Aroids and other genera in the Collection    Take the Tour Now?    Orchids

The Exotic Rainforest
Plants in the Exotic Rainforest Collection
The images on this website are copyright protected. Please contact us before any reuse.

Nephrolepis falcata (Cav.) C. Chr.


Nephrolepis falcata (Cav.) C. Chr.
Boston Fern, Giant Boston Fern, Sword Fern, Fishtail Fern, Macho Fern,
 Commercially sold as ‘Fancy Frill Fern'

When I built my first pond at our home in Miami I felt I needed some nice ferns to make it look tropical.  So I bought a couple of pots of different fern species at a local nursery.  One was tagged "Boston Fern" and the grower also called it a Sword Fern.  Fortunately I planted this one behind the pond.  Within a year the fern had fronds close to 4 feet long!  It almost hid the backside of the pond creating a great place for the fish to hide from the sun.  It multiplied and reproduced so quickly that in 4 years I had them growing behind all three of our ponds and all came from that one pot!  Nephrolepis falcata is a broad leaved fern with fronds that can grow quite wide.  The plant creates a fantastic hanging basket display due to the size of it's large "weeping" fronds.  Don't confuse this one with a similar fern grown in the Northwestern United States which also has the common name 'Sword Fern'.  That one is not tropical.  This one is definitely tropical and will begin to die back at temperatures much below 60 degrees.  Our atrium can drop down 55 in the middle of winter and the plant always dies back as a result but never goes away.  The plant in the photo is now quite small as compared to its size during the summer.  A native of the Cook Islands in the tropical Pacific Ocean, the fern was originally imported due to the attractive look of it's large fronds.  The tips of each has the slight shape of a fishtail which provides it with one of  its more than ample common names.   The fern is so fast growing it is considered an invasive "alien" fern in Hawaii.  While small it is often sold at a low price in many nurseries such as Wal-Mart and K-Mart since it is easily tissue cultured (cloned) and is grown by a number of plant culture labs.  At least one company uses the trade name ‘Fancy Frill Fern'.  So if you see it under this name know you are actually about to a very large fern, Nephrolepis falcata.  If you give it fertilizer, be prepared.  This one is going to get big fast.   For optimal growth the fern prefers acidic soil with a pH of 5.0 to 6.0 which is common for many tropical plants.  Use a very well drained soil mixture with a good helping of peat and Perlite added.  Keep it damp but don't drown it, the fern won't appreciate being kept overly wet.  Although the plant will grow in bright sun (I've done it) it prefers a medium shade.  When we moved from Florida and built our Exotic Rainforest I again brought a single pot.  A rainforest just wouldn't be a rainforest without ferns.  Now I have it growing on two sides of the pond and behind the waterfall.  We cut it back all summer long since the fronds can get long enough to obstruct the walks!  It's a beautiful fern, but be prepared for it to prosper and grow if you give it good conditions.  That's why nurseries like it so much!  It grows fast and produces lots of dollars in sales.