Do Boston Ferns Like Sun?

In this guide we’re going to take you through everything you need to know about Boston Fern light requirements. These popular houseplants showcase a superb spread of eclectic fronds bringing a tropical feel to homes and offices. But because they are native to jungle conditions, the light requirements for Boston ferns can be tricky to meet. We’ll delve into the level of light that Boston ferns need and why. We’ll also provide some pointers on how to put your plant in the best position.

How Much Light Do Boston Ferns Need? – The Essentials

Boston ferns grow in tropical jungles on the forest floor, so they need bright indirect or filtered sunlight. In the spring and fall, they need a minimum of two hours of sunlight a day. In warmer regions and in the summer, they need to be kept away from sunny windows. Too much sun will burn those fabulous fronds.

The Role of Sunlight in Plant Health and Growth

The Role of Sunlight in Plant Health and Growth

Unlike many organisms, plants can make their own food within their body. Plants do this by taking water and carbon dioxide and mixing these resources with sunlight. This process is called photosynthesis and creates carbohydrates in the form of sugars like glucose.

The plant uses these sugarst to form the building blocks of its stem and foliage, allowing it to grow. However, plants can be exposed to more sunlight than they can process, which causes damage such as burnt leaves. 

If the plant doesn’t get enough sunlight for photosynthesis,it won’t create as much sugar. This will stunt its growth, resulting in leggy shoots that lack thick, bushy foliage.

Light Terminology

While all plants require light, not all plants require the same amount or type of light. Understanding the following terms is helpful in understanding light requirements.

Bright direct light 

Is intense, unfiltered light. If you put a plant outside on a sunny day or near a sunny window, it would receive bright direct light. This type of light results in shadows.

Bright indirect light 

Refers to full light that isn’t straight from the sun’s rays. The interior of a room with a south-facing window has this type of light.

Filtered light

Is the light that passes through an object such as a sheer curtain or the forest canopy. It is often similar to bright indirect light.

Low light 

Is similar to shady conditions. It’s often found in rooms with north-facing windows or windowless hallways and entryways.

Typical Light Conditions Boston Ferns Receive in Their Native Habitats

Typical Light Conditions Boston Ferns Receive in Their Native Habitats

Like many types of ferns, Boston ferns are indigenous to the dense jungles of tropical Africa and Central and South America. In these warm, humid environments, Boston ferns grow in the shadowed areas of the forest floor. 

Because the canopy of the rainforest towers above them, taller plants block out much of the sunlight. This means that Boston ferns get a small amount of filtered sunlight, and they have evolved to thrive in these conditions.

When kept as houseplants, Boston ferns still need a slightly darker area with plenty of filtered sunlight. This helps replicate their natural environment of the jungle floor.

Signs Your Boston Fern is Receiving Too Much Light

Signs Your Boston Fern is Receiving Too Much Light

It can be surprisingly easy to give a Boston fern too much light. These plants thrive in slightly shady conditions, so too much sunlight can have adverse effects on them. Here’s what to look out for:

Brown leaves

The foliage can essentially burn if a Boston fern is left in a spot with too much sun. This is especially true with the afternoon sun, which is more intense. 

The edges of the leaves may start crisping and turning brown at the tips. To help the fern recover, move it away from south-facing windows to help diffuse the sunlight. Boston ferns can tolerate slightly less sunlight than most other houseplants.

Signs Your Boston Fern isn’t Receiving Enough Light

Even for plants used to less sunlight than many other species, Boston ferns can still suffer if they don’t get enough light. Not getting enough light can also make a Boston fern weaker and more vulnerable to diseases and pests. Keep an eye on your Boston fern and be mindful of:

Falling leaves

If they don’t get enough sunlight, Boston ferns may stay to drop their leaves. Plants need sunlight to keep them strong and healthy because of the sugars produced through photosynthesis. In conditions with insufficient light, a plant can’t create enough sugar to sustain strong growth.

If a large quantity of leaves is dropping from your Boston fern, move the plant into a sunnier spot. This could be closer to a window, but avoid placing the plant too close to south-facing windows. It’s better to give the plant more morning sun and move it into a shadier spot in the afternoon.

Fading color

Boston ferns that don’t get enough sun can start to lose color in their foliage. That vibrant green will start to wash out and fade because the plant can’t photosynthesize properly. Move the plant into a sunnier spot to help it recover.

The Best Light Exposure for Boston Ferns Grown Indoors

The Best Light Exposure for Boston Ferns Grown Indoors

Boston ferns can thrive when given the right conditions. While getting the right amount of sunlight may seem complicated, it’s simple enough to do when following some basic guidelines.

Bright, indirect light is the best light level for Boston ferns. This amount is the closest to the filtered light of the jungle floor that Boston ferns get naturally. The best way to provide this light is to put the fern close to a north-facing window

East and west-facing windows are also applicable as long as afternoon sunlight isn’t too intense. South-facing windows will provide sunlight that is far too powerful in the afternoon. Leaving your Boston fern in this position will result in burnt leaves.

Boston ferns do best when getting at least two hours of bright, indirect sunlight each day. This helps prevent fading foliage and falling leaves. A position that provides this will be good enough for your Boston fern throughout the year.

It’s also a good idea to rotate your Boston fern every so often to help the plant grow evenly.

Wrap Up

Boston ferns are a great way to add a showy statement houseplant to your collection. But they need certain conditions to grow well, especially when it comes to sunlight. Because they’re residents of the jungle floor, Boston ferns need bright, indirect sunlight all year.

The best position for a Boston fern is a north-facing window that gets at least two hours of sunlight every day. East and west-facing windows also work but south-facing positions will be too intense. 

Boston Fern Plant Care Guides:

For more, see our essential Boston Fern plant care guides:

Boston Fern Light Requirements FAQs:

Boston Ferns are tolerant to a range of indirect light conditions and will grow just fine in low-light environments.

Artificial growth lights can be used in rooms that receive minimal to no natural light exposure to help develop Boston Fern’s growth indoors. Just be sure to use a low-level setting and ideally don’t expose the plant to direct artificial light for extended periods of time.

The natural habitat for most Boston Fern plants is under the canopy of the forest shaded by surrounding trees and foliage so it will happily grow in shaded corners in most homes and offices.

Boston Fern plants do best when they receive 2+ hours of bright, indirect light, but they can also do well in medium to low light.

If you notice white, brown, or yellow patches on the foliage of your Boston Fern, there’s a good chance it’s receiving too much light. Direct sun will also burn Boston Ferns, eventually leading to dead tissue.


I’ve long been fascinated with the world of flowers, plants, and floral design. I come from a family of horticulturists and growers and spent much of my childhood in amongst the fields of flowering blooms and greenhouses filled with tropical plants, cacti, and succulents from all over the world. Today, my passion has led me to further explore the world of horticulture, botany, and floristry and I'm always excited to meet and collaborate with fellow enthusiasts and professionals from across the globe. I hold a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and have trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris.

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