Versatile Boston Fern

Boston or Sword Fern is a familiar light shade porch plant in summer. It grows well in a container, and its 3-foot arching fronds move in the breeze. While some treat it as an annual to buy and discard each year, it adapts well to bring it indoors as an easy-care house plant. 

A friend shared this Boston fern at the end of the summer about a decade ago.

Indoor plant location is essential. Direct sunlight in a south-facing window provides necessary sunlight for Boston ferns in this northern region. Many leaflets on the floor are a symptom of lacking light quality, although some leaflet drop is natural. Position the plant on a stand with fronds on one side in light and quarter-turn the plant when watering regularly.

Brown ends on the fronds can indicate the need for more humidity in the air, especially in winter. One way to do this is to water the plant in the shower and spray leaflets. Let air dry a bit and shake the plant before removing it.

Some toss cold coffee or grounds into the fern container as nutrient re-use. The coffee or grounds are slightly acidic, which is countered by the alkalinity of soil in the region, so if coffee doesn’t contribute otherwise to the plant, it may not harm it.

After three years or so, the indoor fern may benefit from pruning. Fronds are cut a few inches above the crown and removed. Water regularly, and when new fronds begin to appear, fertilize the fern lightly. The fern in the photo was pruned this fall and is re-growing fronds.

It’s incredible to think of ferns, in the fossil record 300 million years ago, with practically the same leaves, stems, and roots now, having the versatility to adapt to outdoors and indoors today. 

Do you have a favorite Boston fern comment to share?

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One thought on “Versatile Boston Fern

  1. Annual?! Goodness! Some of the best have been around for decades. Boston fern is not as common as it formerly was. Dallas fern became more popular for a while. Although Dallas fern is richer green, many of us prefer the Boston fern because it is what we are familiar with.

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