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How To Revive Boston Fern? (Saving An Almost Dead Plant)

Boston Ferns are evergreen, hardy plants that can easily accommodate indoor pot culture. This plant has beautiful lance-shaped fronds, making them one of the most beautiful tropical plants. Although they can adapt to extreme environments, they still need the perfect conditions to flourish.

If your Boston fern seems to be dying, you can revive it with the right steps:

  1. Observe the plant thoroughly to understand the problem.
  2. Provide indirect light throughout the day if it is not getting enough light or protect it from the direct sun if it looks scorched.
  3. If overwatering seems to be the issue, stop watering and check the roots. Repot the plant if required.
  4. If the plant is not getting enough water, reevaluate your watering routine and develop a schedule of checking the soil’s moisture level and watering whenever required.
  5. Avoid fertilizing too frequently or during the winter months.
  6. Spray a Neem oil solution on the plant to prevent and eliminate pests.
  7. In case the plant is not in a recoverable stage, try to propagate a few cuttings.

In this article, I will explain how you can revive your Boston fern if it is dying. I will also include the signs indicating damage and methods to prevent future damage. 

Boston fern drying out

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Signs of a Dying Boston Fern

Plants don’t die overnight.

They show some initial signs of damage.

If you can identify them, immediate care can revive any plant.

Here are some possible initial as well as extreme signs of plant distress mentioned below:

Why is my Boston fern dying?

One of the basic needs for Boston fern to thrive best (apart from indirect bright sunlight) is moist soil.

But excessive moisture or soggy soil can act negatively.

The most common reason for a Boston fern dying is overwatering.

There are other reasons too that can result in the decline of its health. 

  • Underwatering
  • Incorrect lighting 
  • Temperature fluctuations
  • Low humidity
  • Pests
  • Overfertilization
  • Poor water quality

Looking for a readymade indoor plant soil mix that you can open and pour? Check out rePotme. They offer a wide range of readymade soil premixes for all your indoor plants.


Boston Fern dying due to overwatering

Boston fern root bound and poor drainage

Soil that is heavy or has poor drainage is the cause of waterlogging.

Roots that grow in waterlogged soil die or rot because they do not absorb the oxygen needed to function efficiently.

Root damage becomes severe when the air supply is cut off for longer. 

These dying roots fail to provide food and other essential nutrients throughout the plant, which leads to damage. 

Frequent watering or an inadequate watering schedule can lead to waterlogging.

Often damage caused by overwatering is mistaken for pest invasion. 

A few symptoms to diagnose overwatering are:

  • The fronds are turning yellow, specifically the lower ones with wilted leaves.
  • Plant drooping
  • Leggy and sparse growth
  • Despite having plenty of humidity and water, the tip of the leaves is turning brown
  • The soil generally takes a much longer time to dry out after watering
  • And lastly, the soil emits a foul smell, which is a sign of root rot

Conditions under which a Boston fern turn overwatered:

  • If the pot is too big compared to the soil, it becomes prone to waterlogging. The soil takes more time to dry out after watering, leading to sogginess.
  • The pot has a poor drainage system (small or no drainage hole), so the excess water stays inside.
  • You kept your plant sitting in water for too long.
  • You didn’t change the watering schedule during winter. Boston ferns need low watering during winters as they hit dormancy.

How to revive a dying Boston fern from overwatering?

After a thorough inspection, if you think that your plant is dying due to overwatering, then follow the following steps to fix your dying plant.

  • Gently pull your Boston fern from the pot and wash away excess soil from the roots under running water.
  • Inspect the roots for signs of root rot.
  • Decaying roots will appear black or dark brown, weak, mushy, and have a bad smell.
  • Prune off the damaged roots with a sterile, sharp pair of pruners or scissors. Also, trim off some fronds so that the remaining roots can support the plant properly.
  • The old soil had pathogens that caused root rot. So, it is better to wash away as much soil as possible and plant it in a fresh soil mix.
  • Choose a pot compared to the size of the pot. It should be not too large to cause overwatering again or not too small to make the plant root-bound. However, ferns like to be slightly root-bound.
  • Repot your Boston fern in well-drained potting soil. You can also add sand or perlite to improve drainage. 

Also read: How To Save Overwatered Boston Fern? (A Step-by-Step Guide)

Boston Fern dying due to underwatering

Boston fern moisture meter

Another common reason for a dying Boston fern is underwatering.

This plant demand soil that will stay moist all the time.

If you leave your plant un-watered or unattended for even a short period, it will show signs of distress.

If the plant is not showing brightness and the leaves are drooping, it is dehydrated due to less watering.

Underwatering is often difficult to identify, but it is easy to fix rather than overwatering.

Identifying watering issues in the plant early helps reverse them and take care of the plant as soon as possible.

The possible symptoms of a dehydrated plant are:

  • Wilting is one of the initial symptoms while in both over and underwatering. Check the soil for confirmation if you get confused.
  • The soil is dry and soaks moisture as soon as you water it.
  • The leaves of the plant are dead, dry, and crumbly.
  • The tip of the leaves is brown and dry.
  • The stunted growth rate in plant
  • Premature dropping or shortening of leaves

How to revive dying Boston fern due to underwatering?

A plant suffering from dehydration or underwatering is easy to rescue rather than an overwatered plant.

Risks increase when you overwater a plant.

The risk of severe damages still exists in the case of underwatering, but the chances are less.

With frequent watering and proper care, a Boston fern can grow back.

Keep your Boston fern within sight.

If tucked in a corner, you will most likely forget to water it.

Regularly check your houseplants and develop a watering schedule for each type.

With the following steps, one can rejuvenate a dying Boston fern plant:

  • Use a self-watering pot if you are forgetful about watering your pots.
  • Use your calendar to remind you to check the soil’s moisture with a moisture meter.
  • Water your Boston fern if the moisture meter shows readings 2 or 3.
  • Water your plant thoroughly. Keep watering until excess water runs through the roots and passes away from the drainage hole. Give a good soak. We need to transport moisture to the roots.

Also read: How To Water Boston Fern? (How Often, How Much & More)

Boston fern dying due to incorrect lighting

Boston fern in low light

Boston fern is ideal for indoors because it prefers indirect light.

Both lack of light and direct sunlight can cause the plant to die!

If your Boston fern has not been getting enough light, it will not have the means to produce sufficient energy for proper growth and survival.

Hence, it will not be very shocking to see it dying.

On the other hand, direct sunlight can cause immense damage to the fronds and dehydrate the soil and the plant.

This will again make the plant weak and vulnerable to other issues.

How to revive a dying Boston fern due to incorrect lighting?

Use these steps to fix the lighting issue:

  • Move your Boston fern to a shadier spot if it is outdoors. Make sure it’s not exposed to direct sunlight.
  • If exposed to direct sunlight, prune the damaged fronds and water the plant thoroughly after relocating it.
  • If indoors, use curtains and blinds or place the plant 5-7 feet away from the window to keep it away from the direct sunlight.
  • If your Boston fern is not receiving sufficient light, move it to a brighter spot.
  • If your house doesn’t receive enough natural light, introduce artificial light to your Boston fern.

Also read: What Kind Of Lighting Does A Boston Fern Need?

Boston fern dying due to temperature fluctuations

Boston fern low temperature

Fluctuating or too high or low temperatures are not ideal for your Boston fern.

Since Boston fern comes from tropical areas, it prefers warm conditions with temperatures ranging between 60-75°F.

If your Boston fern is not getting the correct temperatures, it will get stressed and eventually head to death.

Although Boston ferns can tolerate temperatures up to 50°F, they will not react well to lower temperatures and will not prefer fluctuations.

Some signs of stress caused due to temperature fluctuations include distorted leaves, discolored leaves, a weak plant, etc.

How to revive a Boston fern dying due to temperature fluctuations?

Find the right spot for it if you want to save your Boston fern from temperature fluctuations.

  • Don’t place the Boston fern near frosty windows.
  • Keep the plant away from hot or cold drafts.
  • Don’t place the Boston fern near doors and windows that are opened and closed frequently.
  • Don’t place the plant too close to heating sources like fireplaces, furnaces, etc.
  • Keep the Boston fern in a warm room when temperatures go low but not too close to any heat source.

Also read: Boston Fern Temperature Tolerance: +Ideal Temperature

Boston fern dying due to low humidity

Boston fern high temperature

Humidity is an important factor for tropical plants like Boston ferns.

Boston ferns can get humidity levels of up to 80% in their natural habitat!

Even if you can’t provide so much humidity, you shouldn’t let the humidity drop below 50%.

How to revive a Boston fern dying due to low humidity?

If your Boston fern has been dying due to low humidity, you can follow these:

  • Use a humidifier which is the best way to provide humidity to your indoor plants.
  • Mist the plant occasionally to increase the humidity and clean the fronds.
  • Group your Boston fern with other humidity-loving plants. Their transpiration will increase the humidity levels.
  • Relocate the Boston fern to the kitchen or bathroom to increase the humidity.

Also read: Should I Mist My Boston Fern? (How Often+Pros & Cons)



Boston fern dying due to overfertilization

Fertilizing indoor plant

Boston fern plant is a light feeder, yet we feed them to achieve greener and fronds growth.

Usually, water-soluble fertilizer is enough every two times a month during their growing phase.

During dormancy, they don’t need to be fertilized at all.

If you fertilize your plant too often, the salts present in it accumulate in the soil and damage the roots.

Overfertilization can also lead to sudden growth with a weak root system that cannot supply sufficient water and nutrients to the plant.

The plant’s strength decreases, making it vulnerable to pests and bacterial growth.

Due to a lack of nutrients and water, the plant may die in the future. 

Signs of over-fertilization in Boston fern include:

  • Stunted growth
  • Dry and burned leaf edges
  • Brown fronds or discoloration
  • Wilting 
  • Weakness
  • The premature dropping of leaves
  • Death of the plant

How to revive a Boston fern dying from overfertilization?

If the issue is identified early, you can save overfertilized plants, and the damage is not severe.

The following steps will help to revive a dying Boston fern due to overfertilization:

  • The most important step is to take the plant gently out of its pot and let the water run through the soil a few times. This will wash away excessive salt and minerals building up around the roots.
  • If you notice salt-up on the soil, scrape off the topsoil.
  • It is best to change the old potting mix. It already contains a lot of salt from overfertilization. Planting your dying plant again in that mix will kill it.
  • Choose a proper mix of fresh soil and plant your Boston fern in it.
  • Trim off any damaged leaves.
  • Do not fertilize. Let your plant heal and gain back its strength.
  • Always dilute the fertilizer to make it half-strength so the plant doesn’t get overfertilized again.
  • Avoid fertilizing in winter.

Also read: Should I Fertilize My Boston Fern? (Ideal Fertilizer+When & How Much)

Boston fern dying due to pests

Boston fern neem oil

Pests are one of the biggest issues in any plant.

Pests generally spread from an infected plant to a fresh one.

If left untreated, pests can kill your plant and infect other plants in the same area.

Pests cause direct damage to the plant as they feed on the active tissue. 

It harms the strength and damages the structure of the leaf.

Further damages can rise to kill a plant.

Symptoms of pest infestation in Boston fern:

  • Wilting of plant
  • Holes in leaves
  • White patches on leaves
  • Small white cottony structure accumulated around the leaf 
  • Leaf-blades curling inwards
  • The early dropping of leaves, especially from the bottom

How to revive a dying Boston fern dying due to pests?

Overwatering is often confused with a pest infestation, as most symptoms may look similar.

There is chemical-based as well as organic pesticides available in the market.

Many prefer using a DIY pesticide to treat pests.

Small caterpillars and mealybugs are very common pests of Boston fern. 

Scales, small spider mites, and thrips are also found.

  • One of the most important things you should do is relocate the infected plant. Keep the infected plant away from other plants in the house to avoid the spreading of pests. 
  • Wear gloves and carefully handpick any pests from fronds, leaves, or stems.
  • You can also trim off extremely damaged leaves, which are difficult to get free from pests.
  • Give the plant a good Neem oil spray bath. The strong smell of Neem works miraculously on pests.
  • Use proper pesticides unless the plant is completely free from pests.
  • To avoid further issues related to pests, keep any new plant away from other plants in your home. Observe it for a few days to ensure it doesn’t have any pests.

Also read: Boston Fern Pests And Diseases: Common Bugs & Diseases+How To Fix

Boston fern dying due to use of tap water

Boston fern watering

Watering your plant with tap water can rarely harm your Boston fern.

These plants are okay with tap water. However, if the water has a high concentration of unwanted minerals or is highly chlorinated, problems can arise.

If you notice any such damage related to watering quality, try to change the source.

Some signs you’ll notice are:

  • Discolored fronds
  • Curling
  • Drooping

How to revive a Boston fern dying due to tap water?

If your Boston fern is showing signs that tell it is not happy with the water you are using, try these:

  • Collect rainwater and use it to water the plant as this is the purest form of water.
  • Use filtered or distilled water as rainwater might not be available easily.
  • If you have no choice but to use tap water, collect it in a bucket or container and leave it overnight. This will reduce the harmful minerals, and you can then use it to water your Boston fern the next morning.

Final thoughts

Witnessing your dear Boston fern dying is an unpleasant sight and experience, but you can revive the plant with some observation and the right action.

Providing enough indirect light, watering when the soil needs it, fertilizing during the growing season, and using the proper growing medium is the right way to keep your Boston fern healthy. You must also make sure the plant gets the proper temperature and humidity.


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