Indoor plants

Propagation of the Boston fern: how to divide and propagate to the corridors of the Boston fern

The Boston fern ( Nephrolepis exaltata Bostoniensis), often called sword fern and derived from all cultivars of N. exaltata , is a popular Victorian houseplant. It remains one of the symbols par excellence of this period. Commercial production of Boston fern began in 1914 and includes about 30 tropical species of Nephrolepis grown as potted or landscape ferns. Of all the fern specimens, the Boston Fern is one of the most recognizable.

Spread of Boston fern

Spreading Boston ferns is not too difficult. Propagation of Boston ferns can be done by Boston fern shoots (also called Boston fern runners) or by dividing Boston fern plants. Boston fern runners can be removed from a mature mother plant by taking the counterweight whose runners have formed roots where they come into contact with the soil. In this way, Boston fern shoots create a new, distinct plant.

Historically, early nurseries in central Florida grew Boston fern plants in cypress covered shade beds for the eventual harvest of Boston fern runners from older plants to propagate the new Boston ferns. Once harvested, these Boston fern shoots were packed in bare roots or newspaper pots and sent to markets up north.

In the modern era, mother plants are kept in climate and environment controlled nurseries where Boston fern runners are collected (or more recently tissue cultured) to propagate Boston fern plants.

Propagation of Boston ferns by the Boston Fern Runners

When propagating Boston fern plants, simply remove the fern runner from the base of the plant, either by gently pulling on it or by cutting with a sharp knife. The runner does not need to be rooted, as it will easily develop roots where it comes into contact with the soil. The compensator can be planted immediately if it is removed by hand; however, if the compensator has been cut from the mother plant, it should be set aside for a few days to allow the cut to dry and heal.

Boston fern shoots should be planted in sterile soil in a container with a drainage hole. Plant the Boston fern sprout deep enough to stand and water lightly. Cover the spreading Boston fern with a clear plastic bag and place it under indirect bright light in a 60-70 F environment. (16-21 C.). When the shoot begins to show new growth, remove the bag and continue to keep it moist but not wet.

The Boston Fern Plant Division

Propagation can also be achieved by dividing the Boston fern plants. First let the fern roots dry a little, then remove the fern from its pot. Using a large serrated knife, cut the clump of fern in half, then in four, and finally in eight.

Cut a 1 to 2 cm section and cut all the roots except 1 ½ to 2 cm, small enough to fit in a 4 or 5 cm clay pot. Place a piece of pot or broken rock over the drainage hole and add a well-draining potting medium, covering the centre roots of the new ferns.

If the fronds look a bit sickly, they can be removed to reveal the buds of the emerging young Boston fern and fiddleheads. Keep the pot moist but not wet (place the pot on pebbles to absorb standing water) and watch your new baby Boston fern fly away.

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