Boston ferns are a popular choice for indoor plants. Not only do they add character to the house, but they’re also easy to maintain.
An affordable way to get more ferns is by propagating them. If you already have one at home, you may wonder how to propagate Boston fern.
Lucky for you, you can successfully propagate this fern in three ways. Read on to learn more about the different methods.
Two common and easy techniques to propagate Boston ferns are from dividing a section and propagating from runners.
The third procedure is through spores, but you’ll mostly see only gardeners use this.
The first method is by dividing the plant into small sections. Before anything else, gather these tools for a successful Boston fern propagation.
- Sharp shears
- A sheet of paper or plastic
- Fresh soil or potting mix
The first step is to remove the Boston fern plant from its original pot. Try not to tug too hard on the leaves since they can be delicate.
This step removes the whole root system, which prepares the plant for division.
Then, place the plant on a sheet of paper or plastic.
Next, remove the potting mix with your hands and expose the roots. You can use gloves, or your bare hands, to comb through the roots.
Depending on how much you want to repot, you can divide the roots into as few sections as you wish. Make sure that each section has the same amount of roots.
Typically, it’ll be easy to separate the roots. However, you can also use your shears to make it easier or for any tangled roots.
You won’t have to worry about being too careful at this point because the roots can tolerate any rough treatment.
Place one of the divided sections into a new pot. Do the same with the rest of the sections if you’re propagating many Boston fern plants.
As for the main plant where you got the sections from, place it back into its original pot, including the soil.
Then, fill the new pots with your potting mix, ensuring the roots get covered well. Using your hands, press on the soil lightly to compress some of the soil.
Water the soil until water starts running from under the pot. This step ensures that the potting mix has enough moisture for the new divisions to grow properly.
Another method is by cutting the runners off your Boston fern. Here are some tools you’ll need:
- Sharp shears
- Fresh soil or potting mix
If you have a mature Boston fern plant, it’ll be easy to find good runners. You can identify them through their leafless stems that poke out from the pot.
Sometimes, runners already have grown their own roots and are ready to get replanted.
However, it’s important not to choose any brown or crispy runners. These types typically won’t have any chance to grow anymore.
Once found, cut the healthy runners from the base as close as you can using sharp shears. You can also tug them if they’re almost falling off the parent plant.
If possible, try to cut the runners with the roots still intact for a better chance of propagation.
Some plant owners set the cut runners aside for a few days to heal before repotting. This step isn’t necessary for others, mainly if you collected the runners by hand.
The next thing to do is to place the runners in a separate pot filled with potting mix. Allow the roots of the runner to be covered in a healthy potting mix to ensure good growth.
It’s crucial that the runner comes in contact with the soil at many points. This contact will determine the new root placements for your new Boston fern plant.
If the potting mix isn’t moist, water the runners until the top inch feels damp. Two ways to check this are using your finger or a moisture meter.
Keep in mind that the soil shouldn’t have too much water since this may kill the plant.
Now all you have to do is wait for new stems to sprout. While waiting, try not to touch or water it too often.
Since the plant is at its delicate stage, you may also want to avoid lifting any new stems or the runner itself. Doing so can damage the roots.
Propagating from spores isn’t necessarily a popular method for new owners of Boston fern. Typically, this method is more common for seasoned gardeners since it’s meticulous and takes more time.
For this method, you’ll need:
- Peat moss and compost
- White paper
- Shears or scissors
- Heavy book or box
- Pot with a saucer
- Clear plastic bag
- Jar (optional)
If you don’t have a mature plant yet, you can easily buy spores from garden stores and start from there.
However, a completely healthy and fully-grown Boston fern can grow spores on its own. You can find them on the underside of the leaves.
Spores will have a dark brown to almost black color. They also form a neat line and aren’t hard to miss.
To collect the spores, cut the ripe fronds off and place them on clean paper. It’ll be easier to see the collected spores later if it’s on white paper.
Place another piece of paper on top to sandwich the fronds inside. Then, place something heavy on top, such as a book, or a box.
Check on the spores after a few days. You should see the spores come off the leaves and become brown particles.
Collect the spores in a jar for later use.
Before planting the spores, create the compost first.
Prepare an equal ratio of peat moss and compost in a container. You can also prepare the compost together on a garden plot if you have one.
Next, sterilize a pot with your preferred method and wait until dry. Then, you can finally add the compost to the pot.
Aside from a sterilized pot, you’ll also need to sterilize the soil. You can do this by covering the soil with a paper towel and pouring boiling water.
Soil sterilization is crucial when propagating from spores. It creates an ideal environment free from mold and other harmful microorganisms.
Afterward, let the soil cool down.
When the soil cools down, remove the paper towel and scatter the collected spores evenly onto the compost. You don’t have to worry about covering the spores since they’ll grow just fine this way.
Then, place a clear plastic bag over the pot to preserve moisture. It’ll also keep the spores away from any possible contamination.
Place the pot on top of a saucer with water. This way, the soil can absorb only as much water as it needs.
It’s important to remember that watering the spores directly can harm them and prevent them from growing.
Once the compost is moist, keep the plastic bag and place the pot somewhere warm. It should be away from any harsh sunlight, though.
Throughout its propagation, the compost should always be moist. You can add a few drops of hot water if the compost dries up.
Spores can usually take up to several months before they sprout. When they sprout, they’ll look like slimy green seeds.
However, these sprouts still aren’t big enough for a transplant.
Continue taking care of the sprouts until they grow at least three fronds. By this point, your new Boston fern plants are ready to get repotted.
Taking care of your newly propagated Boston fern is relatively easy. Once you’ve mastered the right conditions, you’ll be sure to always have healthy ferns.
Boston ferns may not need a lot of water to survive, but they still need some moisture.
The ideal schedule to water Boston ferns is every week during the summer months. You may need to water more frequently if the plant grows outside.
In the cooler months, the plant will be dormant. That means you can water it once every other week instead.
The important thing is that the fronds don’t dry out.
Boston ferns naturally grow under taller trees in the wild. So, it makes sense that they prefer indirect sunlight.
Direct sunlight can burn the fronds, while too much shade can lead to lackluster leaves. You can place the plant near a window that receives indirect sunlight for a few hours daily.
The best soil for Boston ferns is a mix of compost and peat, especially if they’re growing outdoors.
For indoor ferns, use a potting mix with peat and pearlite. The pearlite increases the drainage ability of the mixture, preventing root rots.
Adding fertilizer to the soil mixture can also help the plant’s health. Outdoor ferns can benefit from the soil with an inch of compost and mulch.
On the other hand, indoor ferns will need liquid fertilizer once a month during the spring and summer months.
The best fertilizer for Boston ferns is the 20-10-20 liquid fertilizer.
That means the fertilizer contains 20 percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphorus, 20 percent potassium, and 50 percent solution of micronutrients and inactive ingredients.
Boston ferns thrive in temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature goes below 35 and above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, it can harm your fern.
Since they grow in sub-tropical areas, Boston ferns do well in areas with high humidity.
At a minimum, try to main at least 50 to 60 percent humidity. However, the ideal humidity level is 80 percent.
Aside from propagating Boston fern in soil, you can also propagate in water. The process will be different, but it should give you a healthy set of Boston fern plants.
Here are some of the things you’ll need to propagate the plant in water:
- Glass container
- Liquid Fertilizer
- Stones or gravel (optional)
From the mother plant, divide a section from the plant. Make sure to include the roots when dividing, as leaves alone won’t propagate.
Each section should have at least a few fronds for the plant to propagate properly.
Bring the section under running water to remove all of the soil attached to the roots. You can lightly use your hands to help with the rinsing if needed.
Also, remove any rotten or dead roots. These pieces will spread and compromise the propagation process, leaving you with a wilted plant.
Carefully place the section of the Boston fern onto the container.
At this point, you can add some gravel or small stones to keep the roots in place. Place enough until the roots are stable, making sure that the stones don’t cover any of the fronds.
Fill your preferred glass container with dechlorinated water until it covers the roots. Chlorinated water can harm your plants, especially at high levels.
To keep your new batch of fern looking fresh, place it in an area where it can get a bright but indirect light. Additionally, change the water every week to prevent any algae formation.
As an option, you can also add a few drops of liquid fertilizer into the water once a month during the summer to keep your Boston fern healthy.
Boston ferns are a great addition to any plant family or as decoration in your home. What’s more, they’re low maintenance and easy to grow.
Now that you know how to propagate Boston fern, you can use any of these methods to grow yourself new ones.
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.