Boston fern Nephrolepis exaltata 'Elegantissima'

👤 Non-toxic to humans
🐾 Non-toxic to pets
🌸 Not blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
sword fern 'Elegantissima'


The plant commonly known as the Boston fern or sword fern features gracefully arching fronds that give it a lush, full appearance. Each frond is composed of leaflets, also called pinnae, that line the central stalk. The pinnae are small, with a slightly serrated or toothed edge, providing a delicate and feathery look. The 'Elegantissima' variety is distinguished by its variegated leaves, where the green foliage is accented with a creamy white or yellow color, giving the fern an elegant and decorative quality. The fronds can be quite long and are typically a rich, bright green, adding a sense of vitality and freshness to its surroundings. These characteristics together create an eye-catching display of foliage that cascades beautifully, making the Boston fern a popular choice for hanging baskets or as an accent in a lush, indoor garden setting.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Boston Fern, Sword Fern, Fishbone Fern, Wild Boston Fern, Tuber Ladder Fern, Bostonien, Boston Fern 'Elegantissima'.

    • Common names

      Nephrolepis biserrata, Nephrolepis exaltata var. bispinosa, Nephrolepis exaltata var. exaltata, Aspidium exaltatum, Polypodium exaltatum, Nephrodium exaltatum.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      The Boston fern is generally considered to be non-toxic to humans. Ingestion of any part of the plant is not known to cause any significant adverse effects.

    • To pets

      For pets, the Boston fern is also recognized as non-toxic. It is safe for both cats and dogs, and ingestion typically does not lead to any serious symptoms of poisoning.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Height

      2-3 feet (60-90 cm)

    • Spread

      2-3 feet (60-90 cm)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area

      Tropical regions


  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Decorative Appeal: The 'Boston Fern' has long, feathery fronds that add lushness and a tropical feel to any room or garden. Its graceful arching fronds are an attractive choice for hanging baskets and plant stands.
    • Humidity Provider: Boston Ferns release moisture into the air through a process called transpiration, which can be beneficial in dry indoor environments.
    • Easy to Care For: It is relatively low-maintenance, making it a suitable plant for beginners or those with a busy lifestyle.
    • Versatile Growth: This fern adapts well to both indoor and outdoor conditions, making it versatile for different gardening projects.
    • Temperature Buffer: It can help moderate the temperature in its immediate area, contributing to a cooler environment in hot weather.
    • Companion Planting: Works well with other shade-loving plants in garden beds or containers, encouraging biodiversity.
    • Wildlife Habitat: In outdoor settings, it can provide shelter for small creatures like frogs and beneficial insects.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    This plant is not used for medical purposes.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • As a natural humidifier: The Boston fern, through its normal transpiration process, can increase the humidity in a room, making it suitable for dry climates or rooms with air conditioning.
    • For aesthetic aquascaping: Boston fern can be used in non-submerged areas of aquariums to add a lush, green accent to aquascapes.
    • As a living mulch: When planted densely in garden beds, Boston ferns can serve as living mulch, helping to retain soil moisture and suppress weed growth.
    • In creative art projects: The fronds of the Boston fern can be incorporated into floral arrangements or used to create natural art pieces or patterns.
    • For pet enrichment: Non-toxic to cats and dogs, it can provide sensory stimulation and a safe plant for pets to interact with.
    • As a sound absorber: The dense foliage of the Boston fern can help to absorb sound, making them useful in echoey rooms or noisy areas.
    • In film and theater production: Often used in set design to evoke a certain mood or create a realistic backdrop.
    • As a gift plant: Because of its lush appearance and symbolism of sincerity, the Boston fern is often given as a housewarming gift.
    • In educational settings: Can be used to teach students about plant care and horticulture.
    • For photography props: The texture and fullness of the Boston fern make it an excellent prop or background in plant photography.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The Boston fern is not typically associated with specific Feng Shui practices but can contribute to the overall balance and flow of chi in a space by adding a sense of purification and natural beauty, as well as by promoting a sense of tranquility and well-being.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The Boston fern is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Purification: Nephrolepis exaltata 'Elegantissima', commonly known as Boston Fern, is often associated with purification because of its ability to filter indoor air and remove toxins.
    • Humility: As a species that thrives in the understory of forests, the Boston Fern symbolizes humility and modesty.
    • Serenity: With its soft, feathery fronds, the Boston Fern is thought to bring a sense of calm and peace, symbolizing tranquility.
    • Secret Bond of Love: Boston Ferns are traditionally given as a gift to convey the private, confidential nature of a relationship, often indicating a secret bond of love.
    • Eternal Youth: Due to their lush, verdant appearance, Boston Ferns are symbolic of vitality and eternal youth.

Every 3-7 days
500 - 2500 Lux
Every 2 years
Spring to Summer
As needed
  • water dropWater

    For the Boston fern, water thoroughly whenever the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. This could be about once a week, but you should always check the moisture level first rather than watering on a strict schedule since environmental factors can affect how quickly the soil dries out. Generally, during each watering, evenly pour enough water until it begins to drain from the bottom of the pot, which may be approximately half a gallon for a standard indoor pot. Avoid letting the plant sit in water as it can lead to root rot. In drier environments or during the hot season, the Boston fern may require more frequent watering, but always gauge by the soil moisture.

  • sunLight

    For the Boston fern, the best lighting condition is bright, indirect light. A spot near a north-facing window or a few feet away from a south-facing window where direct sunlight is diffused would be ideal. Avoid placing it in direct sunlight, as this can cause the fronds to scorch, while too little light could result in sparse, unhealthy growth.

  • thermometerTemperature

    The Boston fern thrives best in temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It can tolerate a minimum temperature down to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit and a maximum up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but extreme temperatures should be avoided for prolonged periods. Maintaining a consistent temperature within this range will promote healthy growth and prevent stress on the plant.

  • scissorsPruning

    Trim your Boston fern to remove any brown or dead fronds at the base, which encourages healthy growth and improves the plant's appearance. Light pruning can be done any time of the year, but the best time for substantial pruning is in spring before new growth begins. Pruning once per season is generally sufficient unless the plant experiences stress that causes more frequent browning of fronds.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    The Boston fern thrives in a well-draining soil mix, with peat moss, perlite, and pine bark. A slightly acidic to neutral pH of 5.5 to 6.5 is optimal.

  • plantRepotting

    Boston ferns should be repotted every 2-3 years or when they outgrow their pots, typically in the spring.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Boston ferns favor high humidity levels, around 50-60%, for optimal growth and lush foliage.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Place in indirect light, high humidity, and water when topsoil is dry.

    • Outdoor

      Partial shade, shelter from wind, keep soil moist, and ensure high humidity.

    • Hardiness zone

      9-11 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    The Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Elegantissima') begins its life cycle as a spore, rather than a seed, which germinates in moist, warm conditions to develop into a prothallus, the gametophyte stage. The prothallus, which is a small, heart-shaped structure, produces both male and female gametes that, upon fertilization, give rise to a new sporophyte—the leafy plant we recognize as the fern. This young fern develops from the archegonium, the female reproductive organ on the gametophyte. As the sporophyte matures, it develops fronds that unroll from a coiled position in a process called circinate vernation. These fronds are the primary photosynthetic organs and over time they will form spore cases, or sori, on their undersides when the plant reaches maturity. The spores are then released to begin the life cycle anew when conditions are suitable.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring to Summer

    • The Boston fern, scientifically known as Nephrolepis exaltata 'Elegantissima', is best propagated through division, which is typically done in the spring or early summer when the plant is actively growing. To propagate by division, carefully remove the plant from its pot and gently tease apart the fronds and their associated roots into smaller sections, making sure that each division has a healthy set of roots. These divisions can then be potted into their own containers filled with a peat-based potting mix, ensuring to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. It is important to maintain high humidity around the newly potted ferns, which can be achieved by covering the pots with plastic bags or placing them in a greenhouse environment. With proper care and conditions, the divisions will establish and grow into new plants, replicating the beauty of the parent Boston fern.