Watering A Boston Fern: Learn About Boston Fern Watering Needs

Mid-Adult Woman Watering Houseplant
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By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

Boston fern is a classic, old-fashioned houseplant valued for its long, lacy fronds. Although the fern isn’t difficult to grow, it tends to shed its leaves if it doesn’t receive plenty of bright light. Watering a Boston fern isn’t rocket science, but understanding how much and how often to water Boston ferns requires a bit of practice and careful attention. Too much or too little water are both detrimental to the plant. Let’s learn more about Boston fern irrigation.

How to Water a Boston Fern

Although Boston fern prefers slightly moist soil, it is likely to develop rot and other fungal diseases in soggy, waterlogged soil. The first sign that a fern is overwatered is usually yellowing or wilted leaves.

One surefire way to determine if it’s time to water a Boston fern is to touch the soil with your fingertip. If the surface of the soil feels slightly dry, it’s time to give the plant a drink. The weight of the pot is another indication that a fern needs water. If the soil is dry, the pot will feel very light. Hold off watering for a few days, then test the soil again.


Water the plant thoroughly, using room-temperature water, until water runs through the bottom of the pot. Let the plant drain thoroughly and never let the pot stand in water.

Boston fern watering is enhanced if you provide a humid environment. Although you can mist the fronds occasionally, a tray of wet pebbles is a more effective way to increase the humidity around the plant.

Place a layer of gravel or pebbles on a plate or tray, the set the pot on the wet pebbles. Add water as needed to keep the pebbles consistently moist. Be sure the bottom of the pot doesn’t touch the water, as water seeping up through the drainage hole can cause root rot.

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