Boston Fern – Nephrolepis exaltata

Boston Fern – Nephrolepis exaltata

Common Name: Boston Fern

Botanical Name: Nephrolepis exaltata, nee-FROL-e-pis

Decorative Life: Years.


Harvest Instructions:

Any form and combination of nitrogen fertilizers seem to work equally well in producing high quality and long lasting plants. Plants grown under high relative humidity (90-95%) produced more dry weight than when grown under lower humidity (55-60%).

Family Roots:
  • Member of the Polypodiaceae (common-fern family).
  • Native to the Tropics in both hemispheres including southern Florida where some members of this genus are considered weeds because of their aggressive growth habit.
  • Relatives are the many ferns including Staghorn, Maidenhair, Sword, Brake and Holly.
  • Fronds (leaves) are wiry and arching to 12 inches long with many leaflets (pinnae) arranged in a pinnate (feather-like) fashion.
Storage Specifics:

Chill sensitive, store above 55 degrees F but still does well if transported in 7 days or less at 50F. However, in one study using ‘Florida Ruffle’, this cultivar did equally well stored at 45 or 65F for two weeks regardless if sleeved or not sleeved.

  • The specific epithet name “exaltata” means very tall.
  • Nephrolepis: Greek for kidney scale, referring to the shape of the spore cases on the underside of the fronds (leaves).
  • This genus often mutates giving rise to many forms and types, especially in the species N. exaltata. Some of the changes are so great that the resulting plants look little like Nephrolepis genera members.
  • The common name Sword Fern also refers to Polystichum munitum that has wider, darker fronds (leaves) up to 24 inches long. As with all true ferns, runners can be formed that can be left to grow or cut off. If they come in contact with moist soil, they can root and develop into another plant.
  • Members of this family do not produce flowers as they reproduce by spores. Spores are contained in sori or “fruit dots” and appear as dark spots on the lower surface of mature leaves called fronds. Will generally grow well in light levels bright enough to read a newspaper in comfort.
Recent Research Findings:

Poole and Conover (1993) stored ‘Bostoniensis compacta’ at 36-46F from 1-4 days and subsequently noted frond tip distortion and death within a few days. Carter et al. (1996) showed that treatment during production with the growth regulator dikegulac greatly improved plant quality.

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