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Should I Trim My Boston Fern? (+How To Prune)

Boston ferns are grown indoors mostly due to their ability to purify the air. These lush green-colored ferns require regular trimming for healthy growth. If you want to know when and how to do it, you are at the right place.

Boston fern doesn’t require frequent pruning, but it would be best to trim them whenever you notice dead, old, and discolored fronds. You can even trim it aggressively during repotting to promote new and bushy growth. The best time to trim your Boston fern is during spring and summer.

If you want to know everything about trimming your Boston fern, read this article, as I will share the techniques and timing and explain why you should trim your Boston fern.

Boston fern pruning

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Signs that show your Boston fern needs trimming

To decide whether you need to trim your Boston Fern, you must first learn to detect the plant’s signs.

Discolored leaves

There can be multiple reasons for Boston fern foliage losing its color.

It is a way the plant shows that something is wrong with its health.

Due to transplant shock, overwatering, temperature, or lighting issues, it might turn yellow or brown.

If you see any such changes in the color of the leaves, you should proceed with the trimming.

Trimming will help shed the weight that these dead or decaying leaves put on the health of your Boston fern.

Root rot

Continuous watering can cause certain roots to die back owing to a lack of oxygen.

They may begin to degrade or rot as they die.

Even if the soil conditions are addressed, the rot can spread to healthy roots and kill them.

If you observe the soil soggy or the leaves decaying/drooping, it might signify root rot.

To save the Boston Fern, you should start trimming the decaying roots of the plant.

Also, trim the parts of the Boston fern roots which have died.

Pest attack

Boston fern neem oil

If you notice pests like whiteflies, mealybugs, spider mites, etc., be sure first to remove the pests from the surface of the Boston fern.

If the pest infestation has severely damaged your Boston fern, you must immediately trim the damaged parts.



Stunted growth

Notice the growth rate of your Boston fern, and if you see that it’s not growing properly, trimming can help.

During the wintertime, Boston fern often goes under dormancy, during which it needs to reserve its energy to survive without favorable conditions for the entire season.

By pruning the extra foliage or growth of the Fern, you can keep it healthy before its dormancy period begins.

Benefits of trimming Boston fern

Here are the benefits of trimming a Boston fern:

  • It changes the ugly appearance caused by aged fronds.
  • Trimming encourages fuller growth and reduces the look of lanky and stringy hair.
  • More nutrients for the new growth: The plant sends food to keep old and damaged leaves alive. The new fronds will receive more nourishment if they are removed.
  • You can revive a dying Boston fern by trimming the damaged parts.
  • You can eliminate pests and plant-eating insects with the help of trimming and the right treatment.
  • Airflow is improved throughout the Fern by trimming the unwanted parts.

What is the best time to trim a Boston fern?

Boston fern high temperature

Technically, you can remove the dead foliage at any time of the year.

When it comes to comprehensive trimming, though, timing is everything.

When you repot your Boston fern, it’s ideal for trimming it.

It’s critical to trim your Boston fern at the proper time for it to thrive.

To foster new and healthy growth, trim your Boston ferns in the early spring.

You can also trim them if you notice new growth interfering with your Boston fern’s wonderful shape.

Pruning your Boston ferns at the start of the season or during the winter months is strictly forbidden.

Dry fronds protect your Boston fern’s base from winter chills.

Allow yourself to resist the temptation and enjoy the brown fronds with the green ones for a few months.

Avoid pruning your Boston ferns when the weather is too hot and dry.

You might stress the plant, resulting in extreme dehydration due to high transpiration.

Tools required to trim a Boston fern

  • Gloves: Wear gloves, so you do not need to touch the Boston fern directly if there is any pest or disease.
  • Neem oil or soap water: As an overall preventative step after you have trimmed/repotted the Fern.
  • New pot: If you need to repot your Boston fern.
  • Pruning snips: These are a smaller version of pruners with sharp, pointed blades that resemble scissors. You can use these to trim the fronds.
  • Hand pruners: Boston ferns are frequently pruned with a bypass blade and hand pruners. They should be comfortable in hand and have higher cutting power than snips. Hand pruners can generally clip green branches up to 12 inches in diameter. 

How to trim Boston ferns?

Stop Killing Your Boston Ferns! Full Care Guide

The Boston fern, unlike other plants, reacts admirably to harsh trimming.

But be careful about choosing the right season if you want to do heavy pruning.

Sanitize the pruning tools

Before and after each trimming session, disinfect your pruning tools.

Rust and germs build up on pruning tools over time.

You do not want to infect your plants with anything.

You can use any disinfectant you have on hand.

Examine your Boston fern

It’s easy to go overboard when it comes to trimming.

And, on occasion, we end up trimming more than half of the Fern, which is perfectly fine for Boston ferns.

Examine the leaves for those that are dead, dry, discolored, or diseased.

If you want to keep your ferns to retain the lush green foliage, only clip the sickly fronds.

You can also clip any fronds that appear longer than the others, causing your Boston fern to lose its form and size.

Pruning methods

You can trim your Boston fern from the base or the top to get the appropriate form.

Nonetheless, trimming the fronds at the bottom and close to the crown is advisable.

This promotes the development of new fronds.

Be careful about the roots.

Boston ferns are prone to root rot before we recognize it.

Uproot your Boston fern and trim the roots if you notice roots creeping through the drainage holes or emerging from the topsoil.

Rootbound Boston ferns have a sickly appearance.

After you’ve clipped the roots, your ferns will appear much healthier.

Trimming aftercare

Boston fern humidifier

Pruning puts your Boston fern through stress, so proper care is needed after the pruning is done.

Factor Care Tips
Light Boston ferns grow in indirect light, making them an ideal porch plant. Full afternoon sun can scorch the fronds, so morning sun is recommended. Indoor Boston ferns should be kept near a window but not under direct sunlight.
Water Boston ferns require regular watering and want moist soil that does not become waterlogged. A layer of mulch can keep the soil moist. Boston ferns prefer to let the soil dry a little between watering, but it does not like bone dry soil.
Location The Boston fern thrives in a bright, indirect light environment. Too much shadow can result in thin, lifeless fronds, while too much light will cause the fronds to burn. As a result, the Boston fern is an excellent choice for a porch plant that gets filtered morning sun and afternoon shade.
Fertilizer Boston ferns should be fertilized once a month in the spring and summer. In the summer, a water-soluble fertilizer diluted at half strength is the best Boston fern fertilizer. The NPK ratio of the fertilizer should be 20-10-20. 
You can fertilize Boston ferns once every two to three months during the winter. You can also stop fertilizing as the plant goes dormant in winter.
Temperature Boston ferns prefer temperatures ranging between 60-75°F but can survive temperatures as low as 50°F. However, you should try to maintain the ideal temperatures for the best health of the plant.
Humidity Boston ferns thrive in humid environments. Please keep them in a humid environment and shower the Fern once in a while. It may be a good idea to invest in a nice humidifier if you have them indoors.
This table demonstrates the care requirements that a Boston fern will need after you trim it.

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Final words

Trimming Boston ferns is an important step to keeping them healthy and growing. Heavy pruning, including the entire plant, should be done in late winter or early spring, right when new growth is starting.

Throughout the winter, keep an eye out for pest problems so that you can treat them quickly.

Trimming is necessary if your Boston fern shows leggy growth, yellow or discolored leaves, stunted growth, and pest infestations. Be careful not to harm the Boston fern itself while pruning.

Boston fern needs a good trimming session at least once a year, even without reason.

After trimming, your Boston fern requires proper aftercare like humid healthy soil, correct temperature, the optimum amount of fertilizer, etc., to keep it thriving.


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