Common name: Boston sword fern, Boston fern

Native to: Tropical regions throughout the world in humid forests and swamps


Nephrolepis exaltata, commonly called sword fern or Boston fern, is native to Florida, West Indies, Mexico, Central America, South America, Polynesia and Africa. It is an evergreen fern that grows with an upright spreading habit to 3’ tall and as wide. In its native habitat, it may grow to as much as 7’ tall. It is an easy and popular fern to grow indoors. Generally sword-shaped fronds have shallow toothed to entire pinnae. Fronds initially grow upward but arch gracefully with age.


Genus name comes from the Greek words nephros meaning a kidney and lepis meaning a scale.

Nephrolepis exaltata

  • Native / exotic: Exotic

    Aspect: Partial shade to full shade

    Flowers: No flowers

    Fragrance: None

    Foliage: Evergreen, erect to gracefully arching fronds

    Growth habit: Clumping

    Hardiness: Hardy but not drought resistant

    Height: Up to 40 to 90 cm

    Spread: Up to 80 cm

    Soil requirements: Prefers moist well-drained soils and likes humidity. Keep well mulched

    Uses: Grown in groups or massed in shady areas for texture, sighted at the base of shrubs and trees or for filling in shaded borders. Also popular as a pot plant. 


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