How to Propagate Boston Ferns

How to Propagate Boston Ferns

Last Updated On: September 05, 2023

Boston ferns, scientifically known as Nephrolepis exaltata, have become beloved household favorites over the years, adorning living spaces with their enduring green presence. It’s only natural to think about expanding your collection and thankfully, propagation offers a practical way to do just that.

There are two main methods to multiply your Boston ferns: division and propagation from runners. With division, all we need to do is unearth the fern, separate the roots, and then repot the new plants. With the spore propagation method, we collect fully grown spores from the lower surfaces of Boston fern fronds, which are then nurtured until they transform into young ferns.

Propagating plants is rewarding and suitable for gardeners of all levels. Whether you’re an experienced hand looking to broaden your green horizons or a beginner eager to start your plant journey on the right foot, propagating Boston ferns offers a fantastic opportunity to nurture new life and experience the joys of growth and success in gardening.

Today, we’ll explore the details of propagating your Boston ferns. Let’s cover the best timing for this process, the essential tools you’ll need, and then the step-by-step breakdown of each of the propagation methods.

What are Boston Ferns?

Boston ferns display various finely layered, feather-like fronds that make any room feel traditional yet modern at the same time. The vibrant green color and delicate leaves establish a graceful visual difference that matches different indoor styles.

These ferns do best in moderate to bright indirect light. They like humidity and should be kept away from direct sunlight. As for soil, use a well-draining potting soil with organic material to create the perfect environment for their development. Remember to water it regularly and keep the soil moist without overwatering it.

We have a full, in-depth guide to growing boston ferns here. If you’re looking for more tips on potting, watering, lighting, and more, check it out!

Benefits of Propagating Boston Ferns

Growing more of your favorite Boston ferns has various benefits, from saving money to spreading the joy of growing plants. Let’s go through each briefly.


Propagating Boston ferns is a smart financial move. It cuts down on the need to buy new plants. Instead of spending money on additional specimens, you can utilize your existing ferns to create new ones.

Expanding Your Plant Collection

For passionate plant lovers, propagation is a fantastic way to grow your collection without breaking the bank. By cultivating new ferns from the ones you already have, your garden can showcase a variety of vibrant Boston ferns, each with its own unique qualities and growth path.

The Joy of Watching Plant Growth

There’s a special satisfaction in watching plants grow from their earliest stages to full maturity. Propagating Boston ferns lets both beginners and experienced gardeners take part in the nurturing process. This deepens their bond with the lush foliage thriving under their attentive care.

Customization and Experimentation

Propagating lets you try out various methods and conditions, helping you become a better gardener. You can adjust how you do things to match what you like, creating a special setup that takes care of your plants just the way they like it.

Spreading the Happiness

When you propagate Boston ferns, you get to share your gardening achievements with those close to you. Giving away propagated ferns to your loved ones spreads the happiness of looking after nature and building bonds through the beauty of plants. Some of my favorite housewarming gifts are plants, and I love when you get to see a gifted plant displayed prominently in a friends or families’ home.

When To Propagate Boston Ferns

The timing factor plays a crucial role in successfully propagating Boston ferns, influencing how they grow and establish themselves. Proper timing is going to make propagating that much easier, or harder.

The plant’s growth cycle and natural rhythm significantly affect how well it adapts and thrives after being propagated. Starting the propagation process at the right time increases the chances of successfully establishing and fostering robust growth for the newly propagated ferns.


Spring is often the prime season for propagating Boston ferns. During this period, the plant experiences active growth, channeling its energy into producing new shoots and fronds. This heightened metabolic activity speeds up the development of the propagated plants.

Early Summer

Early summer can also provide a suitable opportunity for propagation, particularly in regions where spring arrives later. Warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours create an ideal environment for the new ferns to establish their roots and adapt to their surroundings.

Other Times

Outside of the time listed above, it’s generally not advised to propagate your boston fern. While it can work, it generally takes extra effort to offset the less than ideal growing conditions. This can be a fun challenge for an experienced grower, but something beginners should try to avoid if possible.

Propagation Methods for Boston Ferns

We’ve already mentioned the two methods for propagation before, and now we’ll be diving into more detailed information. First, we’ll start with division as it’s the easiest. After division, we’ll look into spore propagation if you need a bit more of a challenge. As you might imagine, we recommend trying out the propagation method first, and moving onto the spore method once you have more experience.

Boston Fern Division

We love recommending this method as it requires minimal effort with maximum output. It’s perfect for new gardeners as it’s simple and easy.

What You’ll Need for Division Propagation

  • Sharp, clean pruning shears or a garden knife
  • Well-draining potting mix
  • Pots with drainage holes
  • Watering can or spray bottle
  • Optional rooting hormone
  • Plastic wrap or a clear plastic bag

Step-by-Step Division Propagation

  • Carefully remove the Boston fern from its pot, gently shaking off excess soil to expose its roots.
  • Separate the root mass into smaller sections, making sure each section has healthy fronds and roots.
  • Trim damaged or long roots using clean pruning shears.
  • Fill new pots with a well-draining potting mix, creating a small hole in the center.
  • Place each section in a pot, position roots in the hole, and gently pat down the soil.
  • Thoroughly water the newly potted ferns, ensuring even soil moisture.
  • For faster growth, apply rooting hormone to cut root surfaces.
  • Cover pots with clear plastic wrap or a bag to create a humid environment for root growth.
  • Keep pots in a spot with indirect light and a steady temperature.

Tips for Division Propagation

  • Avoid dividing during dormancy or stress.
  • Separate roots gently to prevent damage.
  • Each section should have enough roots and fronds for growth.
  • Keep humidity high for quicker root development.

Boston Fern Spore Propagation

Even if you’re still new to fern propagation, it never hurts to level up your plant-growing game. Even intermediate gardeners would agree that this method is fun yet allows for a bit of experimentation and learning along the way.

Tools You’ll Need for Spore Propagation

  • Plastic tray or container with lid
  • Peat moss or a mix of peat and perlite
  • Plastic wrap or clear plastic bag
  • Watering can or spray bottle
  • Small paintbrush

Step-by-Step Spore Propagation

  • Collect mature spores from the underside of fronds using a small paintbrush. Place spores in a tray with peat moss.
  • Lightly mist peat moss until evenly moist, not soaked.
  • Cover the tray with a plastic lid or wrap it for humidity.
  • Put the tray in a warm spot with indirect light, and maintain a consistent temperature.

Tips for Spore Propagation

  • Patience is key as the spore method takes longer.
  • Distribute spores evenly for better germination.
  • Keep humidity steady by misting.
  • Transplant young ferns into a well-draining mix.

Troubleshooting Common Boston Fern Propagation Issues

Even if you’re careful, propagated Boston ferns might still run into issues that need your attention. Knowing about potential issues and how to deal with them can really improve the health of your new plants.

Spotting Problems with Diseases and Pests

Watch closely for signs of common fern diseases, like root rot. This can happen if you’re watering too much or the drainage isn’t good. If the roots look mushy, brown, or blackened, something’s up.

Be on the lookout for pests, such as mealybugs, aphids, and scale insects. They can make a home on the fronds. If the leaves turn yellow or look weirdly shaped, bugs might be the reason. Check out our guide on natural pest control techniques to learn how to deal with these nasty critters safely.

Fixing Discolored Leaves and Leaves Falling Too Soon

If the fronds turn yellow, it could mean you’re watering too much or your ferns need more nutrients. Adjust how often you water and think about using a balanced liquid fertilizer.

Leaves dropping before their time might be because the air isn’t humid enough or the conditions suddenly changed. Keep your ferns in a place with stable moisture and humidity.

Tips for Dealing with Too Much or Too Little Water

Giving your ferns too much water can suffocate the roots and lead to root rot. Let the top inch of soil dry out between waterings, and make sure the pots have good drainage.

If you don’t water enough, the fronds could become dry and crunchy. Keep the moisture consistent, but don’t let the soil get waterlogged.

Preventing Problems for Healthier Ferns

The good thing is that issues with Boston ferns can be easily resolved with good airflow, providing the right amount of light, managing humidity levels, and regular monitoring. We’ve compiled several techniques you can use to successfully keep your fern safe and healthy.

  • Make sure air can move around your ferns to stop fungi from growing and make your plants healthier.
  • Put your ferns where they get indirect, filtered light. Too much direct sun can hurt the leaves, but too little light means weak growth.
  • Keep the humidity between 40% and 60% to copy the fern’s usual environment. Spritz the fronds often or use a humidity tray.
  • Every now and then, look over your propagated ferns for any issues, diseases, or pests. Catching problems early stops them from getting worse.

More Tips and Tricks for Successful Boston Fern Propagation

If you’re looking for more useful techniques, then this is it! We’ve gathered a collection of simple and easy ways to keep your propagated ferns well-established.

Select Healthy Parent Plants

The foundation of successful propagation lies in picking robust parent plants. Opt for Boston ferns that flaunt lively leaves, sturdy growth, and zero pests or diseases. These healthy parent plants not only assure the quality of the offspring but also enhance their overall vitality.

Do Regular Maintenance and Vigilant Monitoring

Providing regular care is the secret to nurturing thriving propagated ferns. Routinely examine your young plants for signs of stress, disease, or pests. Modify their care regimen as required, considering their growth, surroundings, and any issues that come up.

Acclimatize Your Ferns

When introducing your newly propagated ferns to their new surroundings, give them time to acclimatize. Gradually expose them to the conditions of their intended spot by starting with shorter light exposures and gradually extending them over a few days.

Be Patient

Keep in mind that successful propagation requires time. Exercise patience and allow your young ferns the necessary duration to establish their root systems and get accustomed to their environment.

Adapt to Individual Plant Needs

Every fern is distinctive, even if they all come from one parent plant. Factors like humidity preferences, light tolerance, and growth pace can differ. Pay attention to the specific needs of each propagated fern and tweak your care routine accordingly to ensure their well-being.

Propagate Boston Ferns

As we wrap things up, let’s go back and look at the most important points of our discussion. We thoroughly explored both division and spore methods, going through the essential tools and sequential guidelines for executing each technique with precision. We also addressed common challenges, ticking off a list of preventive measures that encourage healthy growth.

Through it all, remember to uphold the fundamental principles: carefully select sturdy parent plants, extend unwavering support, and maintain consistent vigilance through regular check-ins.

For indoor gardening enthusiasts, whether you’re new to this or an experienced pro, propagating Boston ferns can be incredibly rewarding. This practice not only enhances your plant collection but also imparts valuable skills and insights into the world of horticulture.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I propagate a Boston fern in water?

Yes, you can propagate your Boston fern in water, although this method might take longer compared to other propagation techniques. Begin by placing a healthy fern frond with spores into a container of water. Patiently wait for the spore germination. Once you see young ferns starting to develop, relocate them into a well-draining potting mix.

How long does it take for a propagated fern to mature?

The time it takes for a propagated Boston fern to mature can vary. Dividing plants usually leads to quicker outcomes, as new ones take hold within a few months. On the other hand, growing from spores is a more time-consuming process, often demanding several months to a year for young ferns to grow to their full size.

What are the signs of a successful Boston fern propagation?

A successful Boston fern propagation will be evident through various signs. These can include the appearance of new growth, including fresh fronds or shoots, roots developing from the base of the fronds, or at the cut edges if division propagation was used, and the overall health of the propagated fern, with vibrant foliage and sturdy growth.

Can I propagate a Boston fern from a single leaf?

No, propagating a Boston fern from a single leaf is not a viable method. Boston ferns don't grow from single leaves by themselves. Instead, use methods like division or spore propagation for effective reproduction.

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