How to Make Boston Fern Bushy: Expert Care Tips for Lush Growth

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Boston ferns are a beautiful and popular houseplant known for their lush green foliage and graceful arching fronds. However, some plant enthusiasts may find that their Boston ferns appear sparse or leggy, lacking the fullness and bushiness that characterizes healthy plants. If you’re looking to give your Boston fern a more robust and bushy appearance, there are several steps you can take to encourage new growth and improve its overall health. In this article, we’ll explore the tips and techniques for making your Boston fern bushy, including how to prune, fertilize, and care for your plant to achieve optimal growth and vibrancy.

Know Your Boston Fern

Origin and Characteristics

The Boston Fern, scientifically known as Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis,’ is a popular houseplant originating from tropical regions around the world. This robust fern is known for its lush, arching fronds and delicate, feathery leaves, making it a great choice for indoor garden enthusiasts seeking to add greenery to their living spaces.

Ideal Growing Conditions

Boston Ferns thrive in slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.0-6.5, which helps the plant properly absorb essential nutrients. Appropriate soil moisture is crucial, and a well-draining hanging basket can assist in preventing waterlogged conditions for your fern. When it comes to lighting, these ferns prefer bright, indirect sunlight, making them perfect for locations near a window that receives filtered light.

It is essential to maintain high humidity levels around your Boston Fern, as its fronds are prone to turning yellow if the humidity is too low. To achieve the ideal humidity, you can mist your fern daily, group it with other humidity-loving plants, or place it on a tray filled with water and pebbles. Lastly, keep in mind that Boston Ferns only require minimal fertilization, so feeding your plant just a few times a year should suffice.

Tools and Materials

To achieve a bushy and healthy Boston fern, you will need a few essential tools and materials. Having the right items on hand will make the process much more manageable and efficient.

When caring for your Boston fern, it is crucial to have a pair of clean, sharp pruning shears or scissors for trimming and cutting back the fern’s fronds Gardening Know How. Additionally, it’s helpful to have a water-soluble fertilizer with a nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium (NPK) ratio of 20-10-20 for feeding the plants during the main growing season Petal Republic.

Other materials that can enhance Boston fern care include a clear plastic bag for maintaining humidity when propagating new plants and a pot with proper drainage to prevent overwatering and root rot Southern Living. It’s also essential to provide a growing environment with bright, indirect light and temperatures between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pruning for a Bushy Appearance

When to Prune

The best time to prune Boston ferns for a bushier appearance is during late spring and early summer. Pruning during this time allows the plant to recover more quickly without risking disease. Fall trimming is also acceptable to give the plant a neater look after a summer of growth or to help it fit indoors in a smaller space (Petal Republic).

Techniques and Tips

To make Boston ferns bushy, it is important to use clean and sharp pruning shears or scissors during the pruning process (Gardening Know How). As pruning can get messy, consider moving the plant outdoors or placing an old sheet underneath the plant to catch cuttings. Refrain from cropping the top of the plant; instead, trim off the side fronds at the base (The Practical Planter).

Severe pruning encourages more prolific, bushy growth and corrects dull, leggy growth (WHYIENJOY). While pruning, focus on trimming away old sections of the plant to promote new growth. Additionally, providing indirect light and maintaining moist soil without waterlogging will also contribute to a bushier and healthier Boston fern (Simplify Plants).

Proper Watering and Fertilizing

Boston ferns require appropriate watering and fertilizing practices to maintain a healthy, bushy appearance. Implementing an adequate watering schedule and using suitable fertilizers at the right frequency can promote the lush growth of these attractive houseplants.

Watering Schedule

Consistently damp soil is essential for the wellbeing of Boston ferns, as they are native to tropical environments. During the growing season, it is advisable to water these plants every 2 to 3 days, ensuring that the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch before watering. Use distilled, filtered, or rainwater for best results. (source) Avoid over-watering, as the soil should be moist but not soggy.

Fertilizer Types and Frequency

Boston ferns grow at a relatively slow pace, and as a result, they do not require excessive amounts of fertilizer. Use a water-soluble fertilizer with a nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium (NPK) ratio of 20-10-20 once a month during the main growing season. (source) In the summer, you can supplement the monthly fertilizer with slow-release fertilizers at half strength. (source) During winter, apply a weaker fertilizer sparingly as the fern’s growth slows down.

Additional Care Tips


When it comes to repotting the Boston fern, select a well-draining pot with drainage holes. The plant should be placed halfway deep into the pot, allowing the roots enough space in the soil. Fill the rest of the pot with potting mixture, leaving about an inch of space from the top (WikiHow).

Pest Control

Pest control is essential for the health of your Boston fern. Make sure to monitor the plant closely for any signs of pests. If you do encounter a pest issue, treat the fern promptly with natural remedies or seek professional advice for appropriate treatments.

To maintain a bushy Boston fern, provide the plant with proper care, including ample humidity and appropriate lighting. For instance, you could place your fern on a tray of pebbles filled with water or mist it regularly to maintain the required humidity levels. Additionally, place the fern in a bright area with indirect sunlight to support its growth (Bob Vila).

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