Why is my Boston Fern dying?

We have a love-hate relationship with Boston Ferns because although they bring a little bit of the wilderness to your home, they are actually quite fussy to take care of.

We have a love-hate relationship with Boston Ferns because although they bring a little bit of the wilderness to your home, they are actually quite fussy to take care of. Even if there is a slight change in environment or something isn’t quite right your Boston Fern can begin dying pretty quickly. 

Whether your issue is brown leaves, leaf loss, stagnant growth or a wilting plant, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we will go through each of the main reasons why your Boston Fern might be dying, alongside tips to diagnose it and how to go about treating the problem effectively.

A dying Boston Fern can indicate low humidity 

If your dying Boston Fern has developed brown spots or edges on the leaves then dry air is usually the case as they have such thin delicate leaves. Boston Ferns thrive in conditions like the tropics and although we could never reach a humidity level anything like the tropics (and even if we could, we definitely wouldn’t want to live in it), we can increase the humidity a little and your plant will love you for it.

Here are a few simple ways to increase the humidity and revive your dying Boston Fern:

  • 1

    Mist the leaves regularly

    Use a spray bottle to mist the leaves a few times a week. This also gets rid of any dust on the leaves which is a bonus. During winter, you want to be careful about misting during the late afternoon and evening as you want there to be enough time for the water to evaporate before the temperatures drop at night. Cold wet leaves are the perfect combination for leaf rot which is especially damaging to an already dying Boston Fern.

  • 2

    Make a pebble tray

    Fill up a tray of pebbles and fill halfway with water. Place your plant on top and the water will evaporate around it, increasing the humidity level.

  • 3

    Shower your plant

    Although this is a fairly short-term fix, it is a great way to boost the humidity instantly. Wash down the leaves, keeping the water pressure fairly low so you don’t damage the delicate leaves and stems. Not only will this up the humidity but it may get rid of any pests that are secretly living on your plant.

  • 4

    Move your dying Boston Fern to the bathroom/ kitchen

    These rooms have naturally higher humidity levels because of steam from showering and cooking. Your Boston Fern will love it so long as the light levels are enough. Also just make sure that you don’t place your Fern too close to the cooker as this can dry out the plant quickly.

  • 5

    Buy a humidifier

    This is the long-term solution to humidity issues and the best thing you can invest to properly revive your dying Boston Fern. They create a nice stable humidity level and removes all the worry.

Underwatering could also be causing your Boston Fern to start dying

Another common reason that your Boston Fern is dying is a lack of moisture in the soil. Although your Boston Fern may forgive you for occasionally forgetting to water, consistent underwatering can lead to a variety of serious issues if not solved in time. The most common signs of an underwatered Boston Fern are dry leaves, light brown spots on the leaves and drooping stems. 

To diagnose the issue, take your Boston Fern out of its pot to see how dry the potting mix feels. The worst thing would be assuming that your Boston Fern is dying because it needs more water but it’s actually a totally different reason. 

When lifting up your plant, if it feels quite light and the potting mix is bone dry, then underwatering is the most likely culprit. The leaves and stems on your Boston Fern are very light so you will be able to notice an underwatered Boston Fern pretty quickly just by picking it up. It’s also a great way to know if your Fern needs water before it shows signs of dying. 

To solve the issue, we recommend watering your plant a little bit once a day for a full week. This will help to moisten the soil without shocking the plant (which can happen if their environment changes suddenly). A moisture meter can help with knowing when to water here too! 

Direct sunlight can also cause severe issues

Whilst it’s true that Boston Ferns love sunshine, direct light can actually scorch the leaves on your plant pretty quickly as they are very thin and delicate. This is especially common in summer when the sun is a lot stronger and is out for most of the day.

Although there is no reversing the sunburn that’s already been caused, solving the issue is easy. All you have to do is relocate your Boston Fern to a spot in your home that doesn’t receive any or as much direct light. 

A dying Boston Fern can also suggest heat stress

Hotspots caused by radiators/cookers and draughts caused by cracks in windows or doors can also be really damaging to your Boston Fern. You might find that the overall temperature in the room is perfect, but are not detecting the hot spot or cold draft in the room which is causing your Boston Fern to start dying on you. 

Use a digital thermometer to check the spot in which your Boston Fern is living and adjust the environment or move it to a new spot to prevent it from dying.

Those are the most common factors that might explain why your Boston Fern is dying. It’s important to catch these problems quickly which is why we always recommend taking the time to look over your plants properly to spot any early warning signs that something might be wrong. Then after making some changes, check in with your Boston Fern once a day to ensure that things are moving in the right direction and the problem isn’t deteriorating even further. No matter how bad your dying Boston Fern is, persevere with it and you should be able to get it back to full health with some TLC. 

To learn more about your plant’s care requirements, check out our detailed Boston Fern care guide. 


Written by Billy Dawson


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