What I Learned Today – Boston Fern Propagation

I can thank Covid for this fern being in my home, and a colleague at work for rescuing it in the first place. It had been tossed to the curb, in a pretty wood planter, with just three or four tiny, half dead fronds sticking out of the hard dry soil. In my north facing office window it started life again, watered regularly, turned every week. It became too large for the windowsill, and my colleague once again came to the rescue, transplanting it to a larger pot and relocating it to a more appropriate spot in the office. Then, with the lock down mid-March, I brought it home, along with a few other office plants, where it has thrived in this northwest facing window.

It’s a type of Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’) I think. It has, from the start, produced tons of what I thought were hairy ‘air roots.’ But now, it seems they are in fact, stolons, a “specialized stem that produces plantlets on one or more nodes.” Spider Plants (Chlorophytum comosum) are more commonly grown like this, but I had no idea this was also a trait of Boston ferns. Perhaps this is a plant reaction to being root-bound – it just needs to be re-potted. In the top photo you can see this baby fern, hanging down on the right of the pot. Here are a pair of closeups. I could clip it off and plant it by itself in a small pot, if I wished. Perhaps to give to its original rescuer!

I learned about fern stolons from the internet of course, and found this page especially helpful. It’s the site of espace pour la vie in Montreal, Space for Life, a collection of four museums/institutions, the Biodôme, the Insectarium, the Jardin botanique and the Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan, that are on the same site. “These four prestigious institutions of the City of Montreal form the largest natural science complex in Canada.” ANOTHER thing I learned today, and something to visit, hopefully in the not too distant future.

This now my favourite reading spot.


  1. Chris, these grow wild in my garden and are native here. Many people get rid of them because of the stolons..I will have to post a picture of where they popped up..yours looks wonderful, mine are thriving at the end of the condensate line from the air conditioner.

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  2. It is a Nephrolepis, and is likely Nephrolepis exaltata; but does not seem to be a Boston fern. It could be the straight species, but is more likely another cultivar. Boston fern is very soft and pendulous.

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      1. That is typical of the species, as well as a few of the cultivars. Nephrolepis cordifolia is another species that used to be popular in landscapes here. Once it gets established in the canopies of Canary Island date palms in Southern California, it is impossible to eradicate. I suspect that Nephrolepis exaltata behaves similarly in Florida.

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