The Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) is probably one of the easiest ferns to grow and maintain. Although it can be prone to browning, dropping and crisping when not in ideal conditions (or from the leaves being touched/bashed), with a bit of TLC it will soon recover from what looks like near death, and regain its former glory.
Nephrolepis ferns like their soil to be kept damp (not soggy) throughout the year, although ease off the watering a little in winter when temperatures drop. They also thrive on high humidity, so if not in a naturally humid environment they should be misted regularly and even sat in water-pebbled dishes for an extra boost. A daily misting will keep your fern looking fresh and vibrant, and also preventing browning of the leaves – a common ailment due to a lack of moisture in the air.
Found growing naturally in humid swamps and forest across many different countries, the Boston fern would usually thrive in in shade. However when grown indoors, they prefer bright but indirect or filtered light (through a net curtain or frosted window). Boston ferns will suffer if placed in direct light, especially the hot midday sun, and you will see their fronds scorching. If you see this happening, don’t worry, you’re fern can still thrive! Just cut off any scorched fronds at the base of the stem and move to a slightly shadier spot - you will soon see new shoots appearing to take their place. It’s also worth noting that it can be beneficial to turn your plant every so often to encourage it to grow evenly and prevent balding on one side.
A happy Boston fern can grow to an impressive size (up to 3ft across!) but needs re potting yearly in order for this to happen. Alongside the regular watering and misting, re potting yearly will keep your fern looking vibrant and healthy, and also allow for the fronds to grow outwards and downwards for a beautiful trailing plant. We find them best displayed in a hanging basket (which also allows for light to reach all sides) or on a mantle/shelf where you get the full trailing effect of their lengthy fronds. Re potting is also an ideal time to cut off any browning foliage and pull out any leaves that may have dropped and been kept hidden in the green mass at the base of the plant.
Dividing the plant into sections and re potting separately is the most popular propagation method and should be done in spring. You can also separate small plantlets that grow apart from the mother plant, but they can be hard to spot making it the trickier method.
You can divide the fern into as many new plants as you see fit, the bigger your plant the more you can do. Simply cut through the root section of the part you wish to separate and pull apart. Re pot your separated section into fresh multipurpose compost and water the plant to settle the roots into their new soil.
Please note that we wouldn’t recommend feeding your plant for a month after it’s been re potted as the new soil will have enough nutrients to keep the plant healthy, and over feeding can cause damage.