The Boston fern is one of the more popular ferns to decorate with, indoors and out. Its popularity emerged during the Victorian era, with long, arching fronds looking ever so regal whether it was planted in a hanging basket or set atop an elegant plant stand. The fact that it enjoys high humidity will give you a clue as to its native habitat – tropical forests. Along with its preference of bright, filtered light, the Boston fern likes to have its roots planted in moist, well-draining soil and placed in an area where temperatures range from 60 to 75 degrees F.
I like to use Boston ferns outdoors during the summer as potted space fillers in shady areas of my patios. They are so easy to maintain unless you do not keep them watered. If they start to turn brown and look ratty, give them a haircut to get rid of the dead foliage, give them a good soaking in a tub of water, and more than likely you will soon see new shoots emerging despite your neglectful ways.
Being the frugal Fanny that I am, I like to bring my Boston fern indoors for overwintering. This transitioning should be done gradually. After being brought indoors, the fern will not need as much water as it did when it was outdoors. Never let the root-ball dry out, though. Putting a pebble-lined saucer placed under the fern pot, giving it a regular misting of room-temperature water, and placing it near a fine mist humidifier will fulfill your fern’s humidity needs. Give your fern a spa treatment by setting it in the shower for a gentle, warm water shower experience. The tips or edges of the leaves will turn brown when it is not receiving enough humidity.
Yes, they LIKE humidity. These lovelies do not appreciate being blasted by warm furnace air, so keep it away from heat ducts. The same applies to cold, drafty air. Remove dead fronds when they happen and give the pot a turn now and then to keep it growing evenly.
Do not overdo it when it comes to fertilizing. A little granular slow-release fertilizer in the spring will give it a boost for about 6-8 weeks.
After being indoors all winter my Boston fern does not look real pretty, surviving, but not pretty. Once the weather has become nice enough to place it outdoors, begin the transitioning gradually. After a period of time enjoying its new placement in the outdoors, you will notice that the fern is sprouting new shoots and will soon be nice and full again.
As always, Happy Gardening!
The Purdue Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange County.