Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Boston Fern
Boston Fern

CHARACTERISTICS:  Styles in foliage plants have come full circle since Victorian days with the present upsurge of interest in the Boston fern, N. exaltata 'Bostoniensis', a widely acclaimed mutation of the sword fern that was found near Boston in the 1890s and soon became a fixture of the overstuffed parlors of the time, but has seemed old-fashioned until recently. (The basic species is seldom grown.) The Boston fern has arching fronds up to 3 feet long with flat 3- to 4-inch closely set leaflets. If the plant is grown on a pedestal, the fronds can cascade on all sides. The more commonly available dwarf Boston fern, N. exaltata 'Compacta', has 15- to 18-inch fronds. In addition, there are a number of mutations with fronds so finely divided that each resembles a brush, as thick as it is wide. Typical varieties include three 10- to 12-inch types--'Childsii', with overlapping curling leaflets; 'Fluffy Ruffles', with stiff, densely leaved upright fronds; and 'Verona', with lacy drooping fronds--as well as a smaller type, 'Mini-Ruffle', similar to 'Fluffy Ruffles' but only 6 to 8 inches tall, and a larger one, 'Whitmanii', a lacy arching plant 12 to 14 inches tall.
HOW TO GROW. These ferns do best in bright indirect or curtain-filtered sunlight; if only artificial light is available, provide at least 400 foot-candles. Night temperatures of 50° to 55° and day temperatures of 68° to 72° are ideal. Keep the soil barely moist at all times. Newly purchased or potted plants should not be fed for six months; established plants should be fed twice yearly, in early spring and midsummer, with standard house-plant fertilizer diluted to half the minimum strength recommended on the label. Repot overcrowded plants in early spring, using a mixture of 1 part loam, 1 part peat moss or leaf mold, 1 part finely ground fir bark and 1 part sharp sand; to each gallon pailful of this mixture add 2 tablespoons of bone meal. Otherwise, use a mixture composed of equal parts of a packaged general-purpose potting soil and peat moss or leaf mold. All of the ferns described above are sterile-- that is, they are incapable of producing spores, the dustlike reproductive particles of ferns. However, in spring they send out shoots, or runners, that root as they creep along the top of the soil and, by early summer, form new plants that can be cut off and potted. You can also propagate Boston ferns by dividing the roots of old plants in early spring. Watch for spider mites, scale insects, and mealybugs.