pot touch the water, you have to put a gravel on top of the water so that when the water evaporates, it will increase humidity around the plant.

Since ferns prefer indirect light, when put in pots or indoors, a day light coming through a window is good. Too much light can dry out the plant and not enough light may result to a delayed growth and poor colour of foliage. Though it can grow in lower light condition, it can’t survive in a no-light condition.

Proper Care and Maintenance

Dried leaves are common in ferns. You have to remove it or cut it in order to promote plant growth and to make the plant look cleaner and healthier. Hand-pick pests like spider mites, scales and mealy bugs and they can also be controlled with a spray of direct stream water. When properly cared for, it could grow several feet tall and can serve as an attractive addition indoors.

Boston fern

Boston Fern

For decades the Boston fern has been grown as a tropical accent plant inside the house and on patios. Indoors or outside, Boston fern maintains its lush good looks with minimum care. Give this plant high humidity and consistent moisture and it will reward you with long arching stems of spring-green foliage.

genus name
  • Nephrolepis exaltata
  • Part Sun,
  • Shade
plant type
  • Houseplant
  • 1 to 3 feet
  • From 2 to 3 feet
foliage color
  • Blue/Green
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Good for Containers
  • 10,
  • 11
  • Division

Colorful Combinations

This easy-to-grow plant has long sword-shape green fronds that arch gracefully as they get older, which is why this fern looks so good on a pedestal or hanging in a basket. This foliage consists of numerous small leaflets that, if allowed to dry out, fall off and leave wiry stems behind.

You can also find this plant in bright gold and a green-and-gold variegated variety, as well as with curly, wavy, twisted, drooping, and overlapping fronds. Some Boston ferns feature finely dissected leaflets that create a loose and airy feel.

See more of our top ferns to grow as houseplants.

Boston Fern Care Must-Knows

Boston ferns are relatively easy to grow as long as you stay on top of two things. Like most ferns, Boston fern needs high humidity to thrive. Misting and setting the plant on a tray of wet pebbles are beneficial. Ignore the need for humidity and you will end up sweeping up small brown leaflets shed by a struggling plant. Keeping your Boston fern’s soil (a peaty, soil-based potting mix) consistently moist at all times is key. If the soil dries out, the plant will crisp up and drop many of its leaves. Fertilize potted ferns houseplant formula at half strength every month from spring to early fall.

When growing Boston fern as a houseplant, place it in bright, indirect light. When grown in partial shade, a plant’s fronds will become dull and sparse. Too much sun, though, and fronds will burn. When growing Boston fern outside, make sure it is sheltered from direct sun to prevent burning.

As cool weather approaches, an outdoor plant can be brought indoors for the winter. If the fern loses lots of its foliage, cut it back to about 2 inches and it will eventually regenerate to form a lush plant. Boston fern can be divided. If you have to cut it back, that’s the time to divide it, too.

Read up on fern care here.

More Varieties of Boston Fern

Boston fern

Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’ is the standard type, grown as an elegant houseplant since Victorian times.

‘Dallas’ fern

This variety of Nephrolepis exaltata was developed to tolerate lower light and drier air conditions than the common Boston fern. It is a compact plant, with fronds only about half the length of the species..

‘Fluffy Ruffles’ fern

This smaller form of Nephrolepis exaltata has finely divided curled fronds.

‘Kimberly Queen’ fern

Nephrolepis obliterata is a closely related species that is less sensitive to low humidity, so it holds up well in average room conditions.

Tiger fern

This type is a variegated Boston fern with erratically marbled foliage in gold and green. This variety has large leaves that can get quite long.

‘Rita’s Gold’ fern

Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Rita’s Gold’ is a lovely variety with stunning golden foliage that is especially bright on new growth.

Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’

How to keep them thriving indoors in Melbourne!

Please Note: The information below is specific to this particular variety. For more detailed notes on the general growing conditions required for all Indoor Plants, check out our ‘Growing Indoor Plants Successfully’ factsheet.

When I finally gave in and succumbed to indoor plants the Boston Fern was the first one to enter the house. I couldn’t resist its easy exuberance. It is such a chameleon: on a pedestal in a vintage pot, it looks perfect in a heritage setting; in a smooth modern pot, it fits naturally in a modern edgy home; works equally well with shabby chic or rustic farmhouse. Nor is it a delicate fussy little show pony, it is as resilient as it is cheerful. A good ‘first plant’ for indoors, giving you success and courage to try a few more!

Adjust watering to suit the season. This is easy, in the warmer months it tends to put on growth and needs more water. Water so that the potting mix is never completely dries out, aim for a nice even moistness. In winter however, allow the surface to dry out slightly before watering.

Bright indirect or filtered light all year round. Avoid direct sunlight as it can scorch the fronds.

Temperature and humidity

Ideally keep between 4C and 30C. Keeping it cooler at night helps avoid fungal problems. It needs humidity, so a humidifier is useful, or failing that misting spray. This is particularly important in winter if you are using central heating. Alternatively, you can put the pot on small stones or blocks to keep it raised, and fill the saucer or slip pot beneath with water. The water evaporates increasing the humidity, but by keeping the pot raised, it allows for free drainage that is essential for a happy indoor plant.

Fertilise monthly in spring and summer with an indoor plant fertiliser diluted to half strength. Only fertilise once over winter and once in autumn. Once a year, flush out any salts that may have accumulated by watering thoroughly and deeply with clean water.


General maintenance can be done anytime. Old, leggy, discoloured or ragged fronds should be cut back to the base. Any major trimming or rejuvenation pruning is best done in spring. They respond well to pruning, giving dense bushy new growth. Boston ferns can grow quite rapidly which is great, except that over time they can become pot bound and this can lead to having to water too often for convenience. If this happens you can simply trim off some of the roots to reduce the size or you can grasp the nettle and repot your fern.


• Best done in spring.
• You can either simply go up a pot size or you can divide the fern into smaller plants resulting in two or more pot plants.
• Use a good quality potting mix and pots with good drainage.
• Make sure your fern is nicely moist before repotting as this ensures the potting mix is adhering to the roots. If you see nodules on the roots – that is normal.
• If simply repotting into a larger pot, go up one size, if you choose too big a pot, then the excess potting mix retains moisture and can lead to fungal problems and root rot.
• If dividing the plant allow it to dry out slightly first. Use a sharp blade (some people find a serrated blade easier) and cleanly slice through the root mass, carefully separating the fronds to get two or more plants. Repot into smaller pots. Trim off any overlong, tired or damaged fronds. This is a good time to really trim back the fern, allowing more good strong bushy growth to develop. Do not plant too deeply into the potting mix, the plant should end up 2-3cm from the top of the pot.
• Pat down firmly (removes air-pockets) and water in well using a weak seaweed solution.
• Allow to settle in for a couple of days in a shady spot, then move to a position with bright indirect light and treat as per normal.


Leaf Drop

The fronds will eventually age and die, this is normal, but excessive leaf drop is commonly a result of either lack of water or lack of humidity. Occasionally, it can be the result of soluble salts accumulating due to over fertilising. If this is the case you will see white flakes on the surface of the potting mix. Just flush the potting mix with clean water and wash the salts through the mix.

Grey looking plant

Most often due to insufficient watering. Increase your watering. If you are sure your watering regime is good, then root rot may be the problem. If the roots look unhealthy or stunted, treat the plant and soil with an anti-rot fungicide.

Black fronds

If the black appears on the underside of the fronds then this is most likely to just be the normal reproductive spores. Ignore.

Brown fronds

o If in direct light, fronds can burn.
o If the temperature is too hot, fronds will brown off
o If drainage is poor, and potting mix becomes soggy, fronds will brown.
o If humidity is too low, fronds can brown off.
o Being pot bound can lead to browning of fronds
o Being physically touched too much. Avoid running your hands through the fronds etc.

Yellow fronds

o Old fronds naturally turn yellow as they age, before turning brown and dying.
o Overwatering can lead to yellow fronds
o Stress from moving to a new position, being repotted or divided. Allow time for it to settle in.
o Lack of humidity

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