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NEPHROLEPIS exaltata

Image of Nephrolepis exaltata

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Dryopteridaceae

Botanical Name

NEPHROLEPIS exaltata

Plant Common Name

Boston Swordfern

General Description

A common, old-fashioned plant for containers and hanging baskets, Boston swordfern is easy to grow and tolerant of summer warmth and humidity. This large, evergreen to semi-evergreen fern originates from regions in Mexico, Central America and South America as well as sub-Saharan Africa and Polynesia. It has dense, arching, lance-shaped fronds of medium green and develops a bushy to weeping habit. Plants slowly spread by rhizomes and require regular division—particularly if container grown.

Like most ferns, Boston swordfern grows best in full to partial shade and organic-rich soil with regular moisture. Frost will kill foliage to the roots but will rejuvenate if subfreezing temperatures were of very short duration. Where fully hardy, it may be planted in mixed borders or foundation plantings in massive sweeps. It will soon spread into a colony, somewhat invasive, but relatively easy to pull young plants out by hand. In temperate climates container grown plants may be brought indoors to overwinter. Many cultivars with more ornate foliage are available.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Fern

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade

  • Height

    2'-7' / 0.6m - 2.1m (4)

  • Width

    3'-8' / 0.9m - 2.4m (4)

  • Native To

    Mexico, Central America, South America, Brazil, Africa, Polynesia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    None

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Edging, Foundation, Hanging Basket, Mixed Border, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes