How to Propagate Boston Fern?

Boston Fern Propagation division methods

As someone who has nurtured a multitude of plants, I can attest that there are few joys in life as fulfilling as watching your green friends thrive. One such plant that has always fascinated me, and many other plant enthusiasts alike, is the Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata). This charming houseplant, with its lush green fronds and feathery leaves, can turn any space into a verdant paradise.

But have you ever wondered how to multiply this beautiful specimen? Yes, I’m talking about the art and science of Boston Fern propagation. Through this article, I’ll guide you on an exciting journey to propagate your Boston Ferns effectively. Also, here is a detailed article on how to care for Boston Fern

Boston Fern Propagation Basics

Before we dive deep, here’s a quick overview, in table form, of the Boston Fern propagation methods. This table will give you a good sense of what to expect in terms of the time, difficulty, and materials required for each method.

MethodTime for PropagationWorking TimeTotal TimeDifficulty LevelMaterials Required
DivisionBest in spring30 minutes2-3 weeksModerateSharp knife, New pot, Potting soil
SporesLate summer or early autumnSeveral hours across a few days6 months to a yearAdvancedSpore print paper, Sealed container, Potting soil, Ziplock bags

Boston Fern Propagation Methods

Having covered the basics, let’s now delve into each of the propagation methods in more detail. I’ll provide you with a step-by-step guide, including the materials you’ll need and the advantages and disadvantages of each method.


This is the simplest and quickest way to propagate Boston Ferns. It involves dividing the parent plant into several smaller sections, each with its own roots and fronds.

Start by gently removing the Boston Fern from its pot. Using a sharp, clean knife, carefully divide the root ball into smaller sections. Make sure each section has at least one healthy frond and a good portion of the root system. Repot each division into a new pot filled with a well-draining potting mix, and keep the soil lightly moist until you see new growth, which usually happens within 2-3 weeks.

Boston Fern Propagation methods Difficulty in Division

Materials Required:

  • A mature Boston Fern
  • A sharp, sterile knife
  • Several pots
  • Well-draining potting mix
  • Water


  1. Prepare the New Pots: Fill your new pots with a well-draining potting mix. Make sure the pots have good drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.
  2. Remove the Parent Plant: Gently remove the Boston Fern from its original pot, taking care not to damage its roots.
  3. Divide the Plant: Using a sharp, sterile knife, carefully divide the root ball into smaller sections. Each section should have at least one healthy frond and a portion of the root system.
  4. Repot the Divisions: Place each division into a new pot and firm the soil around the roots.
  5. Water the New Plants: Water the divisions thoroughly and place them in a warm, well-lit location with indirect sunlight.


Boston Ferns also reproduce naturally by releasing spores, tiny reproductive units that can be found on the undersides of the fronds. This method is more complex and time-consuming but allows you to produce a large number of new plants.

Start by identifying a mature frond with ripe, dark brown spore cases. Cut off the frond and place it spore-side-down on a piece of paper in a dry, cool area. After a few days, the spore cases will release the spores, leaving a fine, dust-like deposit on the paper.

Boston Fern Propagation spores methods

Materials Required:

  • A mature Boston Fern with ripe spores
  • A piece of paper or spore print paper
  • A seeding tray
  • Sterile seed-starting mix
  • Clear plastic lid or ziplock bags
  • Water


  1. Collect the Spores: Look for a mature frond with dark brown spore cases on the undersides. Cut off the frond and place it spore-side-down on a piece of paper. Leave it in a dry, cool area for a few days until the spores are released onto the paper.
  2. Prepare the Seeding Tray: Fill a seeding tray with a sterile seed-starting mix. Moisten the mix but ensure it’s not waterlogged.
  3. Sow the Spores: Sprinkle the spores lightly over the moist soil.
  4. Cover the Tray: Cover the seeding tray with a clear plastic lid or a ziplock bag. This helps maintain a humid environment for the spores to germinate.
  5. Wait for Germination: Place the tray in a location with indirect light and wait. Spore propagation is a slow process and may take several months for the spores to germinate and grow into small ferns.
  6. Transplant the Seedlings: Once the ferns have developed several leaves, they can be carefully transplanted into individual pots.

Overcoming Challenges in Boston Fern Propagation

Growing and propagating plants can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it’s not without its challenges. With Boston Ferns, certain issues can arise that might make the propagation process a little daunting. But fear not, armed with the right knowledge, these hurdles can be easily overcome.

1. Unsuccessful Spore Germination

One of the most common challenges with Boston Fern propagation, especially when using the spore method, is unsuccessful germination. If your spores aren’t germinating, it could be due to a few factors:

  • Poor Spore Quality: Make sure to collect spores from mature fern fronds with dark brown spore cases. Green or light brown cases may not be ripe and won’t germinate successfully.
  • Incorrect Conditions: Spores need specific conditions to germinate – high humidity and indirect light. If these aren’t maintained, the spores may not sprout.
  • Sterility Issues: Any contamination in the seed-starting mix or growing area can inhibit germination. Always use a sterile mix and clean your equipment thoroughly.

2. Divisions Not Taking Root

If your divisions are not taking root or showing signs of growth, consider the following potential issues:

  • Over-Dividing: If you divide the Boston Fern into too many sections, the divisions may struggle to take root. Each division needs a healthy piece of root and at least one frond to have a good chance of survival.
  • Incorrect Potting Mix: Boston Ferns prefer a well-draining potting mix. If the mix is too dense or waterlogged, the roots may rot before they get a chance to establish.

3. Browning Fronds

_Boston Fern Propagation Browning Fronds

After propagation, if the fronds on your new Boston Ferns start to turn brown, it could be due to:

  • Under or Overwatering: Boston Ferns like their soil to be consistently moist but not waterlogged. Adjust your watering schedule as necessary.
  • Lack of Humidity: Boston Ferns thrive in humid environments. If the air is too dry, the fronds can dry out and turn brown. Consider using a humidifier or placing the pot on a tray of pebbles and water to increase humidity.

While these challenges might seem overwhelming, remember that the journey of plant propagation is all about learning and adapting. Every setback is an opportunity to better understand your green companions and their needs.

For more details see the articles,

Tips to Propagate Boston Fern the Right Way

In the journey of plant propagation, sometimes a few pearls of wisdom can make all the difference. Based on my years of experience and a few trials and tribulations, I’ve gathered some tips to ensure your success in propagating Boston Ferns. I’ll guide you through both basic and advanced level tips to take you from a beginner to a seasoned plant parent.

Basic Tips

These tips are great for beginners and cover fundamental practices for propagating Boston Ferns:

  • Choose Healthy Parent Plants: Always start with a healthy, mature Boston Fern. Look for plants with vibrant green fronds and a robust root system. A healthy parent plant will produce healthier divisions or more viable spores.
  • Use the Right Tools: Whether you’re dividing the plant or collecting spores, make sure your tools are sharp and sterile to prevent any damage or disease transmission.
  • Mind the Conditions: Boston Ferns love humidity and indirect sunlight. Be sure to maintain these conditions during and after propagation to ensure healthy, thriving plants.

Water Propagation:

Boston Fern Propagation methods

This method is simple yet effective. It involves placing the division of the plant in water until it develops roots, after which it can be transferred to soil. Here’s how to do it:

  1. After dividing the parent plant, instead of potting the divisions directly into soil, place them in a jar of water.
  2. Make sure the base of the division is submerged, but the leaves are above the water surface.
  3. Place the jar in a location with indirect light and change the water every few days to prevent stagnation.
  4. Once you see roots developing, transfer the division to a pot with well-draining soil.

Soil Propagation:

Boston Fern Soil Propagation

This method is the most common way of propagating Boston Ferns. Here’s the step-by-step process:

  1. Prepare a new pot with well-draining potting mix.
  2. Divide the parent plant carefully, ensuring each division has a healthy frond and a portion of roots.
  3. Place the division in the new pot and firm the soil around the roots.
  4. Water thoroughly and place in a warm, well-lit location with indirect sunlight.

Advanced Tips

For those ready to level up their propagation game, here are some advanced tips:

  • Division Size: When dividing the parent plant, the larger the division, the quicker it will establish itself. But remember, larger divisions mean fewer total divisions from the parent plant.
  • Spore Storage: If you’ve collected more spores than you need, store them in a cool, dry place in a sealed container. They can remain viable for several years.
  • Patience with Spores: Spore propagation can test your patience, but remember, good things take time. It’s a slow process but can yield a large number of new plants.

FAQs About Boston Fern Propagation

Can I propagate Boston Fern in water?

Yes, you can propagate Boston Fern in water through division. Simply place the division in a jar of water, ensuring the roots are submerged but the fronds remain above the water. Once the roots have grown, you can transfer the division to a pot filled with soil.

How long does it take for a Boston Fern to root in water?

The rooting process can vary depending on the plant’s health and the environmental conditions. Typically, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months for roots to form when propagating in water.

Why are my Boston Fern fronds turning brown after propagation?

If the fronds on your newly propagated Boston Fern are turning brown, it could be due to inconsistent watering or a lack of humidity. These ferns prefer consistently moist soil and high humidity levels. Consider adjusting your watering routine and increasing the humidity around your fern.

When is the best time to propagate a Boston Fern?

The best time to propagate Boston Ferns is during their active growth period, which is usually spring or early summer. This gives the new plants plenty of time to establish themselves before the dormant winter period.

Can I propagate Boston Fern from a leaf?

Unlike some plants, Boston Ferns cannot be propagated from a leaf. They are best propagated through division or spores.

How long does it take for spores to germinate?

Spore germination can be a lengthy process. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months for spores to germinate. Patience is key when propagating Boston Ferns from spores!

About Christopher Evans

Hello, I'm Chris, the green-thumbed Founder of I'm passionate about bringing the beauty of nature indoors through houseplants and indoor gardening. Let's create healthier and more beautiful living spaces, one plant at a time!

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