Ferns & Campground at Olympic National Park Travel Guide on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington by Annie Fairfax

Houseplant Care: Boston Ferns

I absolutely love houseplants. In fact, I own nearly 100 different little plants, some of which I’ve had since I was in college. I’m going to start a mini-series wherein I share some of my quick and easy tips for keeping houseplants alive, as well as tips for how to take care of them if they were previously outdoors but brought in for the winter. The first plant I’ll be covering is Boston Fern care. Pictured below, ferns grow everywhere on the Isle of Skye.

Fairy Glenn on Isle of Skye in Scotland, United Kingdom Incredible Things to do in Scotland

These ferns can grow up to 7′ high if kept in optimal growing conditions. They’re the standard hanging basket fern commonly sold in greenhouses in North America, and make beautiful ornamentals for a shady garden space, inside of covered porches, or even indoors. Here’re my Boston Fern care tips, to keep ferns alive all year long, even here in Michigan.

Ferns & Campground at Olympic National Park Travel Guide on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington by Annie Fairfax

Latin name
Nephrolepis exaltata

Light requirements
Outdoors, this plant requires shade, otherwise it will turn pale yellow and may die indirect sunlight. Indoors, it needs bright, indirect light for at least 8 hours a day. Keeping ferns indoors or in the shade will turn them a beautiful, dark green color. Rotate the plant 90° every month, so that all sides of the plant get adequate light. I turn my plants on the first of the month. 

Humidity
Invest in a humidity monitor and keep the humidity around your Boston Fern between 60-80%. To do this, mist your fern at least twice a day, with 10-20+ sprays, keep it away from air vents, and place it in atop tray of water and rocks that will evaporate and keep the fern happy, while ensuring that the plant is kept moist. If the ends of your fern turn yellow, this means it needs more water, and higher humidity, so increase misting sessions to 3-4 times daily until the plant stops turning yellow.

Watering
I water my large ferns with 4-5 cups of water twice a week (on Tuesdays and Fridays) in the summer, and then I cut that in half for the winter. Since the plant stops growing in the water, it won’t need as much to survive. Check the soil every day, particularly in the fall and winter when air is drier, and keep soil moist. Once a month I put my ferns in the bathtub and turn the shower on for 5-10 minutes with room temperature water to give it a nice, thorough soak, and increase the humidity of the plant.

Fertilizer
During the spring and summer growing season, with Epsom salts dissolved in water once in the spring and once in the summer to encourage growth and help the plant keep a healthy dark green color. Mix 2 tbs of Epsom salts to a gallon of water, and pour this throw your plant after giving it 2-3 cups of water to dampen the soil. Let the plant drain completely in a sink, outside in the shade, or in a bathtub in order to let the fertilizer run through completely.

Pruning
Occasionally, Boston Ferns will have little tendrils that turn dark and dry out. This can happen because of damage, insects, inadequate sunlight, or because the tendril wasn’t getting enough sunlight, so the plant cut its losses and let a piece die. If this happens, inspect the plant thoroughly for pests, and trim the tendril at the base, so that the plant doesn’t waste energy trying to keep it alive. In a few months, a new, healthier frond should take the old one’s place.

New Tendrils
You’ll notice tiny new shoots curling up from the base of the plant every once in awhile, particularly if you take good care of the plant. Don’t force these to unfurl, simply leave them alone, and mist them regularly. These mean your plant is healthy!

Bring Boston Ferns Indoors
If you keep your fern outdoors, you will need to bring it indoors before the first frost of the year, which varies by region. Before bringing your plant indoors to its winter spot, keep it near a window for a few days so it can adjust to decreased light. While ferns do best in the shade, the amount of sunlight an indoor plant receives will always be less than plants kept in the shade, and they need time to adjust to this change.

Hopefully these Boston Fern care tips will help you grow happy, healthy, and bushy ferns!

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2 Comments

  1. katherine hoffmeyer says:

    Hello! I’m in Michigan too. I have four ferns that are huge! I brought them in and will try your tips to keep them healthy. I see on some other sites that it is recommended to prune them before bring them in. Do you recommend that?

    1. Hello Katherine,

      Thank you so much for reading!

      I would recommend pruning off any brown or dead fronds because they can never be green again and may stress the plant out if left on the plant. If you mean pruning it just to make it smaller, I would advise against doing so as it may unnecessarily stress the plant out if you cut away healthy portions of the plant.

      I hope this helps!

      Please let me know if you have any other houseplant questions, and please check out my houseplant care & propagation Livestreams for more information on caring for various houseplants.
      Livestream: https://anniewearsit.com/houseplant-care-propagation-livestream/