This article was last updated by on

Kimberly Queen vs Boston Fern (Confusion Solved)

Much debate surrounds two magnificent, bright ferns dominating almost every home and garden: Kimberly Queen vs Boston fern.

Most growers end up buying the wrong plant, believing that Boston fern and Kimberly Queen are the same. It turns out they are pretty different with slightly contrasting features, although they may look similar.

In general, Boston Fern boasts soft, saggy leaves that look messy, while Kimberly Queen offers shaper, upright leaves that look more aggressive; however, you must inspect the foliage closely to figure out the difference.
Boston fern vs Kimberly Queen
Boston fern vs Kimberly Queen

Despite the differences in foliage appearance, they share common traits; hence, they remain inseparable in many different ways.

Read on to learn how to differentiate between the two popular fern plants.

Are Boston Fern and Kimberly Queen the Same?

No, Boston fern and Kimberly Queen are different plants from the same species.

Both fern plants belong to the Nephrolepidaceae family native to tropical regions.

However, one crucial fact both the plants share is their benefit as houseplants.

They are famously grown as home air-purifiers that remove toxins and restore moisture in the indoor air.

If you pay close attention to their leaves, Kimberly Queen has shapely, arching fronds (a leaf-like part) straight and upright.

Diagram of fern frond
Diagram of a fern frond (Source: US Forest Service)

On the other hand, the Boston fern looks round and symmetrical, often sags. Boston is popularly referred to as Macho fern or sword fern because it exhibits lush leaves with sword-like structures.

Let us talk more about the differences between the two fern plants.

Kimberly Queen vs Boston Fern

Here are some notable differences between Kimberly Queen vs Boston Fern.

DifferencesKimberly QueenBoston Fern
FoliageDissected leaflet sword in shape that is stiffer, sharp, and more aggressive-lookingThe dissected leaflet is a sword in shape that are soft and saggy
Height and widthThe mature plant grows 3-feet in height and 3-feet in widthThe mature plant grows 2-feet in height and 4-feet in width
WateringMore droughts tolerant. Once in 8-10 days should be enoughOnce in a week should be enough to prevent drought
SunlightMore sun tolerant plant that also survives in full shadeDoes not tolerate sun at all
CultivarIt offers a single cultivar that is not much different from the parent plantIt offers more cultivar varieties that differ in shape and color

1. The Foliage is Different

Although they may look similar at first sight, the foliage is quite different in structure and texture.

Both Kimberly Queen fern and Boston fern boasts dissected leaves in the shape of a sword; however, Kimberly Queen is stiffer and more aggressive-looking.

Boston fern leaflets are 1-3 inches long and grow in pairs, attached to the frond.

Kimberly Queen leaf
Kimberly Queen leaves go straight upwards

Unlike Kimberly Queen, Boston fern leaves sag under their weight. If you look closer, mature Boston fern will exhibit bright green leaves, while Kimberly Queen boasts darker green leaves.

Kimberly Queen fern looks more expressive and vibrant than Boston fern.

2. Kimberly Queen Grows Taller than Boston Fern

Mature Kimberly Queen exhibits similar height and weight. When grown in a garden under ideal conditions, it reaches 3-feet in length and breadth.

The upright frond and sharp leaves encourage the plant to grow upwards.

Kimberly queen fern
Kimberly queen fern goes straight upwards

However, Boston fern has a slightly different growth pattern. Depending on the growing condition, a mature Boston would grow up to 3-feet in height and 4-feet in width or more.

The Boston fern fronds are gentler, making the leaves arch downwards. The naturally arching fronds cause Boston fern to grow short in height but excessively wider.

3. Boston Fern is Intolerant to Direct Sunlight

Kimberly Queen Fern is a sun-tolerant plant.

You heard it right! Kimberly Queen can take direct sunlight; hence, they are more appropriate to be grown in the garden.

A shade-loving plant may grow well in full shade, but it does not mean they do not need light at all.

Kimberly Queen can take full fun
Kimberly Queen can take full fun

Kimberly fern does well in diffused or indirect sunlight for even growth.

On the other hand, Boston fern does well in the shade and cannot tolerate direct sun at all. Exposure to sunlight will burn the leaves, causing dried, yellow leaves.

Therefore, they are more appropriate as houseplants grown indoors.

4. Kimberly Queen is More Drought Tolerant

Because they can take on direct sunlight, the Kimberly Queen plant tends to tolerate droughts.

They can withstand severe drought conditions common in arid regions like Florida.

Kimberly queen is drought tolerant
Kimberly queen is drought tolerant

However, do not forget to water them when the top few inches of soil dry out to prevent wilting leaves.

Consider deep watering the plant every ten days with at least 1 gallon (3 liters) of water.

On the other hand, Boston fern cannot withstand drought conditions. Dried soil can quickly choke plant roots out of the air.

Instead, they thrive in a moist, shady location with enough humidity.

Consider deep watering them every week in the active growing season.

However cut back on watering for both plants in winter until the soil completely dries out, usually 20-25 days.

5. Boston Fern Offers More Cultivars

Boston fern offers more choices of cultivars than Kimberly Queen, offering different varieties to grow at home.

Each cultivar may boast slightly different leaf colors and sizes.

Here is the list of cultivars obtained from Boston fern.

  • Teddy Junior
  • Bostoniensis
  • Sonata
  • Green lady
  • Montana
  • Marissa (Dwarf variety)
  • Todeoides
  • Whitmanii Improved
  • Rooseveltii
  • Elegantissima

On the other hand, Kimberly Queen may only offer a single cultivar Nephrolepis Obliterate that does not look much different.

Fern cultivars
Planting a Fern cultivar

Similarities Between Boston Queen vs Kimberly Queen Fern

As mentioned before, despite some notable differences, the two plants share similar traits.

Here is a short table describing the similarities between the two fern varieties.

USDA Zone9-11
NativeTropical and Sub-tropical
Growth rateQuick
LightingPartial shade
Soil pHNeutral or slightly acidic
Soil conditionSlightly moist, well-aerated
Temperature60°F – 75°F (15°C – 24°C)
ProblemsFungus, Mealybug, and Graying

Most fern varieties come from tropical and subtropical regions that require constant humidity and moisture, slightly moist soil, and diffused sunlight.

Similarly, Kimberly Queen and Boston fern require a tropical condition to thrive.

1. Slightly Moist Soil

Finding a tropical setting in most indoor conditions can become difficult. Therefore, water your ferns regularly to keep the soil slightly moist.

Let the top few inches of soil dry out between watering and water enough to keep the soil slightly moist.

Provide at least 3 gallons of water and deep water to the plant. Garden-grown plants in a mature state would require at least 7 gallons of water.

Moist soil condition
Moist soil condition

2. High Humidity

Both Ferns require abundant humidity to thrive; otherwise, the leaves will quickly turn crispy and droopy.

A 30-50% humidity level would be appropriate for tropical ferns like Kimberly Queen and Boston.

Use a room humidifier to boost humidity and moisture levels at all times.

Alternatively, you can place them on a pebble tray filled with water during the active growing season.

3. Warm Temperature

Fern plants need a warm temperature to encourage lush foliage growth.

The adequate temperature ranges from 60 to 75-degrees during the daytime and at least 6-degrees at night.

Anything above 90-degrees could kill the plant; hence, avoid keeping them outdoors in arid conditions.

Ferns cannot tolerate frost or cold drafts. It will be wise to bring them indoors when the temperature drops below 60-degrees.

4. Potting Medium and Containers

Both ferns are quick growers that require neutral to slightly acidic soil (6.0-6.5), standard with tropical plants.

Care to provide a rich, well-draining soil with added peat moss, sand, or gravel for drainage and sterilized garden loam soil.

Organic potting mix
Organic potting mix

A potting medium that contains too much sand will retain more water, increasing the moisture level. These plants do well when root bound, so they do not require frequent repotting.

Choose to repot the plant in a container 2-3-inches larger than the last one, every 2-3 years. Use clay or terracotta pots with a couple of drainage holes to let out excess water.

Waterlogged soil and excess moisture will invite fungus and root rot in ferns. Therefore, they are better to let dried than wet.

5. Regular Fertilizing

Fern naturally thrives in a warm and humid environment without any plant food, but it does not mean they do not enjoy fertilizing.

Providing plant food will ensure healthy fronds and beautiful green leaves year-round.

Consider fertilizing your plant in the active growing season (spring and summer) with a balanced liquid fertilizer.

Fern liquid fertilizer
Fern liquid fertilizer

Once a month, plant feeding will suffice to encourage healthy growth. Ferns prefer a balanced fertilizer, NPK 20-10-20 or 20-20-20, with micronutrients.

However, avoid over-fertilizing your plant. Too much nitrogen can burn roots and leave the plant dry.

A single application with approximately 200 ppm nitrogen should be enough. Ensure to dilute the solution with water to half strength before applying.

6. Non-toxic

Both Kimberly Queen and Boston fern are known to be non-toxic to humans and pets.

However, ingesting fern spores may cause mild stomach conditions in animals.

Many household fern species are known to be harmful to pets and humans, but not these two.

To ensure accidental ingestion, keep the plants away from the reach of young children and pets.

Unrolling young fern with spores
Unrolling young fern with spores (source:

Common Problems with Kimberly Queen Ferns vs Boston Ferns

Here is the list of a few problems common with Kimberly Queen and Boston fern.

1. Common Fern Pests

While sharing the traits, the two fern plants also tend to share common enemies.

Ferns are prone to a range of common houseplant pests that usually infest severely moist plants.

Mealybugs, spider mites, scales, and thrips are the common enemies of Kimberly Queen and Boston ferns.

Mealybug egg case
Mealybug egg case (Source: Wikimedia)
MealybugThey mostly infect root and foliage.
They suck the sap from the leaves, leaving them wilted and discolored.
Spider miteRounded-shaped black or red-colored mites.
Silky web can be seen around the plant.
ThripsThrips are small, brown insects that mainly feed on leaves.

They mainly infect overwatered plants or those placed in damp locations.
ScalesScaly insects are tiny, waxy pests that infest on leaves.

Yellow or rust-colored spots will start developing on the leaves, and the sap will begin drying up.

Solutions and Preventive Measures

  • Use insecticidal soap to wash the plant infected with mealybugs, thrips, and spider mites.
  • Alternatively, apply Neem oil to cleanse the plant of pests.
  • Using a warm soapy solution will also work in removing common houseplant pests.
  • Avoid excessive wet soil and moist conditions to ward off pests.
  • Use a commercial potting mix containing fewer sand contents to prevent waterlogging risk.
  • Avoid keeping them close to garden plants, which attract different insects.

2. Common Fern Diseases

As grown as a houseplant, ferns like Kimberly Queen and Boston become susceptible to common houseplant diseases.

Bacteria blight, Pythium root rot, and Rhizoctonia blight are common diseases that infest fern plants.

Here is an informational table describing the diseases and their symptoms.

Root rot (Rhizoctonia sp)Stunted growth, unfurling leaves, and yellow leaves.
Drooping and rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and a rotten brown base.
Bacterial blightA plant disease is caused by fungi such as mildews, rusts, and smuts.
The symptoms include severe yellowing, browning, spotting, and withering leaves and flowers.
Pythium root rotFerns exhibit gray-colored yellowed leaves with stunted and wilted textures.
Roots are brown and rotted.


  • Spray the infested plant with a fungicide containing thiophanate methyl compounds that will effectively kill Rhizoctonia and bacterial blight.
  • Use Propiconazole to treat blights.
  • Prune the infected stems and fronds to prevent further damage to the plant.
  • Mix 2 parts water and 1 part hydrogen peroxide to pour onto the soil to treat slight root rot.
  • Apply Stressgard and Banol fungicide to treat Pythium root rot.
  • Avoid overwatering your plant and keeping it in excessively moist conditions.
  • Use the commercial potting mix to ensure a pathogen-free pasteurized soil for the plant.

3. Graying Nephrolepis

One of the common problems seen with fern plants is graying the foliage. If you notice grey fronds on your plant, ensure there is a problem with it.

Graying of fronds is often the result of severe drought conditions.

Fern graying
Fern graying (Source: US Forest Service)

It is more common in Boston fern than Kimberly Queen because they cannot tolerate droughts. One of the primary indications includes stunted growth and wilting leaves with proliferating grayness.

Solutions and Preventive Measures

  • Avoid placing your fern close to direct sunlight, as excessive warmth can eliminate the moisture.
  • Maintain even soil moisture by encouraging regular watering in the growing season.
  • Maintain a high humidity level to keep the leaves slightly moist.
  • Consider transplanting the pot to a new potting mix with rich organic content if the current soil looks compact.

4. Drooping and Crispy Leaves

Droopy and crispy leaves with some shedding indicate a thirsty fern plant.

It will mostly occur when you forget to water them in the summer, causing the soil to dry up quickly.

Kimberly Queen can tolerate some drought, but Boston fern is quite susceptible to drought conditions’ hence you would see Boston fern droop quickly.

Falling leaves often accompany this problem, which indicates the severe condition.

Fern browning
Fern browning (Source: US Forest Service)


  • Soak your plant container in a sink or tub without the saucer and cover it with about three or 4-inches of water.
  • Allow the plant for about 45 minutes.
  • Check whether the topsoil feels moist to touch; otherwise, leave it be for a while.
  • Remove it from the tub when the soil feels wholly damp and let the excess water drain before putting it back to its original spot.

Read our article about Why Kimberly Queen Fern Leaves turn crispy and dry?

5. Yellowing Leaves

Your fern plant, especially Boston fern, will turn yellow when the humidity level drops.

Kimberly Queen and Boston fern require at least 30% humidity at all times to ensure healthy foliage.

Insufficient watering and arid condition are more prone to turn the foliage yellow.

Eventually, the yellowing foliage will turn brown and die back.

Here are some ways to treat yellowing foliage.

  • Start with boosting the humidity level surrounding the plant.
  • Move them to a room with a humidifier or place them close to other houseplants.
  • Regularly mist the fern in the growing season, several times in a few days.
  • Use water at room temperature instead of colder water for misting.
  • Place the container atop the pebbles in a water tray to naturally soak the water.

Read more on why is your fern plant turning yellow?

Following safe practice
Following safe practice for growing fern (Source: Pexels)


Although Kimberly Queen and Boston Fern represent separate fern plants, they differ greatly in growth and conditioning.

These quick growers cover the pot with lush fronds within a short period.

All you need to do is provide a tropical environment, indirect sunlight, regular watering, and high humid condition at home.

Follow the above-given guide to keep them away from common pests and diseases and a few plant-related problems.

Related Article: Complete Care Guide on Macho Fern

However, both are easy-to-grow houseplants that will enhance the decor and air inside the home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like