The Q&A Archives: Breaking Boston fern fronds

Question: My Boston fern has many fronds that are brittle and break easily. How can I get the plant back to full health? Kurt Cron San Mateo, CA

Answer: The problem is either low light or not enough moisture, says Chuck Ades, owner of Ades and Gish Nursery, growers of more than 300 varieties of indoor houseplants in Encinitas, California. If the older fronds are breaking and new fronds aren't growing to replace them, then the fern is lacking water, he explains. Boston ferns ( Nephrolepis exaltata bostoniensis ) grow best with constant moisture. Without adequate water, the older fronds die prematurely and new fronds are slow to emerge. I'd keep one-fourth inch of water in the dish under your fern at all times, Ades says. Flush the pot with water every few months to leach salts building up in the soil. If the new fronds are breaking, then the problem is more likely lack of light. Boston ferns need more light than most ferns. They do best in a south-facing window behind a thin curtain or in an east-facing window with direct morning sun. Without enough light, the fern's new growth will be leggy and won't have the strength to support its own weight. You can either move the fern to a window with more sun or grow newer varieties of Boston ferns such as 'Dallas', which requires one-fourth the light of common Boston ferns, advises Ades .

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