Is a Boston Fern Perennial? Key Facts Explained

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If you’re a gardener or plant enthusiast, you may be wondering about the lifespan of a Boston Fern. As a popular indoor plant, the Boston Fern is known for its elegant fronds and air-purifying properties. However, its status as a perennial plant may be unclear to some. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the topic of whether a Boston Fern is a perennial or not, exploring its growth habits and the factors that can affect its lifespan. Whether you’re looking to add a Boston Fern to your indoor garden or simply curious about its lifecycle, this post will provide you with valuable insights.

Boston Fern Overview

The Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata “Bostoniensis”) is a tropical evergreen perennial herbaceous plant, often grown as a popular indoor houseplant fern (Home for the Harvest). This fern thrives in semitropical climates, enjoying warm temperatures with mild summers and winters (My Little Jungle).

Known for its lush and graceful appearance, the Boston Fern adds a touch of woodsy whimsy to any indoor environment. With the right care, including constant moisture and high humidity, these plants can maintain their vibrant spring-green foliage (Better Homes & Gardens). Outside of their natural habitat, Boston Ferns can still be grown as perennials when provided with proper indoor conditions (My Little Jungle).

Perennials vs. Annuals

Understanding the difference between perennials and annuals is crucial when choosing plants for your garden or indoor living space. Perennials are plants that live for more than one year, returning each growing season, whereas annuals complete their life cycle within a single growing season and then die.

Boston ferns, popular for their lush foliage and air-purifying abilities, are considered perennials in the right conditions. In warmer climates, these ferns can thrive outdoors as perennials, as long as the temperature does not drop below 55 degrees F / 10 degrees Celsius (My Little Jungle). However, in colder climates that experience freezing temperatures, Boston ferns may struggle to survive, and they are often treated as annuals by gardeners (SF Gate).

When growing a Boston fern, it is vital to provide the correct care, including consistent watering, to ensure its well-being. This adaptable plant can be grown from seed, cuttings, or transplants (Small Space Gardening Basics). Additionally, Boston ferns can be effectively grown indoors for year-round enjoyment, regardless of climate.

Boston Fern as a Perennial

Boston ferns, naturally found in semi-tropical environments, are considered perennial plants in their native habitats where mild warm summers and mild winters are common. They can thrive as perennials with proper care when grown indoors as well (source). In warm climates where Boston ferns can be grown outdoors, they are able to display their perennial characteristics all year round (source).

This fern species, known for its attractive fronds and dramatic appearance, makes a perfect addition to gardens and containers due to its hardiness and versatility (source). While they can adapt to various soil types, it is essential to provide them with the adequate care and suitable environment in order to grow successfully as perennials.

Despite the fact that they can struggle to survive freezing temperatures, their perennial nature in suitable environments makes them a popular choice for houseplants and garden decoration (source). Ensuring proper care for your Boston fern can support its perennial growth and provide year-round visual appeal.

Indoor and Outdoor Care

Understanding how to care for a Boston fern, whether grown indoors or outdoors, is essential for the health and longevity of the plant. There are several factors to consider, such as temperature, humidity, lighting, watering, fertilizing, and pruning.

Temperature and Humidity

Boston ferns prefer temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. They are sensitive to low temperatures, and anything below 55 degrees Fahrenheit may cause harm to the plant(source). In terms of humidity, they thrive in high humidity levels, so regular misting and placing the plant on a tray with pebbles and water can help maintain the desired moisture.


These ferns do best with bright, filtered, or indirect light each day. Direct sunlight can scorch their leaves, and they won’t grow well in total shade either(source).


Regular watering is necessary to keep the soil consistently moist, but avoid overwatering to prevent the soil from becoming soggy or waterlogged. When the top inch of the soil feels dry, it’s time to water the plant(source).


  • Feed the Boston fern with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season.
  • Always dilute the fertilizer to half-strength to avoid burning the fern’s delicate roots.


To maintain an attractive, well-groomed appearance and allow for new growth, remove any damaged or dead fronds as needed. Prune the ferns in early spring, trimming back older fronds and any that have lost their vibrant color or become leggy.

Common Problems and Solutions


Boston ferns can be affected by various pests, such as mealybugs, fungus gnats, spider mites, scales, thrips, whiteflies, and caterpillars. These pests damage the plant by piercing its foliage or accessing its roots from the soil(The Practical Planter). To prevent pest infestations, regularly inspect your fern and remove any visible pests. Introduce beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, as a natural form of pest control.


Root rot and powdery mildew are common diseases that can plague Boston ferns, often caused by overwatering or soggy soil(Southern Living). To prevent these diseases, maintain proper watering habits and avoid allowing the soil to stay excessively wet.

Another issue is dry or curled foliage, which usually indicates low humidity levels. This problem can be resolved by increasing the humidity around the plant, using methods like misting or placing a humidifier nearby(The Practical Planter). Fertilizer or hard water can also lead to frond discoloration, so ensuring the use of appropriate amounts of fertilizer and filtered water can help maintain a healthy Boston fern.

Additionally, overwatering can result in grey fronds and brown roots, which signify root rot. To treat this, repot the fern and discard the diseased soil, taking care to provide adequate drainage and airflow around its roots(The Spruce).

Varieties of Boston Fern

Boston fern is a popular perennial plant with several different varieties that vary in appearance, making it a diverse choice for various aesthetic and design preferences. Some popular choices include Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Compacta’, which is a shorter, more compact, and upright version of the main Boston fern species (The Spruce).

Another interesting variety is the Lemon Button Fern, a dwarf variety known for its small, round leaflets on the fronds. This type is particularly suited for smaller spaces or hanging baskets. No matter which variety is chosen, the care requirements for Boston ferns remain consistent across different types (The Spruce).

While these perennials can thrive in their native tropical regions, they may not overwinter well in colder climates. In areas with freezing temperatures, gardeners often treat them as annuals, or they bring the plants indoors for the winter season(Southern Living).

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