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PlantFiles: Boston Fern, Sword Fern
Nephrolepis exaltata

Family: Polypodiaceae
Genus: Nephrolepis (nef-roh-LEP-iss) (Info)
Species: exaltata (eks-all-TAY-tuh) (Info)

Synonym:Nephrolepis exaltata subsp. exaltata

17 members have or want this plant for trade.

View this plant in a garden


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

12-15 in. (30-38 cm)
15-18 in. (38-45 cm)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Partial to Full Shade


Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

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By Cretaceous
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By Gabrielle
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By htop
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6 positives
3 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Cixi On Feb 6, 2010, Cixi from Addis Ababa
Ethiopia wrote:

Useful plant for lush-looking planting schemes. I find it grows in sun or shade and seems just as happy in a container (even with no potting on or top dressing for 5 years) as in a bed. I agree with xyris about its spreading and also about how easily it can be removed from places where it's surplus to requirements. I recently pulled up half a dozen of them that were almost 1 metre tall and 'potted' them in big sacks for future use elsewhere. Although I haven't got round to planting them they are all still thriving in the sacks 4 months later.

Neutral tropicsofohio On Nov 24, 2007, tropicsofohio from Hilliard, OH (Zone 6b) wrote:

i just save a bosten fern from a cold death at my grandmas house. it was very large untill i had to cut it back. it had gone through a cupple good frosts and the foliage was pretty well spent. i hope it regrows back quickly. i am also hoping to divide it soon.

three weeks later, and i estemate it will be about another week untill it is fully recovered!!! once it recovers, i will devide it

Neutral Gabrielle On Apr 6, 2007, Gabrielle from (Zone 5a) wrote:

A.K.A. Nephrolepis exaltata var. bostoniensis

Positive Cretaceous On Feb 17, 2007, Cretaceous from El Sobrante, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

This fern has thrived here in zone 9b, growing against the wall of the house where it is shaded from the full sun. Watered daily. Commonly found for sale locally as the "Sword Fern" in the gardening departments of stores such as Orchard Supply Hardware.

Native to the USA (Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, and Louisiana), Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Positive skaz421 On Jan 20, 2006, skaz421 from Wesley Chapel, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

I grow 2 of these plants, in large urns. They get late afternoon sun, and they do wonderful. The fronds were damaged in the winter, from the few frosts we had, so I gave them a haircut, and I suspect they'll bounce back nicely once the weather improves here.

Positive Toxicodendron On Apr 29, 2004, Toxicodendron from Piedmont, MO (Zone 6a) wrote:

The long things are runners, and you are correct...they do make baby plants when they touch the ground (usually this only occurs outdoors or in a greenhouse, not where there is a single plant with no dirt around...depends on how often you dust that Welsh dresser, LOL).

Positive TedLester On Apr 28, 2004, TedLester wrote:

We have a large specimen of this plant which thrives on the top of a Welsh dresser in our south facing lounge, although it is never in full sunlight. It is watered and fed once a week and is never allowed to dry out. Apart from the profusion of fronds it also has long tendrils which seem not to have a purpose; this cannot be, so does anyone know what they are there for? Perhaps because in the wild it spreads easily they are a natural means of propogation.

Positive xyris On Aug 26, 2003, xyris from Sebring, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

It spreads aggressively by underground runners in moist, partly to mostly shady sites in Central Florida. It can be invasive and take over the groundcover of natural forested wetlands. I planted a few sprigs one year ago and now I have a dense ground cover of this fern. I don't mind the invasiveness as it is very easy to pull up when it grows past where I want it. Probably the easiest fern to use to form a continuous fern ground cover layer in central Florida.

Neutral smiln32 On Aug 31, 2002, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

This plant likes a moist but not soggy, soil, rich in organic matter. It is the most drought tolerant of the commonly cultivated ferns, but it thrives only under conditions of high humidity. It makes a good ground cover for the north side of the house or under shade trees where little else will grow. Under favorable conditions, it will spread by underground runners.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Prattville, Alabama
Satsuma, Alabama
El Cerrito, California
Lakewood, California
Merced, California
Temecula, California
Valley Village, California
Apopka, Florida
Bartow, Florida
Fort Myers, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida
Keystone Heights, Florida
Kissimmee, Florida
Lakeland, Florida
Melbourne, Florida
Pompano Beach, Florida
Sebring, Florida
Winter Springs, Florida
Yulee, Florida
Zephyrhills, Florida
Las Vegas, Nevada
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Austin, Texas (4 reports)
Brownsville, Texas
Houston, Texas (2 reports)
Marble Falls, Texas
Mcallen, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Herndon, Virginia

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