Caring for Boston Ferns Outside

By Rachel Alter , last updated January 21, 2012

Whether you live in Boston or sport a Yankees hat, the Boston Fern can be a great outdoor plant, provided you have allotted enough time to care for it: they tend to be very high maintenance.

The Boston Fern (also known as the sword fern) is a plant native to tropical regions throughout the world. It was brought to Boston for the first time from Florida in 1894 and has since then been flourishing domestically and in the wild. There are several types of Boston Ferns, including the "Dallas," the "Bostoniensis," the "Bostoniensis Compacta," and the "Fluffy Duffy." The "Dallas" is the smallest type, with short leaves (fronds) that grow and spread rapidly. These are great for planting inside and keeping in a dish or as a hanging plant.

The "Bostoniensis" is larger and has long, curved fronds and looks beautiful hanging from baskets or in plant stands. It originates from the first Boston Ferns shipped from Florida.

The "Bostoniensis Compacta" is a good middle ground in terms of size. It has short, dense fronts and also makes a wonderful hanging plant.

The "Fluffy Duffy" has small, wide, lacy, overlapping fronds. They are harder to grow because they tend to develop a disease called Rhizoctonia. However, they are great for planting either outside or inside and look beautiful wherever they are.

All Boston Ferns require sufficient indirect/diffused lighting for 12-16 hours each day. They should be watered regularly to make sure the soil remains moist. Distilled water is better than tap water because the chlorine in tap water can be harmful to the plant. It is recommended that in the winter, the fern is allowed to become dry between times of watering.

Humidity is also an important factor to remember when maintaining a Boston Fern: it is a tropical plant, so it likes warm, humid climates. If you do not live in such a region, misting its fronds each day will help. If leaves become dry and brown, it is best to remove them in order to keep the plant's attractive appearance.

It is suggested that water-soluble plant food be applied once every two weeks in warm months. In the winter, it is best that fertilizer is applied monthly. To maintain a rich, green color, it can be given two tablespoons of Epsom salts mixed with a gallon of water, twice a year.

The Boston Fern is a beautiful addition to a home, as long as it is well-cared for.

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