Boston Ferns are a great non-toxic and fast-growing plant so perfect to have around the home.
Anyone who loves these plants as much as we do, will also probably be desperate to know what methods you can use to propagate them, as well as how easy and quick it is… Well, the good news is that it couldn’t be easier if you want to do it through division. There are also a few other methods that are a little tricker but we will cover everything in this post to make sure you pick the right method for you and your plant.
In this post, we will go over the step by step process as well as what tools you’ll need, issues you may face and all of our top tips.
Why Propagate a Boston Fern?
Firstly, lots of people want to simply multiply the number of plants they have in their urban jungle without actually having to spend any more money.
Another reason is if it has become too big for the space or quite leggy. These plants grow pretty quickly so this can happen more often with these ferns compared to your other houseplants. Dividing your plant and pruning your back can help shape your plant better and it would be a waste if you didn’t make use of the offcuts.
You may also be forced to propagate your Boston Fern if part of it is sunburnt or starting to die.
What tools/equipment will I need?
Let’s start off with the easiest part as you want to make sure you have everything you need before making the first cut.
A healthy and mature Boston Fern
Fresh soil and water
Newspaper or plastic sheet if propagating indoors
What methods can I use to propagate my Boston Fern?
So this is where things get interesting. There are several different methods for a Boston Fern, some of which are easier than others. The most common method is through the division of the mother plant. For this, you need quite a bushy and mature plant as it requires cutting away a chunk. You might also want to propagate through runners and spores but these methods are a lot tricker. Below we will go over the two methods of division and runners but using spores is a lot more difficult so we tend to leave that to the professionals.
How to propagate a Boston Fern by division
Take your plant out of its pot
To be able to divide your Boston Fern you’ll need to cut sections of the plant, including the root system. To do this, carefully take your plant out of its pot. These plants have quite delicate leaves so don’t tug too hard at the plant to remove it or you risk causing quite a bit of damage.
Shake off the potting mix around the roots and run your fingers through the roots if they are quite packed together.
Separate the sections
How many sections you cut off, or how large those new plants are is completely up to you and depends on the size of your plant really! To cut the plant, use your shears to slice the root system. You’ll have to cut directly through some roots to do this but don’t worry as this won’t affect the health of your plant.
Place in water or fresh potting mix
Pot the main mother Boston Fern plant back into its original pot (or downsize to a smaller pot if you have taken away a large amount of the Fern).
Now the next step is to decide whether you want to grow your new offshoots in water before potting into soil. You only really the middle step of water if the sections have very short roots but usually with division we go straight into potting mix.
Continue normal Boston Fern care
If your new plants are now in fresh potting mix then you can care for them as you would your mother plant. If you’ve chosen to grow the roots a little more in water first, then you want to refresh that water every couple of days and repot into potting mix once the roots reach a good few inches in length.
How to propagate your Boston Fern using runners
If you don’t want to remove a whole section of your Fern, then this method is for you!
Locate several healthy runners
You may notice some leafless stems poking out of your Fern, these are called runners and can be used to propagate. Don’t choose any runners that are brown or crispy as you won’t have much success.
Remove the runners from the mother plant
Remove the runners from the plant at the closest possible point to the plant. Make sure the cutting includes a little section of the root system as this will significantly increase success.
Place the runners in potting mix
Choose a good size pot and fill with fresh, high-quality draining mix. Next, bury the root system into the soil and lay out the runner on top of the pot. You need to make sure that the runner is coming into contact with the soil at several points as this is where roots will form and your new Boston Fern will begin.
Keep the potting mix moist
You want to get a good balance of keeping the soil moist but not waterlogged for your Boston Fern runners. Feeling the top of the soil as well as using a moisture meter should help you find a good middle ground.
Now all you need to do is keep up a good watering routine and wait. You might be tempted to regularly check in on growth but avoid lifting or even touching the runner as this can impact the success rate and damage the delicate roots. Soon enough you’ll be seeing new growth in no time.
Resume usual Boston Fern care
Now that you’re seeing new growth appear from the runner, you can resume usual care.
Boston Fern Propagation FAQs
Below you’ll find all the answers to make sure that yours is a success!
Ideally, you want to start in spring/summer for the best chance at success. Make sure that any wintery cold weather is behind you so that your new plants are growing in warmer months with a lot of sunshine. This will speed up growth, help the mother plant recover and will also help to avoid root rot.
If you choose the division method, you can get away with doing it in cooler temperatures as you aren’t growing cuttings and the process is much quicker.
When propagating through division, rooting hormone is not as needed as each section will already have established roots. We also don’t tend to recommend rooting hormone for runners as they are so delicate.
Unfortunately, no. The only way is by division of the mother plant, the runner method or through spores (but this is a very length and often unsuccessful process).
Common problems when propagating a Boston Fern
Using division means that you’ll see faster growth than with other houseplants where you might choose to propagate through a stem or leaf cutting. However, this doesn’t mean you can expect to see instant results and it may take a few weeks/ months for your plant to establish itself in its new pot and grow new leaves and stems.
If there is a lack of growth when the temperatures are a little cooler, then this is probably why your new plants aren’t growing so much. You can help to speed up root growth by using a heat pad that you place underneath your new Boston Ferns. This warms up the area and provides an ideal environment for new growth. Heat pads are great when using the runners method.
If the leaves on your new Fern are turning yellow then it may be due to too much direct sunlight which has burnt or scorched the leaves. Watering issues can also cause several issues such as yellow leaves so inspect the soil to check.
Top tips for a successful Boston Fern propagation
Alongside following the right method, there are a few things to watch out for to promote a successful propagation. Firstly, ensure that all cold weather is out of the way before you start the process. Although springtime is the best time to start, you don’t want to begin the process too early. Make sure that any frost is out of the way before you take any cuttings or spore cultivation. A drop in temperatures can damage your propagation chances very quickly!
Secondly, keep a very close eye on both your mother plant, and your new plants for the entire process. Propagation can be quite stressful for all plants involved so be sure to check over daily. This will help you spot any signs early before they have taken hold of your plant. The key to fixing issues is catching them as early as possible!
How to care for your new Boston Ferns after propagation
When it comes to sunlight, Boston Ferns can deal with very bright spots but be careful not to expose your young plants to too much direct sunlight at first. This can be a little too intense for them but you still want to make sure they are getting enough light to aid new growth and develop a strong root system.
When it comes to caring for your new Boston Ferns, moisture is also key as dry soil is one of the main reasons why these Ferns don’t survive. They hate the potting mix drying out and will quickly crisp up as a result. Alongside moisture in the soil, humidity also needs to be a little higher than usual to prevent your Fern from drying out. Misting and using a humidifier are the best ways to keep your new plants looking fresh.
But there is one thing that you really don’t need to worry about after propagating your Fern and that is fertiliser. Although we never recommend fertilising new plants within the first year, this is especially so for Boston Ferns. They are quite oversensitive to over fertilisation.
We hope you have found this guide useful. It’s never an exact science and sometimes it will take a while for your plant to recover and grow more leaves or in the case of runners, grow some roots! But with the right methods, care routine, warmth and light level you should find success.
Check out our detailed Boston Fern care guide to find all the information on how to continue to care for your new plants!
Written by Billy Dawson