Sword Fern vs Boston Fern: 3 Differences

For those delving into the lush world of indoor greenery, the choice between Sword Fern vs Boston Fern becomes a delightful dilemma, as each fern brings its own flair to botanical displays.

sword fern vs boston fern

Ferns have always been a popular choice for indoor gardening enthusiasts.

With their lush foliage and easy-care nature, they bring a touch of greenery and tranquility to any space.

However, with so many fern varieties available, it can be challenging to choose the right one for your needs.

Two popular ferns, the Sword Fern and the Boston Fern, often find themselves in the spotlight.

While they share similar care requirements, it’s important to understand the key differences between these two ferns to make an informed decision.

So, let’s dive in and unveil the distinctions between Sword Ferns and Boston Ferns.

Sword Fern

sword fern vs boston fern

Appearance

Sword ferns, scientifically known as Polystichum munitum, boast broad fronds with alternating pinnae that line both sides of the central leaf vein.

These leaves typically grow in a stunning medium to pale green shade and can reach an impressive width of 6 inches.

On the undersides of the leaves, you’ll find two rows of round clusters of spore-bearing organs called sori, situated near the margins (A-Z Animals).

Habitat

Native to the Americas, Sword Ferns thrive in moist and shady environments, such as forests and wetlands.

However, they also adapt well to urban areas and make lovely ornamental additions to gardens (Wikipedia).

sword fern vs boston fern

Care Requirements

To ensure the healthy growth of Sword Ferns, a few crucial care aspects must be considered:

  • Temperature: These ferns prefer temperatures between 65°F and 75°F (18°C and 24°C).
  • Humidity: Sword ferns thrive in higher humidity environments. Maintain the desired humidity by using a humidifier or a pebble tray filled with water.
  • Light: Indirect sunlight or partial shade is ideal for Sword Ferns. Excessive direct sunlight can scorch their leaves.
  • Soil: Opt for a well-draining and fertile soil mix.
  • Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist, but avoid overwatering to prevent root rot.

By providing adequate care, you can ensure the healthy growth and vibrancy of Sword Ferns in your indoor or outdoor space.

Boston Fern

sword fern vs boston fern

Appearance

Boston ferns, also known as Nephrolepis exaltata, possess broad fronds with alternating pinnae lining both sides of the central leaf vein, much like Sword Ferns.

These leaves, too, grow in a medium to pale green shade and can reach a width of 6 inches.

Similar to Sword Ferns, Boston Ferns also have two rows of round clusters of spore-bearing organs called sori situated near the margins on the undersides of the leaves (A-Z Animals).

Habitat

Boston Ferns thrive in tropical regions worldwide and have become a classic choice for houseplants in North America.

These ferns don’t demand a lot of sunlight, making them perfect for indoor spaces (The Spruce).

sword fern vs boston fern

Care Requirements

When it comes to caring for Boston Ferns, a few key requirements should be kept in mind:

  • Humidity: To prevent browning and crispy fronds, maintain high humidity levels by using a humidifier or misting the plant regularly.
  • Watering: Regular watering is crucial to keep the soil evenly moist, but avoid waterlogging. Additionally, use a well-draining potting mix to promote plant health.
  • Light: Although Boston Ferns don’t require excessive sunlight, they do thrive in bright, indirect light. Find a spot that provides sufficient light without direct exposure to sunlight.
  • Maintenance: Keep the plant looking its best by occasionally trimming any dead or yellowing fronds.

By following these care requirements, you can enjoy the lush green foliage of Boston Ferns as a beautiful addition to your indoor garden.

Key Differences

sword fern vs boston fern
Boston Fern

Visual Differences

One can easily spot visual differences between Boston Ferns and Sword Ferns.

Boston Ferns have broad fronds with alternating pinnae, similar to Sword Ferns.

The leaves typically grow in a medium to pale green shade and can reach a width of 6 inches.

The fronds also feature two rows of round clusters of spore-bearing organs known as sori near the margins on the undersides of the leaves.

On the other hand, giant Sword Ferns have pinnae that are much longer than those of Boston Ferns and boast short, stiff hairs on the central vein (source).

Growth Patterns

sword fern vs boston fern
Sword Fern

Boston Ferns thrive in swampy, humid, and forested areas in tropical regions worldwide.

They have become classic houseplants in North America due to their ability to withstand low sunlight conditions (source).

Conversely, tuberous Sword Ferns may visually resemble native Sword Ferns, but they are invasive due to the tubers found on their roots (source).

These invasive plants propagate aggressively from any remaining tubers in the ground.

Maintenance

Boston Ferns are relatively low-maintenance and require indirect sunlight, regular watering to maintain consistently moist soil, and occasional misting to preserve humidity levels (source).

sword fern vs boston fern
Sword Fern

In contrast, invasive Sword Ferns require diligent control measures, including uprooting and checking for tubers on the roots.

Removing as many tubers as possible is vital to prevent further propagation.

Choosing the Right Fern

Location

When deciding between a Boston Fern and a Sword Fern, consider the location where the plant will be grown.

Boston Ferns, also known as Sword Ferns, excel as houseplants, thriving in areas with bright, indirect light, such as near windows or on porches (Southern Living, The Spruce).

On the other hand, Western Sword Ferns, native to North America, flourish in swampy, humid, and forested areas.

They make an excellent choice for outdoor gardens, particularly in partially shaded spots.

sword fern vs boston fern
Boston Fern

Maintenance Preferences

Boston Ferns generally require less maintenance, sporting elegant downward arching fronds.

They can grow up to 2-3 feet tall and wide, maintaining a compact size (Southern Living).

Western Sword Ferns, on the other hand, feature larger, sword-like fronds, and can reach an impressive height of up to five feet.

As they can be somewhat invasive in favorable conditions, occasional thinning is necessary to control their growth.

This adds to their maintenance requirements (University of Florida IFAS Extension).

sword fern vs boston fern
Left: Sword Fern – Right: Boston Fern

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, when choosing between Boston Ferns and Western Sword Ferns, consider the location and your maintenance preferences.

Boston Ferns are low-maintenance houseplants that thrive in bright, indirect light, while Western Sword Ferns require more attention and flourish in outdoor gardens or partially-shaded areas.