Houseplant care sheet: Boston Fern

Houseplant care sheet: Boston Fern

Three words: humidity, humidity, humidity!

For a plant that is so easily found for sale, the Boston fern can be surprisingly difficult to keep. Just about every greenhouse and home improvement store will have a Boston fern for sale. Which is remarkable, given how many people kill them off so easily. 

One interesting thing about Boston ferns is that they prefer cooler temperatures. They thrive between 60 and 75 degrees, and prefer a room that cools off at night. This makes them good for cooler, northern homes, and for offices.

Size
The Boston fern can get pretty large, if it lasts that long. I have seen Boston ferns the size of ottomans. For the most part, this is a plant that grows steadily - not too fast and not too slow. They do well as hanging plants, and also look nice when seated atop a plant stand or stool.
 
Lighting
Boston ferns like sunlight, but not too much of it. Direct sunlight will burn the leaves. Too little light and the plant will turn pale. You may have to spend a while moving it around before you find just the right spot for it. They seem to do fairly well under standard office lighting, if they are in a well-lit area.
 
Humidity
Humidity is the big issue with these plants. As a general rule, you will want to mist your Boston fern at least once a day. More often if you live in a dry climate, or in a house with central heat/air conditioning. Keep a spray bottle next to the pot.
 
Watering
I myself have killed more than my fair share of Boston ferns. I lost one before I realized that they do not like softened water (which is basically salt water). In fact, this is one of the more sensitive plants when it comes to water temperature and quality. 
 
If your Boston fern seems like it is not doing well, try switching to bottled water or collected rain water. And always let the water come up to room temperature before watering your plant. This is a plant that hates shocks.
 
This is one of the few plants which likes continually damp soil. Don't let it dry out too much. In fact, you can do well by watering it with that misting bottle - just give it a few squirts into the topsoil two or three times a week, and give it a good soaking every week or two.