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How to Divide a Boston Fern
by Peter Gallagher - posted 10/19/15

How to: Divide a Boston Fern
 - Video Transcript, Demonstration by Peter Gallagher, Ph.D.

Today we are going to learn how to, uh, divide up a Boston fern. For this, we need a good, sharp knife.

So, we'll take the, uh, Boston fern which is overgrown, and get it out of the pot to begin with. So, we may have to, uh, we may have to actually cut the pot in order to get it out of there. So we take this and pull the pot from it, and take it, the roots out of there. Discard the pot, of course. We will be getting some new pots for it.

And, we have a pretty large cluster of roots and rhizomes in here. So, uh what we'll do is take a knife and it may be a little, uh, you may be a little afraid to do this if you haven't done this before. But, it isn't going to, uh,  be a real problem for the plant. Actually, you'll be doing it a favor by cutting it apart and putting it into another container. Or, into more than one container so that it has much more room to grow. And, you'll end getting a much healthier plant because of it because new growth will develop from that.  

Now, as I pull the plant apart, you'll see that we've already got two pieces from it. Two  large pieces, and I'll go ahead and cut it one more time – each one of those into another piece. And then, we'll actually have four. Four of our, uh, new starts for this fern. So we'll take that, and I will pull it apart. I will leave the foliage on there, so that it will support the new growth. But, you may want to remove some of the dead, uh,  fronds and so forth from there. But, these are all attached to underground rhizomes and it has an established root system. So this, could be potted individually into another container. And, it'll probably take somewhere around, uh, oh 3-4 months before it starts looking like it's filled out and it makes a good containerized specimen.       
Here's another one, of course, that we could use, and then this one we'll divide into two more. So, we'll end up with four, or maybe we could even do more than that. We might get five or six out of that big specimen. But we'll have several new ones to begin with. So, that's Boston fern.


Peter Gallagher is professor of plant and environmental science, teaching for over 35 years. He has a Ph.D. in landscape horticulture.