Nephrolepis exaltata - NASA CLEAN AIR PLANT #9
Its hard to image a southern front porch without the lovely Boston Fern. Native to Florida, the West Indies, Mexico and South America, the Boston Fern is a summer hanging basket favorite.
I wouldn't rank a Boston Fern as a beginner plant due to its finicky nature, but by providing the right kind of environment, you can have success raising them. Boston ferns need a cool place with high humidity and indirect light.
Light - Placing your Boston Fern in the right location is critical for success. They love bright, indirect light. Morning sun and afternoon shade is the perfect combination. They are happy in a eastern spot or in a western window with blinds or a shear. Avoid a southern exposure. The best place is a northern exposure allowing your fern to get plenty of light without burning the leaves.
Temperature - Boston Ferns love it cool! They grow best between 60° - 70°. Keep them away from HVAC vents, heaters and fireplaces as these locations will dry out your fern.
Water - Make sure to keep your fern moist, but not soggy. Dry soil is the number one killer for this plant. Check the soil daily and make sure to water it if the top of the soil feels dry. Boston Ferns appreciate a good soaking once a month to ensure the soil is fully hydrated. Crispy brown fronds, especially in the center of a Boston fern, mean the plant is being over-watered. Watering with "hard water" causes white marks on the leaves. A Boston fern is more drought-resistant than most ferns, so when in doubt, don't water. But, NEVER, EVER allow your Boston Fern to dry out!
Humidity - Boston Ferns are humidity lovers! The humidity in our homes and offices are not enough, especially in the winter when the heaters are running. Use a pebble tray to increase the humidity. Brown or yellow leaves are a sign that the humidity is too low. Remember not to allow the fern to stand in water - it will drown.
Soil - Because Boston Ferns like to be moist, using a good quality potting soil with a little extra peat moss will help.
Fertilizer - Boston Ferns are not heavy feeders. They only need to be fed a couple of times a year. Use a high nitrogen fertilizer at 1/2 strength. Be careful not to over fertilize as this will burn the leaves.
Re-pot - Boston Ferns do well being pot-bound. If you do need to repot, use a pot just a size bigger than the one they are growing in,
Maintenance - Remove dying leaves to maintain good looks and keep it healthy. Boston Ferns are notorious for shedding. Place it in a spot that you can tidy up easily. If you are bringing your fern indoors for the winter from the porch, you can cut back all the fronds to the top of the pot. Come spring, it will quickly begin to regrow and by the start of summer, it will be full and gorgeous.
Pests - Aphids, mealybugs and spider mites can be a problem. Check frequently for pests by examining the backs of the leaves and new growth. If your Boston Fern becomes infected, spray with 91% Isopropyl Alcohol mixed with water (2 parts Alcohol, 1 part water) or an insecticidal soap at 1/2 the recommended strength. Boston Ferns are quite disease resistant.
Propagation - Propagation is done by division. Use a serrated knife to cut the fern root- ball in half or in quarters. Plant the sections in small pots to prevent over-watering.
Special Notes - Boston Ferns are non-poisonous and safe for pets and children. Ranked as NASA Clean Air Plant #9 for its ability to remove formaldehyde and other chemical toxins from an indoor environment.