This fern is nowhere near Boston.

It is not actually from Boston. The first Boston fern, Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’ was merely discovered in Boston, as a mutant in a shipment of otherwise normal ferns. Unlike the more upright parent plants, Boston fern has softly arching fronds that can hang vertically at the ends.

The fronds are typically about a foot and a half long, and can be a few feet long in humid and partly shady environments. Each frond is comprised of many pinnae that are neatly arranged on both sides of a wiry rachis (leaf stalk). Each leaflet is an inch or two long or longer. Delicate aerial roots sometimes dangle below the foliage.

Through the 1970’s, Boston fern was one of the most popular houseplants. Yet, it really prefers more humidity than it gets inside. It is actually happier on porches or in atriums where it is sheltered from frost and harsh sun exposure. It prefers partial shade outside, but likes abundant ambient sunlight as a houseplant.

14 thoughts on “Boston Fern

  1. I marvel at these ferns often spotted on porches here in the south. They seem to add a friendly splash of green and make for a cooling visual in the heat and humidity that summer brings. Personally, I have never had luck keeping them alive. I will probably have to enjoy them on other’s porches! Ha ha!

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    1. Boston fern is actually a cultivar of the wild species. There is a species of Nephrolepis that is naturalized in the Los Angeles region that I had always considered to be Nephrolepis corifolia, but might actually be Nephrolepis exalta, like what grows wild in Florida. It is impossible to eradicate from infested canopies of Canary Island date palms.


      1. Oh, I see it is Nephrolepis brownii. so might behave there like Nephrolepis cordifolia behaves here. I actually do not know for certain if what I believe to be Nephrolepis cordifolia up in palms really is what I believe it to be. I can not get very close to it.

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