nephrolepis exaltata

Grow and Care for Nephrolepis Exaltata: Your Ultimate Guide

Welcome to our ultimate guide on growing and caring for Nephrolepis Exaltata, commonly known as the Boston fern. This versatile indoor plant is loved for its beautiful arching green fronds and is a popular choice among fern enthusiasts and beginners alike.

Native to tropical regions, the Boston fern thrives in warm and humid environments, making it an excellent addition to your indoor plant collection. With the right care and attention, this fern can bring a touch of lush greenery to any space.

Whether you’re a seasoned plant parent or just starting your indoor gardening journey, this guide will provide you with all the information you need to successfully grow and care for your Boston fern. From ideal growing conditions to propagation tips, overwintering techniques, and common problems to watch out for, we’ve got you covered.

Key Takeaways:

  • Nephrolepis Exaltata, also known as the Boston fern, is a popular houseplant loved for its arching green fronds.
  • It thrives in warm, humid environments and can be grown indoors or outdoors in dappled shade.
  • The Boston fern prefers bright, filtered light and requires regular watering to keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Propagation can be done through runners or division, and pruning is minimal, mainly removing dead fronds.
  • Overwintering involves moving the fern to a cool, dark place with reduced watering, and regular care includes feeding and pest monitoring.

Ideal Growing Conditions for Nephrolepis Exaltata

Nephrolepis exaltata, also known as the Boston fern, is a tropical plant that is not only beautiful but also easy to care for. Its lush green foliage adds a touch of freshness to any space, making it a perfect choice for both indoor and outdoor gardens. To ensure that your Nephrolepis exaltata thrives, it’s important to provide it with the ideal growing conditions.


When it comes to light, Nephrolepis exaltata prefers bright, filtered, or indirect light. It can tolerate some morning sun, but direct sunlight can be too harsh for its delicate fronds and may cause them to scorch. Placing your Boston fern near a window with a sheer curtain or in a location that receives bright, indirect light is ideal.


The Boston fern thrives in fast-draining soil that is rich in organic materials. A well-draining potting mix with a slightly acidic pH of 5 to 5.5 is best for this tropical plant. You can create an ideal soil mix by combining peat moss, perlite, and a small amount of sand to ensure proper drainage and aeration for the roots.

Watering and Humidity

Nephrolepis exaltata requires regular watering to keep the soil evenly moist. However, it’s important to avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot. Water your Boston fern when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Additionally, this tropical plant appreciates high humidity, which can be achieved by placing a tray of water near the plant or using a room humidifier. Misting the fronds with water can also help increase humidity.

Light Soil Watering and Humidity
Bright, filtered or indirect light Fast-draining, slightly acidic soil rich in organic materials Regular watering to keep the soil evenly moist; high humidity

tropical plants

“The Boston fern thrives in bright, filtered light, fast-draining soil, and high humidity.”

By providing your Nephrolepis exaltata with these ideal growing conditions, you can ensure that it thrives and continues to showcase its beautiful green foliage. Remember to monitor the light levels, water your fern appropriately, and create a humid environment to mimic its native tropical habitat. With a little care, your Boston fern will flourish and bring a touch of natural beauty to your home.

Propagation and Pruning Tips for Nephrolepis Exaltata

If you want to expand your collection of Nephrolepis exaltata or share this elegant fern with friends, there are two primary methods of propagation: runners and division. Propagating Boston ferns is a rewarding experience that allows you to create new plants and expand your green oasis.

Propagation Through Runners

Boston ferns produce runners, which are thin stems that grow horizontally along the soil. These runners develop small plantlets, known as offsets or pups, at their tips. To propagate using runners, simply cut or gently pull off the pups from the base of the parent plant when they have developed several fronds and roots of their own. Plant each pup in a pot filled with well-draining potting mix, making sure the roots are covered and the fronds are above the soil. Keep the soil lightly moist and provide bright indirect light to encourage healthy growth.

Division for Propagation

Another method of propagation is through division, which involves separating the root ball of an established Boston fern into multiple sections. Choose a mature fern with a well-developed root system and carefully remove it from its pot. Gently tease the roots apart, dividing the plant into smaller sections, making sure each section has a sufficient number of fronds and healthy roots. Plant each divided section in a separate pot, using well-draining potting mix. Maintain consistent moisture levels and provide appropriate lighting for optimal growth.

Pruning Tips for Healthy Growth

Pruning is an essential aspect of Boston fern care, ensuring the plant remains healthy and aesthetically pleasing. Regular pruning helps remove damaged, yellowing, or dead fronds, allowing the plant to direct its energy towards new growth. It is best to prune your Boston fern in the spring or summer when the plant is actively growing. Using clean, sharp shears, carefully remove any unwanted fronds by cutting them at the base, near the soil level. Pruning also helps control the size and shape of the plant, ensuring it remains bushy and full.

Propagation Method Advantages Disadvantages
Propagation through Runners
  • Easy and straightforward
  • Produces multiple new plants
  • May take longer for new plants to mature
  • Allows for immediate growth of new plants
  • Can create larger, more established plants
  • Requires careful handling of root system

Overwintering and Caring for Boston Ferns

Overwintering Boston ferns is crucial to ensure their survival during the colder months. These ferns are native to tropical regions and are sensitive to frost and freezing temperatures. By following a few simple steps, you can help your Boston ferns thrive and continue to bring beauty to your indoor or outdoor spaces.

Preparing for Winter

Before the onset of winter, it is important to prepare your Boston ferns for the colder temperatures. Begin by gradually reducing the frequency of watering as the days get shorter and temperatures begin to drop. This will mimic the natural rhythm of the plant’s growth cycle and help it transition into a state of dormancy.

Next, choose a suitable location to overwinter your Boston ferns. Ideally, this should be a cool, dark place with a temperature above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Basements, garages, or enclosed porches can provide the necessary conditions. Avoid placing the ferns near heaters or drafts, as these can cause stress and damage to the plants.

Reduced Watering and Maintenance

During the winter months, Boston ferns require less water compared to their active growing season. Reduce watering to once a month, ensuring that the top inch of soil is dry before watering again. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other moisture-related issues. It’s important to strike a balance between providing enough moisture to keep the plant hydrated without causing excessive dampness.

In terms of maintenance, minimal pruning is needed during winter. Remove any dead or yellowing fronds to maintain the overall health and appearance of the ferns. However, avoid extensive pruning as this can disrupt the plant’s natural growth pattern and may hinder its ability to recover in the spring.

Spring Transition

As winter comes to an end and the temperatures start to rise, it’s time to prepare your Boston ferns for the transition back outdoors. Before moving them outside, inspect the plants for any signs of pests or diseases. Treat any issues appropriately to ensure the health of your ferns.

Remove any remaining dead fronds to encourage new growth and improve the overall appearance of the plants. Give the ferns a thorough watering to provide them with the moisture they will need during their active growing season. Gradually acclimate the ferns to outdoor conditions by placing them in a shaded area for a few hours each day, gradually increasing the exposure to sunlight over the course of a week or two.

Step Summary
Prepare for Winter Reduce watering and choose a suitable location for overwintering.
Reduce Watering and Maintenance Water sparingly and remove dead fronds.
Spring Transition Inspect for pests and diseases, remove dead fronds, and gradually transition back outdoors.

Popular Varieties of Boston Ferns

There are several popular varieties of Boston ferns to choose from, each with its own unique features and characteristics. Whether you’re a fern enthusiast or a beginner looking to add some greenery to your space, these diverse varieties offer something for everyone.

Variety 1: Classic Boston Fern

The classic Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) is the most common variety, known for its lush, light to medium green fronds that can grow up to 4 feet long. With its graceful arching foliage, this variety adds a touch of elegance to any room or outdoor setting.
Boston Fern

Variety 2: Florida Ruffle

For those who prefer a more delicate look, the ‘Florida Ruffle’ variety is an excellent choice. Its fronds have a feathery appearance, giving the plant a softer and more refined aesthetic.

Variety 3: Golden Boston

If you’re looking to add a pop of color to your space, the ‘Golden Boston’ variety is a great option. Its fronds have a golden-green hue, adding a vibrant and eye-catching element to your indoor or outdoor decor.

Variety Features
Classic Boston Fern Lush, light to medium green fronds; grows up to 4 feet long
Florida Ruffle Feathery fronds for a delicate appearance
Golden Boston Fronds with golden-green hue for a pop of color

Variety 4: Massii

The ‘Massii’ variety is known for its cascading habit, making it a perfect choice for hanging baskets or elevated planters. Its gracefully trailing fronds create a stunning visual display, adding a touch of charm to any space.

Variety 5: Rita’s Gold

For those who appreciate unique foliage colors, ‘Rita’s Gold’ is a captivating option. This variety features chartreuse to golden fronds, making it a standout plant that adds vibrancy and liveliness to any setting.

Variety 6: Roosevelt

The ‘Roosevelt’ variety stands out with its lacy foliage, giving it an intricate and delicate appearance. This fern adds a touch of elegance and sophistication to any indoor or outdoor space.

Variety 7: Dallas

If shedding fronds are a concern for you, the ‘Dallas’ variety is a fantastic choice. This fern sheds less than other varieties, reducing the need for constant cleanup and maintenance.

Variety 8: Teddy Junior

For those with limited space, the ‘Teddy Junior’ variety is compact and perfect for smaller areas. Its light green foliage adds a fresh and vibrant touch to any room or outdoor setting.

Variety 9: Lemon Buttons

If you’re looking for a fern suitable for terrariums or small containers, the ‘Lemon Buttons’ variety is an excellent choice. Its petite size and soft, ruffled fronds make it an adorable addition to any miniature garden.

Variety 10: Fluffy Ruffles

The ‘Fluffy Ruffles’ variety features softly ruffled fronds that give it a unique and eye-catching texture. With its stunning foliage, this fern is sure to be a conversation starter in any space.

Variety 11: Tiger Fern

Last but not least, the ‘Tiger Fern’ variety stands out with its attractive striped leaves. This fern adds a sense of visual interest and intrigue to any indoor or outdoor setting.

With such a wide range of Boston fern varieties to choose from, you can find the perfect fern to suit your personal style and enhance the beauty of your space.

Common Problems and Solutions for Boston Ferns

Boston ferns, like any plant, can encounter a range of problems. Understanding these issues and knowing how to address them is essential for keeping your ferns healthy and thriving. Here are some common problems that you may encounter when growing Boston ferns and the solutions to overcome them.

1. Fern Plant Diseases:

Boston ferns can be susceptible to certain diseases, such as root rot and powdery mildew. These diseases are typically caused by overwatering or keeping the ferns in overly humid conditions. To prevent these diseases, it is important to avoid overwatering your ferns and ensure proper drainage. Additionally, providing adequate air circulation and avoiding excessive humidity can help reduce the risk of powdery mildew.

2. Preventing Fern Diseases:

To prevent diseases in Boston ferns, make sure to follow proper watering practices. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings and ensure that excess water can drain freely from the pot. Avoid misting the fronds excessively, as this can create a damp environment ideal for disease development. Finally, provide good air circulation by placing the fern in a well-ventilated area.

3. Troubleshooting Fern Problems:

Aside from diseases, Boston ferns may also experience other issues, such as dry, curled foliage or browning tips. Dry, curled foliage is a sign of low humidity, and increasing humidity levels can help alleviate this problem. Browning tips, on the other hand, may be caused by excessive exposure to direct sunlight or insufficient watering. To address browning tips, relocate your fern to a spot with indirect sunlight and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.

By being proactive and attentive to the needs of your Boston ferns, you can prevent and address common problems effectively. Remember to monitor your ferns regularly, provide the right conditions, and make adjustments as needed to keep your plants happy and healthy.


Nephrolepis exaltata, also known as the Boston fern, is a beautiful and versatile plant that can thrive both indoors and outdoors. By following the care tips provided in this ultimate guide, you can ensure the health and longevity of your fern.

Indoor plant care is essential for the well-being of your Boston fern. Remember to provide it with bright, indirect light and maintain a consistent level of moisture in the soil. These ferns appreciate high humidity, so consider using a room humidifier or misting the leaves to create a suitable environment.

With its lush green foliage and air-purifying properties, Nephrolepis exaltata is a popular choice among plant enthusiasts. Whether you choose to propagate or enjoy the different varieties available, the Boston fern is an excellent addition to any space.

So, if you’re looking for a low-maintenance plant that adds beauty and freshness to your home, look no further than the Nephrolepis exaltata. Follow the fern care tips provided in this guide, and you’ll be rewarded with a thriving and vibrant Boston fern.


What are the ideal growing conditions for Nephrolepis exaltata?

Nephrolepis exaltata, or Boston fern, prefers bright, filtered or indirect light. It thrives in fast-draining soil with a pH of 5 to 5.5 that is rich in organic materials. It appreciates high humidity and requires regular watering to keep the soil evenly moist.

How can Nephrolepis exaltata be propagated and pruned?

Boston ferns can be propagated through runners or division. Runners can be cut or pulled off the base of the plant and placed in a pot of potting mix. Division involves separating the root ball into sections and potting them in fresh soil. Pruning mainly involves removing dead or yellowing fronds and is best done in spring or summer when repotting the fern.

How should Boston ferns be overwintered and cared for?

Boston ferns can be overwintered by moving them to a cool, dark place with a temperature above 55 degrees F. During this time, watering should be reduced to once a month. In the spring, dead fronds can be removed before moving the fern back outdoors. Regular care includes feeding with a balanced houseplant fertilizer in spring and summer and monitoring for pests.

What are some popular varieties of Boston ferns?

There are several popular varieties of Boston ferns to choose from, including the classic Boston fern, ‘Florida Ruffle’, ‘Golden Boston’, ‘Massii’, ‘Rita’s Gold’, ‘Roosevelt’, ‘Dallas’, ‘Teddy Junior’, ‘Lemon Buttons’, ‘Fluffy Ruffles’, and ‘Tiger Fern’.

What are some common problems and solutions for Boston ferns?

Boston ferns can be susceptible to diseases like root rot and powdery mildew if overwatered or kept in overly humid conditions. Dry, curled foliage can indicate low humidity, while brown tips can be caused by too much sun or lack of water. Pests such as spider mites, scale insects, and mealybugs can also affect Boston ferns. Proper care, including avoiding overwatering, providing adequate humidity, and checking for pests, can help prevent and address these issues.