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21 Care Tips to Successfully Grow your Boston Fern Indoor

Boston Fern is a tropical plant found in many plant lovers’ homes. It’s easy to care for and has a unique appearance and vibe.

In this complete guide, we’re breaking down the nitty-gritty in caring for a Boston Fern. We’ve also listed some recommendations if you’re looking to buy this plant. Continue reading to find out more about this Nephrolepis’s exciting features!

What Is Boston Fern?

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis Exaltata) is part of the Lomariopsidaceae family and is also known as Sword Fern, Boss Fern, and Ladder Fern.

Considered a perennial, it grows well indoors on a balcony or porch. It’s typically known for its attractive foliage, making it a truly popular houseplant.

The Boston Fern can also be raised outdoors in certain climates, ideally in hardiness zones 10-12.

Origin And Family

Sword Fern belongs to the Nephrolepis genus in the Lomariopsidaceae family, and its natural habitat is the forests of South America and the West Indies.

This tropical plant originated in a shipment of 200 plants from a Philadelphia florist to F. C. Becker, another florist from Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1894, he began to propagate it, and two years later, London botanists identified the new plant and suggested the use of the Boston Fern for the variant form. It immediately caught the attention of the masses and became popular across the industry. During the Victorian era, ferns were popular parlor plants.

Where To Buy

For gardeners who want a Boston Fern packed securely and delivered straight to their home, Etsy offers a wide variety of options and deals on houseplants.

Purchasing a Boston Fern is usually very affordable, with prices that range between $10 for small plants and $50 for bigger or more mature plants.

Boston Fern Plant Size

On average, the Boston Fern grows up to 1-3 feet tall and 2-3 feet in indoor spaces and is a slow grower.

Boston Fern Care Needs

Your Boston Fern, like any other houseplant, will thrive when adequately cared for. With its attractive foliage, this plant loves humidity and wants relatively moist soil throughout the year.

For most growers, you’ll want to water your Nephrolepis when the top inch of soil is dry and allow plenty of time for the water to flow through the pot’s drainage hole. In terms of lighting, this popular plant needs bright indirect light to thrive.

Read our thorough care guide below for more specific advice!

Care Difficulty

Like many plants from the Nephrolepis genus, the Boston Fern is easy-to-care-for in most situations – if you give it the proper amount of light and well-draining soil. With this Sword Fern guide, you’ll be able to grow this tropical plant quickly.

Growth Rate

The Ladder Fern grows to a mature height of 1-3 feet as a houseplant. Typically, you will notice faster and bushier growth in the early spring and summer.

The majority of Nephrolepis species, including the Fern, grow at a slow rate.


The potting material for Boston Fern should typically be plastic or terra cotta pots in most cases. It will also look great suspended in a hanging basket to showcase the beauty of this plant properly.

You should use the medium option, depending on your plant size.

Good drainage is another need for this perennial.


Moving your Boston Fern into a larger pot allows more room for its roots to expand. You will typically know that it’s time to repot when you see its roots pushing out the drainage holes.

Typically, you’d want to repot this tropical plant every 2-3 years. It is ideal for replacing old nutrient-deficient soil with a fresh batch of standard commercial potting soil when filling the new pot.


A standard commercial potting mix is your best bet when it comes to growing medium for Boston Fern. Peat moss, perlite, or compost are ideal for the soil. Aeration and drainage are vital for this low-maintenance plant.

Here are some great growing medium options to choose from:

Photo Title Price Buy
Miracle-Gro Indoor Potting...image Miracle-Gro Indoor Potting Mix 6 qt., Grows beautiful Houseplants, 2-Pack $15.70 ($0.04 / Ounce)
Burpee, 9 Quarts...image Burpee, 9 Quarts | Premium Organic Potting Natural Soil Mix Food Ideal for Container Garden-Vegetable, Flower & Herb Use for Indoor Outdoor Plant $12.99 ($0.04 / Ounce)
Sun Gro Horticulture...image Sun Gro Horticulture 8-Quart Black Gold 1310102 Purpose Potting Soil With Control, Brown/A $14.68 ($0.06 / Fl Oz)
Miracle-Gro Potting Mix,...image Miracle-Gro Potting Mix, Potting Soil for Outdoor and Indoor Plants, Enriched with Plant Food, 2 cu. ft. $34.54
FoxFarm Ocean Forest...image FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil Mix Indoor Outdoor for Garden and Plants | Plant Fertilizer | 12 Quarts | The Hydroponic City Stake $23.99 ($0.06 / Fl Oz)


For this Ladder Fern, you’ll need a soil pH of around 6.0-6.5, which is acidic. If you are concerned about the pH of your soil, you may get a basic pH meter online.

If the pH of your soil is extremely high, you can improve acidity by adding sulfur or aluminum sulfate.

If the pH of your soil becomes too low, you can add baking soda, calcitic or dolomitic lime, or wood ash.


Sword Fern is a humidity-loving plant that needs relatively moist soil throughout the year.

During the spring and summer, water Boston Fern when the top inch of soil is dry. Drench the soil until water escapes from the hole at the bottom of the plastic or terra cotta pot. If you have a collection tray, make sure to toss out the water to fend off root rot and other diseases.

It won’t be necessary to water as much in the winter. Continue to deeply water your plants, but do so less regularly.


This houseplant prefers bright indirect sunlight for approximately 6-8 hours a day. Too much direct sunlight and its fronds may get burned. Too little light and new fronds may get sparse.

If you’re worried that your Boston Fern isn’t getting enough light, it’s a good idea to move it closer to a window or use artificial lights. Here are some basic options for you to consider:

Avoid putting your houseplant ferns in direct sunlight, as this could severely damage or even kill them.


Houseplants require a certain quantity of water, sunshine, and soil to thrive. Soil can lose its nutritional content over time and must be supplied with plant food.

If you want your Boss Fern to flourish, fertilize it once a month during the spring and summer. You may use a water-soluble fertilizer but dilute it first if it’s overly concentrated.

During the winter, you usually don’t need to fertilize at all.

Propagating Boston Fern

If your Boston Fern has grown too tall, you may prune back the stem and keep the cuttings aside for propagation! We’ve included step-by-step instructions for several propagation techniques below.


Division is a propagation procedure typically used for popular indoor plants with pups poking out from the roots.

Follow these instructions to separate the stem clusters of your Ladder Fern:

1. Dig up. Remove the plant from its container. The natural divisions of the plant should be visible.

2. Separate. Use your fingers to carefully separate the parts, and you may need to use shears to remove any entangled roots.

3. Repot. Plant each part in fresh pots with the same soil they’ve been using.

Humidity And Aeration

Boston Fern is a popular perennial that loves a humid environment. For best results, we recommend high humidity levels around 80% or more.

Aside from absorbing water from its roots, your plant will also need nourishment from air moisture. You can set bowls of water to evaporate nearby, a pebble tray, or you can purchase a humidifier to help consistently improve the humid conditions indoors.


Generally, warm temperatures are best for your Ladder Fern plant, which can range between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit.

The more significant consideration for this plant is consistency. Sudden temperature changes can heavily damage the Ladder Fern. In cold weather, close your windows and seal any opening to protect your plant against cold drafts. On the other hand, keep it away from heat vents that can dry the foliage.


The Boss Fern is not dangerous to children or pets. ASPCA states that it will not harm dogs or cats if swallowed since the plant has no hazardous components.


Pests, Diseases, And Other Problems

Even with competent care, things can go wrong on occasion. Pests and illnesses are inescapable in the garden. As a whole, Boston Fern plants are disease and pest-resistant.

Read the following portions for tips on diagnosing common problems and discover ways you can help your plant return to a healthy condition.

White Flies

Whiteflies are tiny airborne insects that immediately fly around when a plant is moved. They are particularly attracted to the Sword Fern, and they feed on leaves but rarely cause the death of plants.

If you like the taste and smell of herbs, keeping them near your pest-ridden plant has an added benefit! The aroma of mint, parsley, and cilantro are known to repel whiteflies.

Managing a heavy infestation necessitates the use of a pesticide. Here are several popular Amazon products we recommend against whiteflies:

Scale Insects

Scales are sap-feeding insects on your plant. What differentiates them from other bugs is that the mature scale will cling onto one portion of the plant and remain there. Armoured scales are brownish lumps that can grow on a plant’s stems or petioles.

To dissuade scales from latching onto your Boston Fern, dilute a teaspoon of neem oil in 500 mL of water and sprinkle it over the plant’s leaves.

You may also release ladybugs or lacewings near your affected plant to take care of the problem for you!

Brown Leaf Tips

The edges of your Sword Fern’s leaves may turn brown if it’s not getting the right amount of moisture that it needs, both through the air and its roots.  Water your plant on time and make sure the humidity level in its area is appropriate for its requirements.

You should also think about the amount and frequency with which you apply fertilizer. Overfeeding can burn the foliage of your houseplants, typically manifesting as browning edges on their leaves.

Drooping Leaves

If you notice drooping leaves on your Boston Fern, it might be thirsty or need more moisture in the air. If you maintain a humidifier nearby, your plant leaves will normally stay fresh and perky for a longer amount of time.

Another cause of downward-curling leaves is overexposure to bright light. In this situation, you can simply move your plant away from the nearest source of light and heat.

Yellow Leaves

If the leaves of your Boss Fern are turning yellow, you have to trace any recent changes in your usual care practices or the weather.

Yellowing leaves can be caused by overwatering, underwatering, overfertilizing, under fertilizing, too much light, not enough light, root damage, temperature changes, and pests.

Root Rot

Inadequate drainage, overwatering, or fungal spores on the soil can all cause root rot in plants. Because root rot is difficult to treat, it is best to take precautions as soon as possible.

The best way to prevent rot in indoor Boston Ferns is to ensure that the root system is not continually exposed to moist environments. Before watering your plant, always check the soil moisture level. To enable airflow in the roots, use a chunky soil mix. Above all, use a porous container with drainage holes.

Similar Plants

Love Sword Fern? Here are some other similar fern species options you should try:

{{Indoor Fern}}: Common, easy to care for, and famous – this decorative plant is known not just for its distinctive appearance; they are also highly coveted for its ability to remove air pollutants. It’s a steal to display a plant that cleans the air you breathe indoors.

{{Asparagus Fern}}: It looks like a fern, it’s called a fern, but it’s not a true fern. One thing’s for sure: it’s a versatile, attractive creeper that will delight you with its lace-like foliage and white blossoms that bear bird-attracting red berries. So many beautiful attributes in a small package!


If you’re looking for an enticing plant with a bit of flair and low care requirements, the Boston Fern is an attractive choice, and its beautiful foliage is a true treat.

You can’t get enough Nephrolepis plant guides, can you? Check out Two Peas In A Condo’s other posts to discover what more we can offer!

Help us grow! This post contains affiliate links, which means we receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something recommended. All opinions, however, are our own, and we do not accept payments for positive reviews.

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