Boston ferns can add a welcoming touch of tropical freshness to any room, and that’s why a lot of people pick them over other potted ferns. Yet, not everyone knows how helpful these bushy fronds can be for your home.
The Boston fern benefits are all about improving air quality, reducing dryness, boosting the aesthetic, and cutting down on unwanted noises.
How can glorious Nephrolepis exaltata help around the house, and what are the main downsides to keep in mind? Let’s find out!
The main benefit of growing a Boston fern indoors is getting some air purification effects in return. After all, what could be better than having a pot with fresh fronds that work to protect your health?
There’s a catch, though.
While some plants, like the Peace Lily from NASA’s studies, are known to remove a whole lot of impurities, the Boston fern’s range is a bit limited. For one, it’s not particularly effective against benzene, trichloroethylene, or ammonia.
That’s not to say that it won’t improve indoor air quality, though. There are still a few ways that the bushy Boston fern can help.
In fact, Dr. Bill Wolverton — one of the scientists involved with NASA’s air quality studies — mentioned that the Nephrolepis exaltata is one of the best plants in terms of purifying air from common pollutants.
Many people tend to think that carcinogenic chemicals are only found in industrial settings and that their homes are safe from that risk.
The issue here is that formaldehyde is more common than you’d expect.
Take, for instance, how fuel stoves and space heaters give off formaldehyde, among other dangerous gasses. Plus, many pressed wood products (particleboards) contain urea-methanal polymers that can also be a source of formaldehyde contamination indoors.
With too many accumulated formaldehyde particles in the air, you risk symptoms like:
- Eye irritation
- Shortness of breath
As it happens, a moderately sized Boston fern pot (8 inches) can remove up to 1,863 micrograms of formaldehyde per hour. That said, it’s still important to note that the actual efficiency here will depend on several factors, including temperature fluctuations.
Xylene can be used as a solvent in anti-rust sprays, sealants, paint thinners, glue, printer inks, magic markers, and even some pesticides. All of which can be easily released into the air and inhaled if there isn’t enough ventilation.
Once you inhale xylene, your body only excretes a minor amount (10%) without metabolizing.
Usually, a one-time exposure can cause a bit of mucosal and gastric irritation, but in the long term, it could cause problems in cognition and coordination. For pregnant ladies, the risks can include developmental effects (skeletal abnormalities and low birth weight) on the growing fetus.
Potted Boston ferns are also capable of removing around 208 micrograms of xylene pollutants per hour from indoor air circulation.
Much like xylene, toluene can be found as a solvent in paints and adhesives. Plus, it also has similar irritant effects on the eyes, gastric tract, respiratory mucosa, and nervous system.
Keep in mind that children might be at greater risk from exposure to toluene since they have a larger ratio between lung area and body weight.
While toluene might not accumulate a lot indoors, it’s still better to stay on the safe side and have a plant like Boston fern on standby!
These ferns can pick up volatile organic compounds (VOCs) through phytoremediation to boost air quality, whether it’s formaldehyde, xylene, or toluene.
This one might be so obvious, but many people skip it when they’re thinking of the benefits of owning a potted fern.
Boston ferns, like a whole lot of other plants out there, are capable of photosynthesis. If you go back to science lessons in school, you’ll remember that this means that it can take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen back into the air circulation.
Of course, during the night, the process is reversed, which means that the fern will take in oxygen from the room. That’s where things get a bit tricky.
Some people might hesitate before leaving plants in their bedrooms as they sleep since they believe that the extra carbon dioxide can be dangerous.
However, that’s rarely a concern that you need to worry about.
The net amount of carbon dioxide that fern pushes back into your bedroom at night doesn’t pose a danger to your health at all. In fact, having someone spend the night over might lead to more carbon dioxide than the potted plant!
So, you can enjoy an extra amount of clean oxygen during the day without having to remove the fern from your room for the night.
Knowing the benefits of a plant is great, but finding ways to put those merits to good use is a whole different story, and it’s often easier said than done!
So, let’s take a look at a few possible applications for the Boston fern’s versatile benefits:
Boston ferns make excellent ornamental plants, and there’s absolutely no shame in just wanting to get it for its good looks.
Add to that the fact that it’s an evergreen perennial that thrives nicely in hanging baskets, and you get a perfect mix of low-maintenance and welcoming vibes.
So, you might want to keep the potted fern in your bedroom or workspace to lighten up the mood.
Plus, the Nephrolepis exaltata is perfectly safe for pets. So, you don’t even have to worry about your curious little kitty playing around the bushy green fronds!
If you have a room full of particleboards, you could opt to have the Boston fern pot placed there to reduce the impact of formaldehyde pollution.
Most commonly, you’ll find pressed wood in items like shelving, storage units, and thermo-acoustic insulation layers.
However, if you’re unsure, you can always contact the furniture manufacturer to ask if it’s made out of MDF and whether it uses formaldehyde resin and polymers as adhesives.
The Boston fern might be just what you need if you suffer from sore throats, cracking skin, irritated sinuses, nose bleeds, or chapped lips due to dry air.
According to Healthline, the fern helps maintain moisture content indoors. This happens through the transpiration of water through the pores on foliage.
Keep in mind that with tropical plants, deciphering the humidity demands can get a bit complicated, but we’ll get to that in a minute!
Since VOCs like xylene and toluene are common in alkyds, thinners, sealants, and varnish, you can move the potted fern closer to soak up the harmful particles from a freshly painted wall.
Similarly, you can keep the Boston fern next to you if you tend to use nail polish a lot, especially if it has toluene. This way, you can keep up with your nail care routine with minimal exposure to pollutants!
This makes the Boston fern a good option for workshops or DIY rooms if you’re the crafty type.
Aside from looking stunning and helping with air quality, the Boston fern can also boost indoor acoustics.
Researchers found that the fern can absorb around 98% of sound waves at 1600 Hz. Keep in mind that the soil itself can also contribute to the net sound absorption coefficient.
Sure, if you have a recording studio, you might not be ready to substitute all your acoustic and insulation foam with Boston fern pots just yet.
However, a large, healthy, and thriving plant could help keep some of the urban noise out while adding a decorative touch to the place.
While scientists like Bill Wolverton find that Boston ferns are great for improving air quality, the plant still hasn’t gained a clear reputation for this benefit.
Why is that? Well, the only major downside in Wolverton’s eyes was that it’s not as easy to grow indoors.
Let’s take a closer look at the common problems that you might come across if you decide to grow the Nephrolepis exaltata indoors:
The main issue that new plant parents struggle with when trying to grow Boston ferns indoors is the humidity.
You have to keep in mind that these ferns are tropical. So, to get them to thrive, you need to mimic their natural habitat in terms of indirect sunlight and high moisture content in the air.
Ideally, you’ll have to keep the humidity at a minimum of 50%. However, since that could be too high for some homes, you might need a humidifier, a mister, or a pebble tray.
Alternatively, some people just opt to keep the ferns in their bathrooms, where the steam from showers can help the plant thrive.
What you’ll want to avoid at all costs is placing the Boston fern next to a source of hot, dry air, like radiators and vents.
Similarly, you’re better off keeping the plant away from windows that get direct sunlight. Otherwise, you’ll dry out the soil and turn the foliage crunchy.
Although Boston ferns are slow growers, some people find that they leave behind a mess of fallen fronds. Unfortunately, these aren’t even fresh and green leaves.
Instead, they could be brown and crispy. This means you might step on the mess, turning the leaves to fine dust that can be particularly hard to get out of carpets.
That’s why some people move the pot to the porch when it starts shedding.
However, that’s not always practical since you might want to keep it indoors year-round for maximum air purification benefits. Maybe you just don’t live somewhere where the outdoor climate meets the Boston fern’s USDA hardiness zones 9-11.
In that case, you can try to clear the carpets around the pot and prepare for regular clean-ups.
While you can get away with watering your outdoor Boston fern multiple times per week, the same can’t be said for indoor pots.
This is because they’re less likely to lose moisture through soil evaporation and foliage transpiration. So, it’s always recommended to test the soil with your fingers before watering your indoor Boston fern.
Save the extra effort on watering and put it into seasonal fertilizing. After all, the potting mix might not be enough to keep the plant going through the growing season (summer and spring) on its own.
One of the downsides of having a fern with dense foliage and a lot of moisture around it is the bugs it’ll attract.
If you leave a window or a door open often, you’ll see how bad things can get. Before you know it, your home will buzz with annoying mosquitoes.
So, you might want to keep any entrance points closed to keep insects from hovering and nesting around the cool and humid Boston fern pot. This is particularly true around the summertime.
It’s also possible to use cuttings of rosemary or mint indoors next to the fern.
Their impact isn’t a drastic fix at all, but they might just help deter a few mosquitoes away. Plus, they add a divine aroma that goes nicely with the Boston fern’s good looks!
From removing carcinogenic VOCs to buffering noise pollution, there are a lot of Boston fern benefits to consider.
The key is to pick the best placement to be able to make the most out of each and every advantage. For instance, brand-new painted rooms, craft workshops, and places with fuel heaters can all be good opportunities for the fern’s air purification powers to shine.
Just remember to stick to the proper care guide to provide the ideal humidity, sun exposure, and watering frequency. With a touch of maintenance, you’ll reap the Boston fern benefits for years to come!
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.