Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis', better known as the Boston Fern, has been a favorite houseplant for countless people since the end of the Victorian Era. Boston Ferns are elegant. With their frilly appearance, pendulous older fronds and slowly unwinding new fronds, these plants bring a nice feeling to any home.
Ferns are reputed to be finicky as houseplants, but they can be wonderful if the right conditions are provided. The first trick is to decide whether or not your home is suitable, or rather, if you can actually provide the right environment. I have brought a plant home on many occasions, determined to give it a good home, but failed because I ignored its basic requirements.
The most easily met requirement of a Boston Fern is itís lighting requirement. Ferns do not like direct sunlight, but they do appreciate a lot of indirect sunlight. Deep shade will prevent a Boston Fern from growing vigorously, though it may survive. Provide as much light as possible, without exposing the fern to the damaging midday sun. A northern window will work, as well as an eastern or western window, provided that the plant is situated at a safe distance from the window or protected by sheer curtains. If you are in the southern hemisphere, a southern window should be used instead of a northern window.
Boston Ferns do not need much fertilizer, and diluted fertilizations once a month during the active growth cycle will be plenty. This means that when you see lots of fronds unfurling, provide a little food. You can do this by adding some slow release fertilizer at the beginning of the warm season at half the amount recommended on the package.
These ferns prefer temperatures at or around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, with nights about 10 degrees cooler than days. With heating and cooling costs being a concern, it may be helpful to remember that heat rises. You may want to keep your fern low, where the cooler air is.
Moisture is the most important need of a Boston Fern. These plants can be somewhat forgiving of occasional lapses in regular watering, but donít let them go dry for too long. Boston Ferns can recover from dry periods once in a while, especially in the cool season, but they donít enjoy it. It is best if you can provide constantly moist, but not wet, soil mix.
Another aspect of moisture that is often overlooked is humidity. If you are going to fail with a Boston Fern, this is likely the area that you will do it in. There are a few options you have for providing the high humidity that ferns desire. The easiest is to grow your fern in your bathroom. If the light is right, the bathroom is going to be the best place because the humidity will always be the highest in the room with a shower. Another option would be to place your fern on a humidity tray and a third option would be to mist your fern with water several times a week or even once a day. Humidifiers are yet another option, and if you are really serious about humidity, you can even use a psychrometer to measure your humidity.
Propagation of Boston Ferns is done by division. Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the root-ball and replant the portions into their own pots. The new plants may look sad for a while, but they will perk back up in no time. Boston Ferns also send out stolons with which to reproduce vegetatively. Reproducing like some grasses, these shoots travel under the soil surface and new plants emerge some distance away from the parent plant. These stolons can often be seen dangling from the pots of Boston Ferns, and new plants will arise if they ever reach soil.
Boston Ferns are easy to maintain, requiring only the occasional snipping off of a brown frond. Keep it in bright shade and provide plenty of humidity. Check the soil moisture often, ensuring a nice evenly moist mix and fertilize weakly during active growth. Follow these tips and watch your Boston Fern flourish!