Nephrolepis Species, Sword Fern

Nephrolepis exaltata

Family: Nephrolepidaceae
Genus: Nephrolepis (nef-roh-LEP-iss) (Info)
Species: exaltata (eks-all-TAY-tuh) (Info)
Synonym:Nephrolepis exaltata subsp. exaltata
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Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Partial to Full Shade


Grown for foliage


Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)


12-15 in. (30-38 cm)

15-18 in. (38-45 cm)


USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone

Can be grown as an annual

Suitable for growing in containers



Bloom Color:


Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:


Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

By dividing the rootball

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Prattville, Alabama

Satsuma, Alabama

El Cerrito, California

Lakewood, California

Merced, California

Santa Barbara, California

Temecula, California


Apopka, Florida

Bartow, Florida

Citra, Florida

Fort Myers, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida

Keystone Heights, Florida

Kissimmee, Florida

Lakeland, Florida

Melbourne, Florida

Pompano Beach, Florida

Sebring, Florida

Winter Springs, Florida

Yulee, Florida

Zephyrhills, Florida

Las Vegas, Nevada

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Austin, Texas(4 reports)

Brownsville, Texas

Houston, Texas(2 reports)

Marble Falls, Texas

Mcallen, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

Herndon, Virginia

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Jul 7, 2016, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

Native to South America, Central America, Mexico, the west Indies, Florida, Africa, and Polynesia. Naturalized in AZ, TX, LA, AR, and AL. exaltata.png


On Apr 2, 2016, DaylilySLP from Dearborn Heights, MI (Zone 6a) wrote:

Nephrolepis exaltata, the Sword Fern.
Confused with Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis' (Boston Fern)
The species has erect fronds, but Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis' (Boston fern), has gracefully arching fronds.
This mutation was discovered in a shipment of N. exaltata to Boston from Philadelphia in 1894.


On Feb 6, 2010, Cixi from Addis Ababa,
Ethiopia wrote:

Useful plant for lush-looking planting schemes. I find it grows in sun or shade and seems just as happy in a container (even with no potting on or top dressing for 5 years) as in a bed. I agree with xyris about its spreading and also about how easily it can be removed from places where it's surplus to requirements. I recently pulled up half a dozen of them that were almost 1 metre tall and 'potted' them in big sacks for future use elsewhere. Although I haven't got round to planting them they are all still thriving in the sacks 4 months later.


On Nov 24, 2007, tropicsofohio from Hilliard, OH (Zone 6b) wrote:

i just save a bosten fern from a cold death at my grandmas house. it was very large untill i had to cut it back. it had gone through a cupple good frosts and the foliage was pretty well spent. i hope it regrows back quickly. i am also hoping to divide it soon.

three weeks later, and i estemate it will be about another week untill it is fully recovered!!! once it recovers, i will devide it


On Feb 17, 2007, Cretaceous from El Sobrante, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

This fern has thrived here in zone 9b, growing against the wall of the house where it is shaded from the full sun. Watered daily. Commonly found for sale locally as the "Sword Fern" in the gardening departments of stores such as Orchard Supply Hardware.

Native to the USA (Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, and Louisiana), Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.


On Jan 20, 2006, skaz421 from Wesley Chapel, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

I grow 2 of these plants, in large urns. They get late afternoon sun, and they do wonderful. The fronds were damaged in the winter, from the few frosts we had, so I gave them a haircut, and I suspect they'll bounce back nicely once the weather improves here.


On Apr 29, 2004, Toxicodendron from Piedmont, MO (Zone 6a) wrote:

The long things are runners, and you are correct...they do make baby plants when they touch the ground (usually this only occurs outdoors or in a greenhouse, not where there is a single plant with no dirt around...depends on how often you dust that Welsh dresser, LOL).


On Apr 28, 2004, TedLester wrote:

We have a large specimen of this plant which thrives on the top of a Welsh dresser in our south facing lounge, although it is never in full sunlight. It is watered and fed once a week and is never allowed to dry out. Apart from the profusion of fronds it also has long tendrils which seem not to have a purpose; this cannot be, so does anyone know what they are there for? Perhaps because in the wild it spreads easily they are a natural means of propogation.


On Aug 26, 2003, xyris from Sebring, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

It spreads aggressively by underground runners in moist, partly to mostly shady sites in Central Florida. It can be invasive and take over the groundcover of natural forested wetlands. I planted a few sprigs one year ago and now I have a dense ground cover of this fern. I don't mind the invasiveness as it is very easy to pull up when it grows past where I want it. Probably the easiest fern to use to form a continuous fern ground cover layer in central Florida.


On Aug 31, 2002, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

This plant likes a moist but not soggy, soil, rich in organic matter. It is the most drought tolerant of the commonly cultivated ferns, but it thrives only under conditions of high humidity. It makes a good ground cover for the north side of the house or under shade trees where little else will grow. Under favorable conditions, it will spread by underground runners.