The first thing to do when you have a dead or dying boston fern plant is to remove it from its pot and place it in a container with plenty of room around it. If possible, put the container into a sunny window so that the sun will warm up the container.
If you are unable to get your hands on a container with plenty of room around it, then you might try placing the plant in a plastic bag. You could also wrap the plant in newspaper and put it into another plastic bag. Then place both bags inside a larger one filled with sand (or pebbles) and leave them outside overnight.
This method works well if there is no wind blowing at all during the night time period.
Once the plant is in its new container, water it regularly with tap water until the soil becomes slightly moist. Do not over water! Too much moisture may cause rot.
After watering, make sure to shake out any excess soil before putting the plant back into its pot.
You can continue to keep the plants watered with regular tap water as long as they remain in their containers and do not become wilted or wilt under their own weight.
Once the roots are growing out of the bottom of the pot, you will need to plant the whole container into the ground.
Before planting it into the ground, put some slow-release fertilizer into the bottom of the hole (following instructions on the package).
When the time comes to plant it into the ground, you may need to take off some of the roots first if they become damaged or are growing in a strange direction. Carefully cut around the base of the roots with some sharp shears and then gently peel away any that are damaged.
Then place the container into a hole deep enough so that the top of it is slightly below the soil level (this will allow for watering). If there are no native boston ferns growing in your area, then a good place to plant it would be somewhere in shade; perhaps under a tree or at the edge of some tall shrubbery.
The container should remain in place for at least one whole growing season; otherwise, it will not become well rooted into the ground. Depending on where you live, two or three years may pass before moving it.
After a period of time (but no less than one year), you may want to take up the container and see how well the roots have taken. If most of the roots are completely circling the container, then it is ready to be planted elsewhere in your yard.
Be sure to take off any dead or dying branches before transplanting it. Also, be sure to water it in well after the move.
When repotting, you may need to trim away some of the older, larger fronds because they will no longer get adequate sunlight once planted into the ground.
Pinching And Pruning Boston Ferns
The boston fern can be a fairly quick grower if allowed to do so and will need to be trimmed and pinched back every once in a while in order to keep it from getting too large. If you want a smaller plant, just trim off any new leaves that sprout towards the center of the plant; otherwise, it will try to send its growth upward in an attempt to reach the sun.
If you allow the plant to grow outward without trimming, then it will produce multiple leaflets on each frond and these fronds will be larger in size.
Inspect the plant regularly and remove any dead or rotting leaves whenever necessary.
Fertilizing Boston Ferns
A good time to fertilize your boston ferns is just before they begin their growing season (which is usually when they start producing new fronds). If you choose to fertilize, then a good liquid type plant food that is high in potash (not nitrogen) would be best. Follow the instructions on the package for how much to use.
You should also remember to water thoroughly after applying the plant food in order to help it become absorbed by the plants roots.
If you prefer, you can also choose not to fertilize and allow the plants to grow at their own pace. Over-fertilizing can sometimes have negative effects on plants and perhaps slow their growth.
Propagating New Plants
The boston fern plant produces underground stems, called rhizomes, which can be dug up and separated in order to start new plants. This can be done any time of year, but is probably best done in the springtime so the new plants will have time to establish themselves before the growing season begins.
Water each newly dug-up rhizome well before planting it into some moist potting soil. Each piece should be planted about as deep as it is long. Pat the soil firmly around the rhizome to help prevent it from moving and keep the rhizome somewhat upright.
Water again after planting.
Once planted, it should start growing fairly quickly. New leaves will eventually sprout from the top of the rhizome and new roots will begin to form at its base. When this occurs, you know it is time to separate another piece from it (see above).
Note: Whenever you dig up a rhizome, make sure to take some of the soil that it is growing in as this contains beneficial fungus which is used for helping the plant to get nutrients from the soil.
Propagating new plants from the rhizomes is not required, as your original plant can continue to produce new plants indefinitely as long as you take care of it (and it never completely dies out).
If you do decide to start new plants this way, make sure to label each with the name of the plant, the date, and any other information that is pertinent. It is also a good idea to keep a record of each new plant as they are propagated in a record book in order to keep track of what you have and when it was propagated, etc.
Which Boston Fern| S|| by NC Coile – 1996 – se-eppc.org
Plant Tissue Culture by P Pietropaolo – The American Biology Teacher, 1981 – online.ucpress.edu
Experimental evaluation and modelling of the sound absorption properties of plants for indoor acoustic applications by RC Benedict – American Fern Journal, 1921 – JSTOR