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How Long Does a Boston Fern Live? (Will It Come Back)

Boston ferns are native to the tropical regions and are much-loved houseplants due to their bushy green fronds that can instantly uplift any home corner. However, one question in the minds of fern owners is how long these ferns live.

Boston ferns can grow as perennials in most areas and live for three or more seasons. To keep your Boston fern thriving, you need to provide them with the right living conditions, such as indirect light, proper watering, the correct growing medium, and adequate fertilization.

In this article, I will discuss how long your Boston ferns will live and how you should care for your plant in different seasons. 


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Are Boston ferns annual or perennial?

Annual plants are short-lived, and they complete their life cycle in one season of growth.

They germinate, grow to full maturity, reproduce and then die within one year. 

Perennial plants like Boston ferns grow year after year and continue growing through several maturation phases.

Sometimes these plants may visibly die during the dormant season, but they spring back to life when they get the right weather.

Like many tropical plants, Boston ferns grow as perennial in warm climates, but they cannot live in areas that experience very harsh cold temperatures.

They must be brought indoors during harsh cold weather to protect their delicate fronds.

This is because these plants are warmth-loving plants that cannot tolerate harsh winters.

Will my Boston ferns come back year after year?

Boston fern new growth

Boston ferns are hardy plants that will return year after year, provided they get the right care and growing conditions.

Sometimes if your region faces harsh winters, your Boston fern may die visibly, but underneath the soil surface, the roots remain alive, and their feathery fronds bounce back in spring.

Boston ferns act as perennials when exposed to mild winters and average temperatures.

In regions with milder winters, evergreen plants like Boston ferns keep their fronds in winter and continue growing all year round, never having a state of full dormancy.

However, their growth might slow down, but they require constant care, watering, and light to bounce back again.


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What is the duration of Boston fern?

Evergreen perennials like Boston ferns can live for many years if they get the right care and living conditions.

Boston ferns crave warmth and humidity, so if they grow in areas of mild winters and less extreme weather, then your plant will live for years.

However, if the winters are too harsh and go below freezing point, your Boston fern may not survive a hard frost.

Once an extremely hard frost hits your Boston fern, it can get difficult to save your plant.

Thus if you live in an extremely cold area, it is best to protect your Boston fern and give it warmth inside the house.

Otherwise, it may get challenging to save your plant. 

What are the climate requirements for Boston ferns?

Boston ferns originally are from Florida, Central America, and other tropical areas.

These ferns can grow year-round in USDA hardiness zones 10 through 12.

North of that, you need to move this plant indoors to help it survive the winters or consider them as annuals.

As tropical plants, Boston ferns flourish in humid and warm conditions. 

The Boston fern’s temperature tolerance is right in the middle: not too hot and not too extreme cold. 

They prefer a mild average temperature all year round.

The lowest minimum temperature in the USDA zone 10 is 30 to 35°F, and if the temperature gets lower than that, your fern may die.

The ideal indoor temperature for your Boston fern is between 68 to 78°F, as stated by the Colorado State University Extension.

Your Boston ferns can tolerate higher temperatures outdoors, provided you grow them under shade and give them ample water and humidity.

Exposing it to direct sunlight can make your fern dry and kill it.

Indoor, they like to stay in bright but indirect light away from vents ad Ac’s in a cool spot with temperatures between 60 to 70°F, in a sunny room.

Keep them at a spot where direct sunlight will not touch the fronds.

What temperatures can kill Boston fern?

Boston ferns are comfortable growing in mild average range temperatures.

Extreme heat and extreme cold can affect these plants severely and, if not shielded, can kill the plant.

In winter

Although these plants are perennials, they cannot tolerate low temperatures.

Most tropical plants are not accustomed to tolerating harsh winters.

If the winter temperature drops below 55°F, your Boston fern can die.

It will die if exposed to temperatures below 30°F.

If the fern gets hard frost once, it will not survive that.

If you live in an area with average winters, you must bring the plant indoors.

Otherwise, the plant will die like annuals, and you have to get a new plant next year.

In winter, you can give 2-3 hours of early morning sunlight to your Boston ferns to give them some warmth.

You can also use artificial lights to give it more light and heat.

In summer

Despite being tropical ferns, they cannot tolerate temperatures above 95°F or higher.

Extreme heat can kill it, and you have to protect it from scorching sunlight in summers.

If you keep the plant outside in the summers, remember to keep it under a big tree or a shaded patio that remains cooler.

If you keep it indoors, keep it near a north-facing window or a window with a sheer curtain to block the sun’s rays. 

Do not forget to give the plant more humidity by constantly misting or adding a humidifier.

 Do Boston ferns last all summer long?

Boston fern high temperature

Though Boston ferns love warmth, they cannot tolerate extremely hot weather.

Too much heat dehydrates the plant and makes it dry. 

You have to continue misting your Boston fern in summer and use pebble trays or humidifiers to increase the humidity around the Boston fern, as the ferns can get dehydrated easily if not taken care of.

Shield your Boston fern from scorching sun rays and keep it in a cool spot.



How do you keep Boston ferns alive in summer?

  • Keep your Boston fern away from direct sunlight.
  • If outdoor, keep them in the shade under trees or patio.
  • If indoors, keep them in cool north-facing or east-facing windows. 
  • Keep them away from air conditioners as they can suck up the moisture from the plant.
  • Increase the humidity around the ferns by using humidifiers and pebble trays.
  • Mist your Boston fern frequently to increase the humidity.
  • Watch out for pests and bugs, and apply neem oil if you see any infestation.
  • Fertilize before summer around the beginning of March with a 20-10-20 NPK liquid fertilizer.
  • Mulch the soil to protect against the loss of moisture.
  • Do not let your plant soil get bone dry, and water when it is 25% dry.

Can Boston ferns survive the extreme cold?

Boston ferns cannot tolerate extreme cold.

You must protect them from harsh winters if you do not want to lose the plant. 

A hard frost or freeze can easily kill the plant in a single night, so you have to be very cautious if you grow it in a very cold area.

If your fern stays outside, bring it indoors before the harsh winter season begins.

Before bringing it inside, wash the plant well to eliminate any insects or moths that could have been lurking inside the foliages.

After the fern is dry, trim off the decayed leaves with a clean pair of scissors.

Also read: Boston Fern Temperature Tolerance: +Ideal Temperature

How do you keep Boston ferns alive in winter?

  • Place the plant in a sunny south-facing or east-facing window and give it 2-3 hours of morning sunlight and lots of bright light in winter to warm the plant.
  • Cut down on watering and water only when the soil is ready for it. Use a moisture meter to check the soil’s moisture. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Overwatering can highly damage the plant in winters because the evaporation rate is lower. So always check the soil before watering. 
  • Do not fertilize your ferns in winter because their growth decreases. Fertilizing during this time can lead to root burns and leaf burns in your plant. Resume fertilizing again with the arrival of spring. 
  • Never expose your Boston fern to the cold outdoors.
  • Prune the plant and remove the dead leaves before the start of winter.
  • Keep the humidity up around the plant with the help of humidifiers. Mist the fronds to create a humid atmosphere.
  • Do not expect the plant to grow the same way it does in the growing period. Try not to disturb the plant much. 

Seasonal care of Boston ferns

Factor Care Requirement
Light Boston ferns require indirect sunlight to push out new green fronds. They cannot tolerate direct sunlight; however, you can give it 2-3 hours of mild morning sunlight in winters. In summers, keep them away from harsh heat and dry air. 
Watering Being tropical plants, moisture is extremely crucial for Boston ferns. Do not let the soil get bone dry. Always water the soil when it gets 25% dry. Water till you see it running out of the drainage holes. Refrain from overwatering as that will rot the roots of your fern and give rise to pests and pathogens.
Humidity Your fern requires a lot of humidity, so make sure to use a humidifier or pebble trays to increase the humidity around the plant. In nature, they live in almost 80% humidity, but it is important to use these techniques indoors to give the required humidity to the plant.
Soil Boston ferns need light, well-draining soil capable of holding moisture. You can mix some perlite and peat moss into the potting soil to make it able to retain moisture. Ferns cannot live in heavy and compact soil so make sure the soil is light so that there is airflow in the soil.
Fertilizer Boston ferns are not heavy feeders. If you overfeed your plant, it will damage it.
Feed your fern in the growing period with a balanced fertilizer of 20-10-20 NPK to give all the essential nutrients and energy, and then do not disturb the plant for a few months. Fertilize again before fall, then let it rest all through fall and winter until it springs back again in spring. Do not fertilize in the winters because it can seriously damage the plant. 
Pests Boston ferns are hardy plants; however, some pests harass this plant, like spider mites. Keep an eye on the plant, and if you see any sign of bugs, wash the plant under running water and then spray it with Neem oil or soap water mix to remove all the bugs.
You must use pesticides if nothing else works.
Mulch Mulching helps Boston ferns because that mirrors the natural conditions of a forest floor and helps the fern retain moisture by blocking water loss. Finely shredded leaves, twigs, fine pine bark, or coarse compost work very well for mulching and preventing the growth of weeds.
Pruning It helps to get rid of the dead and damaged fronds so that the plant does not waste its energy on them but instead pushes out healthier growth. You can prune your ferns in early spring before the growing season. Use sharp, sterilized shears to prune your Boston fern.
This table demonstrates how to take care of the Boston fern
Boston fern humidifier

Final words

From the elaborate discussion we just had, the confusion regarding the lifespan of your Boston fern is clear. Let us once again go through the main points in brief.

  • Boston ferns can be perennials or annuals, depending on their growing region.
  • In regions with warmer and milder temperatures, they can grow as perennials and grow year after year.
  • In regions with harsh cold where temperatures get below freezing point, it can get tough to survive in winters. Bringing them indoors and keeping them warm can help them survive winters.
  • In summers, the fern finds it difficult to tolerate the high temperatures.
  • You can keep your fern growing year after year if you take proper care of the plant.
  • Watch out for the plant’s watering requirements as it keeps changing as per the season.
  • Keep them shielded from direct sunlight, and give them bright but filtered light. 
  • Do not over-fertilize the Boston ferns, as that can damage them.

Reference: University of FloridaThe University of Arkansas DivisionTexas A&M University SystemThe University of GeorgiaUniversity of New HampshireWikipediaThe Royal Horticultural Society.