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A picture of a Sword Fern

Sword Fern

Nephrolepis exaltata

Also known as

Boston Sword Fern, Wild Boston Fern, Tuber Ladder Fern, Fishbone Fern, Swaardvaring (Afr.), Boston fern

Nephrolepis exaltata (in a greenhouse) 01 by Kor!An (Корзун Андрей) (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Partial Shade
Easy care
Moderate watering


USDA zone


Minimum temperature

Expected size








More images of Sword Fern

Nephrolepis exaltata
Nephrolepis exaltata
A photo of Sword Fern
A photo of Sword Fern

Sword Fern Overview

The sword fern is commonly found in humid forests and swamps, growing best in damp but not soggy soils. It has widely arching fronds with toothed pinnae. Most cultivars are derived from this species, making it very popular as an indoor plant or planted in hanging baskets. The sword fern is often confused with the tuberous sword fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia) – both are invasive in different parts of South Africa. Nephrolepis exaltata is a problem in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

Common problems with Sword Fern

When fronds become too wet, fern scale and rot may be a problem.

Sword Fern Companion Plants

Plant in damp shade, with ferns and sub-tropical plants.

How to harvest Sword Fern

Pick the green leaves to use in flower arrangements as needed.

How to propagate Sword Fern


Divide the stolon with leaves attached to form new plants.


Sow spores as soon as ripe.

Special features of Sword Fern

Drought resistant

Can tolerate dry spells.

Indoor plant

Place in bright filtered light and mist when the humidity is low.

Pot plant

Plant in a moisture retaining potting mix, and keep the mix moist.

Wet sites

Will tolerate wet sites, as long as they are not permanently wet.

Attractive leaves

Other uses of Sword Fern

Ground cover, foliage, ornamental, indoors, container, greenhouse


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