Bird’s Nest Fern: Care and Growing Guide

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. But there are no additional costs to you.

Today, bird’s nest fern is still being cultivated around the world due to its unique appearance and benefits.

Bird’s nest fern has been used by Native Americans for centuries because of its medicinal properties. It can be used to treat a variety of ailments, including colds, coughs, sore throats, fevers, and even bad breath.

Here is everything you need to know about caring for and growing bird’s nest fern indoors as one of your favorite houseplants.

Bird’s Nest Fern Overview

The Bird’s Nest Fern, botanically known as Asplenium nidus, is a naturally epiphytic plant, signifying that they make their home on the surface of other plants. Native to rainforests in Asia, Hawaii, Australia, Madagascar, and Polynesia, they can be found resting and growing on trees.

They grow from a central rosette and feature fronds (leaves) tinted in bright green that are shaped like spoons. They grow upwards with an erect posture and at a moderate growth rate.

Outdoors, the fronds can grow to lengths of five feet with an overall height of three to five feet in height and two to three feet wide. But when cultivated indoors, fronds will grow to approximately two feet in length. 

There are several varieties of Bird’s Nest Ferns and will be characterized by various leaf shapes.

  • Asplenium nidus Antiquum: Has leaves with wavy edges.
  • Asplenium nidus Crispy Wave: Features leaves that are shaped like swords and have ruffles.
  • Asplenium nidus Osaka: Offers narrow leaves that resemble straps with edges that are rippled.
  • Asplenium nidus Victoria: Has long tongue-shaped fronds that are wavy.

Bird’s Nest Fern Care

When cultivating this houseplant, the environmental temperature and humidity will be important, together with moisture.

A great location for this fern will be in a bathroom, near your shower or bathtub, so that it receives adequate humidity. Warmth and light are of equal importance.

With a healthy fern, new growth will be apparent in the center of the plant’s rosette forming a type of bird’s nest, hence its name.

New fronds should not be touched or handled to avoid damaging or deforming them. While pests can be a problem, this is not a plant that is particularly susceptible to disease. 

Soil for Bird’s Nest Ferns

A peat-based soil bed is ideal for container cultivated ferns. The potting mix should be loose, exceptionally well-draining, and rich in organic matter. Perlite and orchid bark work well also.

The best potting soil has a pH level around 6.5. If using regular garden soil, add some organic materials such as fish emulsion or compost tea before planting.

Light for Bird’s Nest Ferns

These ferns grow well in light that is filtered, similar to light in their native habitat. They should have access to moderate shade and indirect light when outdoors.

They love bright light, but not direct light. They should not be exposed to direct sunlight, because direct exposure risks burning their leaves.

Water and Humidity for Bird’s Nest Ferns

The bird’s nest fern require moisture, but will not do well in waterlogged soil. It should be watered as soon as the top inch of the soil surface bed starts drying out.

Do not water the plant at its center to prevent mold or rot from forming. Also, avoid watering the fronds.

Your Bird’s Nest fern will thrive in high humidity and do exceptionally well in bathrooms, terrariums, or greenhouses. When growing it, a plant humidifier can help if you live in a dry environment.

A pebble tray with water could provide a level of humidity that the bird’s nest fern can thrive in too.

Place the plant on a tray filled with pebbles. Pour a bit of water into the tray. This will create a humid atmosphere around the plant. It is important that the plant container sits above the waterline and does not touch the water otherwise it will be at risk for root rot.

A receptacle filled with water can also be placed near the plant to help, and you can mist the fern several times a week, however, fronds should not be soaking wet.

Temperature for Bird’s Nest Ferns

The bird’s nest fern grow best when the temperature is between 60 and 80°F.  Temperatures above 80°F cause yellowing of the foliage.

Colder temperatures will harm the plant, especially if exposed for prolonged periods. The fern will begin to lose coloration if temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

When growing in an indoor environment, do not place the containers air conditioning vents, or window or door drafts.

Fertilization for Bird’s Nest Ferns

The bird’s nest fern should be fed monthly during its growing season from April through September. A balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half-strength will do the job.

Fertilizer, like water, should not be applied directly to the fronds, but to the soil bed. Ferns should not be fertilized in the remaining months of the year as it’s not needed.

Bird’s Nest Fern Pruning and Repotting

Pruning the bird’s nest fern is not really necessary, except to remove old or dying outer fronds. Trim them using a pair of sharp scissors or garden shears.

Because this fern is an epiphytic plant, it will not require repotting for root space, but rather because they will become unwieldy in their pot and will require a larger space to attach themselves to. This will most likely happen every two to three years.

When it is time to repot, here’s how to report the bird’s nest fern:

  • Choose the next size-up container
  • Loosen and gently remove the fern from its actual pot
  • Place it in the next size container
  • Fill in the container around the houseplant with new potting soil.

Propagating the Bird’s Nest Fern

Ferns are not easy to propagate. To propagate the bird’s nest fern you will need to use the plant’s spores which are found underneath the fronds.

To collect the spores, remove mature fronds and place them in a paper bag for several days. You should find the spores at the bottom of the bag.

Prepare a new pot with sphagnum moss and set the spores on top of the moss. Water the moss from the bottom to maintain moisture.

Set the container in a dish of water and allow the plant to soak up what it needs through drainage holes. Keep your spores in low or filtered light. Place the container in a plastic bag to maintain humidity.

Every several weeks, remove the bag for airflow. You will eventually notice germination. It can be weeks or months. Your fern will need a year or more to develop.

Bird’s Nest Fern Toxicity and Pets

Bird’s Nest ferns are not toxic to humans, dogs, or cats. There aren’t concerns about accidental ingestion 

Bird’s Nest Fern Pests, Diseases, and Problems

Common problems, pests, and diseases with the bird’s nest fern include:

  • Pale Fronds – If the light is too bright and intense, it will damage leaves leaving them pale-looking, instead of bright green.
  • Brown Fronds – Temperatures may be too low. Also, check to make sure you are not underwatering.
  • Little or Slow Growth – This may mean that the plant is not sufficiently fed. Overexposure to sunlight can also hamper growth and the fronds will look pale.
  • Root Odor – If the roots give off an odor and look mushy, the plant is probably suffering from root rot. That’s usually a result of overwatering. Interrupt watering for several days and check the drainage.
  • Mealybugs – They will appear as small cotton balls. Nematodes will cause spots on the foliage tops that are translucent and then turn black. Scale can be found on stems and appear as a waxy substance.

Growing Bird’s Nest Fern Final Thoughts

If you are searching for a colorful low-light plant, the Bird’s Nest Fern is a lovely houseplant to grow in your home or office.

With the correct temperatures and humidity levels, it will thrive and offer you a unique houseplant.

For more houseplant grow guides, check these out: 

Growing Bird’s Nest Fern FAQs

How much sun does a bird’s nest fern need?

The bird’s nest fern needs full sun but only indirect exposure to the sun during midday hours. You want indirect lighting so that the plants don’t get burned. If you do want to expose it to sunlight, only do it in the early morning when it’s not as bright directly. When indoors, a good option would be fluorescent bulbs. Fluorescent lights have a lower wattage than incandescent bulbs.

Is the bird’s nest fern hard to care for?

The bird’s nest fern isn’t hard to care for and requires little maintenance. Provide it a warm and humid home indoors, and it will flourish. Water regularly, especially if there has been any drought conditions. The soil should never dry out completely because this could lead to fungal issues, but neither should it overwater.

How big do bird’s nest ferns get?

Bird’s nest ferns can reach heights up to 3-5 feet tall. However, they tend to stay smaller due to their compact nature. 

How often should I water a bird’s nest fern?

Water bird’s nest ferns once every week or two, depending on how frequently you feed it. It doesn’t require constant attention like other indoor plants. Just keep it well watered until its topsoil dries out. You don’t want to overwater it as that can lead to root rot. 

Fast Growing Trees and Plants

Photo of author

Written by:

Amy Walsh
Amy Walsh is a passionate indoor gardener, deeply engrossed in the world of houseplants and herbs. Her apartment is a lush sanctuary of foliage, reflecting her journey from hobbyist to devoted botanist. She's constantly exploring the latest in smart garden technology, eager to share her insights on nurturing green spaces indoors. Alongside her botanical pursuits, Amy enjoys connecting with nature and friends, continually enriching her lifestyle with greenery and growth.

Leave a Comment