How to Trim a Boston Fern

How to Trim a Boston Fern

Boston ferns can get quite full, and need occasional pruning to maintain their vigorous shape. While routine trimming of discolored growth can be performed at any time of year, sever pruning is best done in the spring or early summer. They benefit highly from severe pruning, which encourages vigorous growth and a bushier shape. Boston ferns comes in different varieties such as green wave, macho fern and Dallas fern. It is disease and drought resistant and are ideally used as a decorative plant indoors or in your garden.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Rachel Klein adds, "Providing plenty of filtered sunlight will promote even fern growth and lessen the need for trimming. If your fern is only getting direct sunlight from one direction, it will naturally stretch to reach the light and grow lopsided."

Step 1 - Place the Fern on top of the Tarp

Place the fern on top of the tarp (preferably outside) to catch the old leaves as you are cutting or trimming. Cutting or trimming your Boston Fern can be a messy task and having a tarp to catch all the trimmings makes your job easier.

Step 2 - Examine and Trim

Examine your Boston Fern and check for old leaves. As your ferns produces new leaves, older leaves have to shed. You can easily identify old leaves by their brown or yellow color. Your plant may also have leafless runners dangling down the sides of the container. Remove the brown leaves and runners using a small pruning shear. If you do not have a pruning shear you can also use a pair of sharp scissors. Trim at the base of the old leaves.

TIP: Rachel advises, "Large masses of yellow leaves signify over-watering or poor air circulation. Remember to keep the soil moist, but not soggy."

Step 3 - Do Not Touch New Leaves

As you remove the old leaves with your pruning shears, make sure not to touch the new leaves. Brown spots will form along the leaves of your Boston Fern where it makes contact with your fingers.

TIP: Rachel says, "Boston ferns can grow to massive sizes. If you notice yours getting root-bound, it is time for a bigger container. Choose one that is one and a half times bigger than your old one. Gently pull the fern from its pot, break up the root ball, and transplant using fresh potting soil."

Step 4 - Give a Hard Prune

This is optional, but if you notice your older Boston fern appears dull, droopy, over crowded, or messy, it may be in need of a sever prune. In the spring or early summer, place your fern over a tarp or old sheet. Do not cut back the top growth. Instead, concentrate on the side fronds at the base. Trim these off using sharp, clean, scissors or pruning shears. Also remove discolored growth near the soil. Next, trim the rest of the plant to the desired shape. In cases of extreme damage or over-crowdedness, cut the entire plant back to the root ball. The plant may look sad, but soon new growth will emerge much healthier and more beautiful than before.

TIP: Rachel adds, "When your fern becomes large, and is in a healthy condition, you can divide the root ball to grow other ferns. Dramatically trim back the plant and remove it from its container. Divide the root mass with a sharp, clean knife into several new plants. Transplant these into separate pots using fresh potting soil."

Besides the occasionally necessary trim, Boston ferns are basically hassle free, and make a beautiful addition to any patio, sunroom, or garden.