Boston fern is a lovely houseplant that decorates the homes with its graceful, evergreen cascade of bright green fronds. These are natives of the tropical areas and can be grown with minimum care by giving them the right growing conditions.
Boston ferns require shaded spots with indirect light, humidity above 50%, and well-drained soil to thrive. It cannot tolerate extreme temperature fluctuations and requires 60-75°F temperature and sufficient moisture to grow without stress.
Depending on the weather, its care routine needs to change too. So in this article, I will talk about all the factors needed to grow this plant healthily. So let us keep on reading.
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1. Boston ferns prefer indirect light.
In nature, Boston ferns grow in forest beds under bigger trees providing them with shade from direct sunlight.
While growing them, you have to remember the light requirements of Boston ferns vary year-round depending on the weather and temperatures.
When the light intensity is mild during fall or winter, you can give your Boston fern 1-2 hours of morning sunlight or late afternoon sunlight.
You can keep it in an east-facing, south-facing, or west-facing window or a shaded balcony where little sunlight will give the plant some warmth.
However, in the springs or summers, the intensity of sunlight is too strong, which can damage the plant very quickly.
The intense sun exposure can burn the leaves, dehydrate them and turn them dry and yellow very quickly, so keep in mind to give it the right lighting condition.
During this time, the Boston fern would do well in a shaded cool spot where no direct sunlight would disturb the plant.
For example, a bright north-facing window or an east-facing window with a sheer curtain protect it from the direct sunlight.
But, use artificial lights if the plant is not getting enough light.
2. Water your Boston fern when the soil is 25-50% dry
Watering is another most important factor for the healthy growth of your Boston fern.
Understanding the watering schedule is not too difficult.
Watering too much or too little can be detrimental to the health of your fern.
They prefer slightly moist soil that should not be soggy or bone dry.
Remember, soggy soil will lead to fungus growth, leading to root rot that might kill your plant.
If your Boston fern stays outdoors in scorching summer, it might need daily watering due to the high rate of evaporation and transpiration.
Then in winters, when the evaporation rate is low, the water requirement also decreases.
If you find it tricky to understand if you should water the plant, always touch the soil and see the moisture content or try lifting the pot to see if it is heavy or light to pick.
A heavy pot indicates wet soil which would not need watering.
You can also use a moisture meter to determine if your Boston fern needs water.
Instead of frequent shallow watering, water it thoroughly until it runs off the drainage holes.
Then, wait for the top 2 inches of the soil to dry and water thoroughly again.
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3. Choose a loamy and well-draining soil
Boston ferns prefer light soil that drains excess water while retaining the required moisture.
Heavy compact clayey soil is wrong for Boston ferns.
The wrong potting mix can lead to excessive water retention and poor air circulation, killing your plant.
Grow your Boston fern in light, loamy soil that is slightly acidic with a 6.0 to 6.5 pH.
An ideal potting mix for your Boston fern is:
Plants in containers are restricted in the available soil, so you have to ensure the soil provides the right amount of food and support for the fern to thrive.
4. Fertilize with a 20-10-20 NPK liquid fertilizer in the growing season
Boston ferns are light feeders that do not need too much or heavy fertilization.
Too much fertilization can burn the fern fronds and make them yellow and wilted, while too little feeding can weaken them.
You should feed the ferns only in the growing season and never in the fall or winter.
Feed it with a balanced fertilizer containing an NPK ratio of 20-10-20.
Make sure to dilute the dose to reduce the chances of overfertilizing.
Remember to water your fern a day before fertilizing because fertilizing in dry soil can lead to root burn in the plant.
While fertilizing, please do not put it on the leaves that might scorch them, always put the fertilizer carefully on the soil around the plant.
5. Give your Boston fern lots of humidity
Native to the humid areas, Boston ferns need ample humidity to thrive.
In nature, they live with over 80% humidity.
However, our houses have much lower humidity, unsuitable for the Boston ferns.
If the humidity is too low, your Boston fern will start looking pale and yellow and brown.
The leaves will droop and will gradually get dehydrated and weak.
So we have to give them at least 50% humidity.
There are different ways to increase the humidity around the plants.
- Using a humidifier around your Boston fern provides the most long-lasting effect and gives the plant all the humidity it needs.
- Misting the fern is another easy and simple way to increase humidity. However, it is a temporary fix as the water gets evaporated quickly.
- Grouping the Boston fern and other moisture-loving plants to encourage a humid transpiration exchange is a great way similar to their native conditions.
- Using a tray filled with pebbles and water to place the pot increases the humidity around the plant.
- Keeping the plant in a high humid zone like the bathroom and kitchen with ample light and air can increase humidity for the fern’s growth.
6. Maintain the correct temperatures around your Boston fern
Boston ferns like warm weather, so it is important to give them similar conditions while growing them indoors.
Any kind of extreme temperature can be harmful to the plant.
The ideal temperature for Boston ferns is 60-75°F.
If you are not aware of the temperature in your house, use a hygrometer that tells you not only the temperature but also the humidity level inside your house.
These plants are extremely intolerant to harsh winters and frost.
It can send them to dormancy, and prolonged exposure can kill them.
Boston ferns cannot tolerate extreme fluctuations in temperature, so keep them away from air conditioners, heaters, fireplaces, vents, cold drafts, etc.
They suck up the moisture from the plant and make them pale and burn the leaves.
7. Correct pot size is important for your Boston fern
Choosing an incorrect pot to grow the Boston fern will hamper the plant’s growth.
You have to keep in mind a few things while choosing the pot for your plant.
Never use a pot that is too big or too small for your fern.
An excessive big pot that retains too much water can lead to root rot.
Similarly, a too-small pot can dry out the soil frequently, and the plant will get root-bound quickly, hampering its growth.
- Choose a pot not more than 2 inches bigger than the existing pot.
- Never plant your Boston fern in a pot with no drainage holes. The excess water will stay locked in the soil without the drainage, making it soggy and a breeding ground for pests and fungus growth.
- If you use a decorative pot without a hole, drill a hole at the bottom or use another pot inside with drainage holes to grow the plant and put it inside the bigger pot.
8. Repot when the Boston fern looks too big for the pot
Repotting is essential when the plant gets too big for the pot size because then the small pot fails to provide all the space and nutrients the plant needs.
Repotting your plant puts a lot of stress, so it should be done only when required.
You should repot the plant in the following circumstances:
- The Boston fern has become rootbound in the pot.
- The water flows out too quickly without getting absorbed by the roots.
- The soil quantity has reduced because the huge roots gradually suck up the soil if it gets root-bound.
- The plant does not grow much as the soil loses its nutrients.
- The roots have started decaying.
Remember, when repotting your Boston fern, do not get a pot that is too big compared to the present pot.
Always repot only in the growing season.
Prepare a fresh potting mix to repot the fern.
Post repotting, your plant may seem droopy for a few days.
Do not panic, as it will soon bounce back.
Before repotting in the fresh soil, remember to trim off all the yellow and dead leaves and fronds.
You might need to repot your Boston fern every 2-3 years once it shows the signs of a root-bound state.
Otherwise, do not unnecessarily repot the plant.
9. Prune the Boston fern to keep it in shape
Pruning is essential for maintaining a plant’s visual appeal and health.
Pruning helps the plant stay in shape and get rid of the old lifeless parts.
Without pruning, the Boston fern will gradually become leggy and messy and shed many leaves, giving it an untidy look.
So you must prune the dead or discolored parts of the leaves and fronds to save the plant’s energy to maintain a clean shape.
Here are a few quick tips you must remember before pruning:
- Always use a clean, sterilized pruner to prune your plant.
- Move the plant outside before pruning as it is a very messy job.
- Cut off the yellow or brown parts of the plant.
- Do not prune more than 25% of the plant at one time.
- If there is root rot, remove the plant from the pot, prune the rotten roots, and repot it in fresh soil.
- Cut the fronds at different lengths to give them a bushy organic look.
- Do not prune the crown area. Instead, trim off the side fronds to give them a good shape.
- Always prune in the growing season and before overwintering it.
10. Use organic ways to repel bugs
Spider mites, mealybugs, scales, and thrips often attack Boston ferns.
These pests attack the fronds and gradually suck out the nutrients from the plant.
Some tips to prevent bug and pests infestations are:
- While buying a new plant home, always check the leaves carefully to see if there are any bugs.
- If there is a pest in any plant, separate it from the rest to prevent the spread of them.
- Act at the soonest if you find any pest attack on your plant.
Neem oil is the best organic pesticide for your Boston fern because it kills all the bugs without harming the plant.
Mix 1 tablespoon of Neem oil in a gallon of water and spray it on the infested plant 2-3 times a week.
This helps to clear off all the bugs with time.
11. Propagate the Boston fern to get more plants
Propagation is an easy and cheap way to get more plants from a mature plant.
You can propagate Boston ferns both in soil and water.
The best way to propagate Boston ferns is by the division method.
- To propagate it, you must take mature Boston fern out of the pot, loosen up the root ball, and cut it into halves or quarters with a clean, sterilized knife.
- Trim off any dead or brown roots if you find any.
- Make a fresh potting mix and pot these baby plants into the new pot for soil propagation.
- You can also grow them in a glass jar filled with water for water propagation. Make sure to dip all the roots under the water.
- Keep the soil moist but not soggy and away from direct sunlight.
- Wait for a few weeks until you see the rots. Do not disturb the plant much.
12. Protect the Boston from harsh winters and overwinter
Boston ferns, warm-loving tropical plants, find it hard to deal with harsh winters.
If you live in a region with harsh winters, you have to bring your fern inside to overwinter it.
However, if your region has milder winter, you can leave the fern outside.
The care routine of your Boston fern will change during winter.
Let us see the table below to understand it.
|Light||In the winters, you can give your Boston fern 1-2 hours of morning sunlight to give it some warmth. You can also use artificial light for warmth to the plant.|
|Water||The water requirements during the winter months drastically go down.
Always check the soil before watering.
|Fertilizer||Do not fertilize during winters as it can burn your plant.|
|Repotting||Do not repot in the winters because the plant finds it hard to deal with the stress.|
|Humidity||The air becomes dry in winters. You can give the plant humidity by using a humidifier.|
|Temperature||If your region experiences harsh winters, bring your Boston fern inside. Do not expose it to the cold and frost.|
|Pruning||Do not prune the plant in winters, which puts unnecessary stress on the plant.
Prune before winter arrives.
Boston ferns are easy plants that flourish with very little care.
Once you understand what conditions your fern needs, you will find it easy to grow this plant. Provide the plant with bright light, humidity, water, little fertilization, and more or less, and your plant will do fine.
This article must have cleared all your doubts as I have explained all the factors to help you grow this gorgeous plant.