Stop Killing Your Boston Ferns! Full Care Guide

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I don't know about you guys,

but I've heard more questions about growing Boston ferns than many other plants,

even though they're not that hard to take care of. Now that being said,

when I first started growing houseplants,

I killed more than my fair share of ferns and probably a boston fern along with


And so in today's video we're going to talk about exactly how to care for these.

And really it's just managing the growing conditions and understanding where

this plant came from, where it evolved, right? And so what it needs,

the environment it's used to, and we're gonna talk about light, water, soil,

fertilizing, repotting,

all that good stuff as well as some of the most common problems you'll run into

when you're growing a Boston fern.

So let's kick it off with the number one thing that we have to consider when

growing any plant. And that would be the light levels that it requires.

Now it's a fern, right?

It's an understory plant that is endemic to areas of America, Mexico,

Polynesia, et cetera.

It grows underneath other plants or below them in the canopy of,

of that ecosystem. And so what that means is it wants a filtered amount of sun.

So indoors,

that means that in fall and spring as light levels are falling off,

we're ramping up.

Then you can place it maybe three to five feet away from a south-facing window,

which is totally fine.

Obviously we're not indoors right now we're in my backyard, the Epic zen oasis.

And so I have it under a slatted awning here that's going to receive, oh,

I would say maybe twoish hours of indirect sun a day,

sort of low-lying sun that's coming through,

filtered through a lot of the atmosphere and kind of being blocked by little

bits and pieces of plants. Uh, and then besides that, uh,

another thing you have to consider is as you move into those hotter, warmer,

more bright months, the summer months, if you're growing it indoors,

you may actually want to shift where you place it because that south-facing

window might actually be getting a little bit too much sun for this,

causing it to dry out a bit, causing the tips to burn, et cetera.

So really a minimum requirement of two hours indirect sun a day,

but indoors, just that classic, bright,

indirect and it can tolerate quite a bit less light than,

than other houseplants that require bright, indirect light.

Next up we have watering,

which is the quintessential question that you get on any houseplants.

How often should I water 'insert plant here'? Any plant, right?

And the real answer,

the truest answer you could ever give someone is when the plant needs water is

when you should water it.

So the real question you're asking is how do I know when this plant needs water?


the most obvious answer is going to be when the soil is dry to about an inch and

a half or so. You know you need to give it a little bit more water.

But that can be hard with a Boston fern because obviously they grow a little

crazy, right? So it's hard to kind of get your finger in there.

So what I like to do is the pot test. So you can see there's the pot right here,

and I know how heavy it is when it's well-watered.

And so I just give it a quick lift and I say, hmm,

you kind of do it by sense as well as visual appearance of the plant.

And so for me, this could use a little bit of a drink.

And so what I'll do is I'll place it back in my standing planter here.

By the way, guys, these planters are really,

really awesome and they are available for sale on the Epic Gardening shop. So,

if you want to check that out, check out the video description.

But I just come through,

kind of get near the crown and we'll just let some water in.

Whenever I water this, I like to do the water wait water method as I call it.

So I give it a little bit of a light drink. And then sometimes if,

especially if that top inch is a little dry,

it can take a little bit of time to rehydrate,

especially if there's a decent amount of peat in that mix,

which I don't think that there is in this. But then again, you never know.

And so I give it a little bit of a waiting period for it to rehydrate that

surface so it's ready to accept the water. If you don't do that,

water is going to run down the cracks and the sides of the pot and it's going to

run straight out and you'll think you watered because you dumped a bunch of

water in. But actually the water just fell straight through.

And so I'd like to do that and I'll give it a little bit more of a drink and we

should be good to go with this.

Now the one thing that will get people on ferns is humidity levels because most

of us are growing in areas that really don't match the humidity levels that they

would technically prefer.

And so what you can do is you can actually place it in an area of your home that

has higher average humidity, like perhaps a bathroom. Uh,

that can work pretty well.

But one thing people will do is they'll mist the leaves a lot.

I find that it doesn't have an effect for too long.

It's sort of a bit of a myth that misting really,

really helps raise the humidity levels.

It may raise them slightly for 15ish minutes or so.

After that the effect kind of dissipates,

so there's not a huge benefit to doing that. But I would just say placement,

making sure it doesn't dry out too quickly is probably your best bet as far as

managing the water and humidity requirements of a Boston fern.

One thing I forgot to mention on watering,

if you want to make your job a little bit easier,

you can actually just keep it in its plastic nursery pot.

These are often sold as hanging basket plants and that's usually in a plastic

pot, which means that less water is going to be evaporating out of the side as

opposed to maybe a terracotta which is permeable on all sides and so that can

help keep moisture levels really nice and consistent in the pot.

So for soil on a Boston fern,

it's very similar to most ferns. You're going to want rich and organic matter.

You want it to retain a decent amount of water,

but you also want to provide some drainage.

And if you think about where ferns grow naturally,

that just matches exactly what they need.

And so if I was going to mix my own fern mix, uh, you know,

let's say I'm repotting this or I'm dividing it out into clumps and repotting

those clumps, I would make a mix that has a good amount of,

of really high quality compost or potting soil, good indoor mix.

And then I would add in a little coconut coir and I might add in a little bit of

coarse sand or perlite just to make sure that we're evening it out.

I would skew a little bit heavier on the peat or the coconut coir than I would

on the perlite.

But you can't just go straight peat because then you're just gonna suffocate the

plant. Okay.

It's time to talk about propagation of a Boston fern.

So there's two ways you can do it. One of them is the most common.

The most common I will talk about second.

So the first one would be they send out runners,

and runners if you've ever grown something like a strawberry,

you'll know it sends out a stolon that kind of throws out and then attaches

somewhere else right next to the mother and then develops its own root system

and eventually you can just cut off the connection,

almost like an umbilical cord and it will then grow elsewhere.

So that's one way you can do it.

You would find those somewhere near the base and you could then again remove

them and pot them up.

That's not how most people do it because of the way that a Boston fern typically

grows, right?

So they grow these nice bushy amounts of of vegetation here you can see it's

just, it's really exploding in this it's nursery pot.

And so most people will divide the plant and if you're going to divide the

plant, what you want to do is wait until the soil is nice and dry.

That's going to allow the root system to dry out a little bit.

And then I would come through with maybe a Hori Hori knife or a serrated knife.

And I mean if we were to pop this out of its nursery pot,

you would see it sits pretty root bound in here.

And so that means that there's a lot to cut through.

Most people will cut these up into fourths or eighths and then they'll repot

those in their own pot and allow them to grow.

And so that actually brings us right into repotting a Boston fern.

Repotting is often paired in conjunction with dividing. A lot of people,

you know this is a pretty big Boston fern.

If I repot it it's going to get even bigger and I might not want that, right?

But I might want two Boston ferns that are this size and so what you would end

up doing is you would pop it out of the nursery pot, chop it in half,

and then you would go ahead and have two,

eventually growing up to the same size. Okay.

What about pruning a Boston fern?

Is there anything that you need to know as far as pruning goes?

It's kind of up to you at this point. Pruning for me generally involves,

you know,

inevitably there's going to be some of the fronds that don't look amazing.

So I'll come through, grab my little pruning snips. By the way,

this is the Epic harvest apron,

and this is the custom designed apron I made for gardening, which I really,

really like. And I use it all the time. So link is in the description for that,

but I come through and you know, like for example, this little guy right here,

not looking amazing. I take it off,

I just give it a bit of a haircut and it's inevitable that some of these aren't

going to look amazing. And that's what, that's what I do for pruning.

It's not even necessary. It's just really an aesthetics type of thing for me.

Uh, so that's all you need to know as far as pruning goes.

And let's go ahead and move into some of the problems that you're gonna run

into. If you're watching this video,

you probably want to know what the problems are. So let's talk about those.

So as I continue to give this a little haircut,

let's talk about some of the problems that you run into.

You're going to run into leaf droop, right? And so if you get leaf droop,

that's a really good sign that it's either overwatered or you've given it a

little bit too little light. It is possible to give these too little light. Uh,

and so they need, like I said, two hours direct, indirect sunlight per day,

is a really good idea. And so if they're drooping,

they're getting a little bit too little light,

they kind of can turn a little bit, uh, just like sad looking and just not,

they're not popping. We want our Boston ferns to be popping and if they're not,

check your light levels. Now on the other side of that,

if you're noticing a lighter green, so these,

these are genuinely wanting to be like a nice, vibrant green.

If they're sort of yellowing across the entire plant,

that may actually be an indication of too much light.

And so you want to scale that back slightly and just make sure that you are in

optimal levels. You know, ferns can be a little tricky. That is,

that is why they are some of the uh, you know, they,

they just cause some headaches for some houseplant gardeners.

So that's what I would say for that. Now if you're getting burnt tips,

crunchy tips, you can see here,

I actually have really nice healthy tips on this plant. Like this is,

this is new growth coming out right here.

There's some new growth coming out right here. So it's really nice. Uh,

so no problems on this particular plant, but if that is happening to you,

there's a couple things that could be at play. Now,

humidity levels that are really dry and arid, that could be one of them.

So you're going to have to figure out that.

It could be that you're watering with relatively hard and poor quality water.

You may want to run it through a filter.

You may want to use collected rainwater. Uh,

you may want to just run it through a Brita.

That can work completely fine and you may also be over-fertilizing.

Over-fertilizing in the world of hydroponics,

which is actually how I first started gardening, can contribute to,

it's like nutrient burn. It's too much.

Especially when you're using a liquid fertilizer that's bioavailable relatively


you can burn the tips and so if you're going to fertilize your Boston fern,

you want to do similar rules to many other houseplants where you use a diluted

solution, maybe a quarter strength,

half strength liquid in the growing season only. So through, you know,

as you move into spring, it's a good time to do it.

As it tapers off in the fall, you're not going to need to do it as much,

although you definitely still can because remember we're growing these typically

indoors, uh,

and and growing conditions are pretty good year round for that and so you can

still fertilize as you move into winter.

But I think we've got a nice little haircut here and as far as pests and

diseases, there's a lot that can affect this plant. It's,

it's the same as many other plants indoors. You get your fungus gnats, your,

your mealybugs, your scale that can all affect this plant.

I have specific guides both on the website and on Epicgardening.com

and on YouTube about that. So check those out. But guys,

the Boston fern is really a beautiful, amazing plant.

It's this amazing sort of bushy mohawk type of look.

Let me show you the full planter here. So it looks really cool. Uh,

I'm a big fan of it and I think that we should all be growing them and we should

all be growing them successfully. So hope this video was helpful.

If it was like and subscribe and drop a comment down with what you want to know

next. And links to everything, including the planter,

the Epic harvest apron and as well as the other social is also down below.

Good luck in the garden and keep on growing.