Boston fern, Nephrolepis Exalta var. Bostoniensis, is a fern that is decendant of the Sword or Fishbone fern N. Exalta. Find facts and information on Boston fern, fern care, how to grow Boston ferns, and other Nephrolepis Species. Boston fern makes an excellent houseplant and can also be used to add plant texture to a gazebo, patio, or deck area. You can mix them in with baskets of maidenhair fern or asparagus fern to get a beautiful green plant mixture.
History of Boston Fern
In 1895, a florist near Boston found among his sword ferns a new variety of fern that had softer, longer, and more graceful foliage with more leaves. It was admired and was soon cultivated widely. The mutation-not due to hybridization evidently, but to a change of genes- went wild and, almost simultaneously, there appeared among the many thousands of Boston ferns, a half dozen strikingly different plants whose eleaves were ruffled and filled in multiple divisions. A constant influx of new and improved varieties soon followed so that more than 200 named varieties have come from this one extraordinary fern. At least 100 of these have been recognized as different varieties. Boston fern is so popular that it is often imitated in the form of silk plants. Silk plants, which are artificial are very popular as ways of decorating and adding greenery in places where the real fern will not grow.
Description of Boston Fern
Boston fern has luxuriant green leaves, with their length and width, and cutting differing among each variant species. Its leaves can be simple in appearance and range up to the extremely ornate leaves with the pinnates ranging from 1 to 5.
Growing and Propagating Boston Ferns
New plants are quicky started by detaching runner buds and potting them in a mixture of good garden soil, sand, and humus to which a little bone meal has been added. It is a fast growing plant. Boston fern should be kept moist but avoid overwatering the plant. Larger plants are best watered by immersing their pots in a pail of water for one hour. Do this twice a week or more often, depending on the dryness of your home. You may also set the plant outside during winter rains when the temperature is above 50 degrees. This process will be refreshing and cleansing to your plant. *Tip- It is much better to start a new plants than to continue to nurse old stock.
The fronds will look more lush if the plant is kept slightly rootbound, ferilized regularly, and if ther is ample humidity in the atmosphere. The fronds should be trimmed regularly to allow light and air to reach the new growth. Plantlets that revert to plain fishbone-type foliage should be removed as they are vigorous and can overwhelm more attractive foliage.
Nephrolepis Species and Cultivars
Members of the Nephrolepis genus have long, slender scaly stems (stolons) which produce new plants when they touch the soil. New plants that form on the stolons may be divided from the parent plant after they have produced two or more fronds. They should be placed in small pots that just contain the rootball. The species can also be propagated easily by division, meristem culture and spores (except the true Boston fern, N. Exaltata var. Bostoniensis, and its derivatives, which do not produce spores).
Most Nephrolepis species and cultivars are considered hardy enough for the amateur grower to be able to cultivate them inside the house as houseplants, or in an unheated greenhouse or outside in a sheltered area.
Nephrolepis Exaltata ( Sword fern, Fishbone fern)
This parent of Boston Fern is found in the temperate and tropical parts of Asia, Afrrica, Australia, and the Americas. This species was introduced to cultivation from Jamica in 1793 and quickly became a popular greenhouse plant with over 100 cultivars recorded to date. The fronds, which are larger and longer than the fronds of N. Cordifolia, are generally fairly stiff, dark green and will grow indefinitely. Growth is softer and more arching if the plant is cultivated in the shade, and warmth and humidity are provided.
Other Commonly Grown Nephrolepis Exaltata Cultivars
Verona, which has yellow-green, lacy fronds; cv. Childsii, which has luxuriant, massed leaflets; cv. Gretnae, cv. Rooseveltii and cv. Randolpholii, all of which have very long fronds; cv. Elegantissima and cv. Whitmanii, the very lacy members of the family; cv. Hilsii, with vigorous, coarse-textured, pendulous fronds, each of which has a variation of dark to light green and wavy leaflets; and cv. Smithii and cv. Susi Wong, which are the extremely finely divided varieties.
Another Nephrolepis Species is Nephrolepis Cordifolia, (tuber sword fern, common fishbone fern in souther parts of Australia, herringbone fern). This species is widely distributed throughout the world from teh tropics to the subtropics, where it grows freely. The fronds are up to 3 ft. with long, narrow and a dull green color. This species is distinquished from other species because of its oval, brown scaly tubers on subterranean stolons. It is hardy, fast growing, very easy to cultivate and will tolerate long periods of cold and full sunlight. It can be propagated by means of the tubers, which form new growth if separated from the parent plant. The variety N. Cordifolia var. Plumosa is also easy to cultivate. Its long and attractive fronds are displayed particularly well in hanging baskets.