The Mother Fern (Asplenium Bulbiferum) Care Guide

The Mother Fern, otherwise known as the Asplenium Bulbiferum or Hen and Chickens Fern, Mother Fern, Mother Spleenwort, New Zealand Common Spleenwort, is a popular fern plant loved by gardening enthusiasts around the world.

Best known for its low maintenance and moderate growth, this fern will likely liven up your house (or garden) with its green-colored leaves. But, only if you learn how to take proper care of it for it to thrive.

Asplenium Bulbiferum Care Summary: to care for a healthy Mother Fern, water it regularly and keep the soil moist but not soggy. It prefers to grow in shaded areas with medium or high humidity. It can be grown outdoors in USDA zones 9 through 11. Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer twice a year in the spring and summer.  

Name Mother Fern (Asplenium Bulbiferum)
WateringWater it regularly to keep the soil moist
LightPartial to full shade
Temperature65°F to 75°F
SoilWell draining properties

And that’s practically it! If you keep these three factors in check, your Mother Fern will likely have all it needs for it to survive and even thrive.

Scientific / Botanical Aspects

In botanical terms, the Mother Fern belongs to the Aspleniaceae family, the genus Asplenium and the species Bulbiferum, hence its scientific (or botanical) name Asplenium Bulbiferum (as-PLEE-nee-um bulb-EE-fer-um).

As with other Asplenium’s, the Mother Fern is an evergreen plant, which means it will be present year round in your garden.

Growing Region

The Mother Fern is a plant native to New Zeland.

You might be wondering why your Mother Fern’s native region is important. Well, if you know where your plant originally came from, you’ll know which environmental conditions it prefers, and with it, knowledge on how to replicate it at home.

With this in mind, the Asplenium Bulbiferum will be most used to the heat zones in the 8 – 11 region, and in climate zones that range between 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24.

Growth and Size


In terms of size and growth, the Mother Fern is a relatively moderate grower, which makes things somewhat easy for any plant enthusiast.


But, what size of Mother Fern are we talking about? What can you expect in terms of height, spread and spacing? Let’s dig in…

The Asplenium Bulbiferum can grow up to 3′ – 4′ (90cm – 120cm) in 3′ – 4′ (90cm – 120cm) and 2′ – 3′ (60cm – 90cm) in 2′ – 3′ (60cm – 90cm). 

These dimensions make the Mother Fern a relatively medium fern compared to others, so it’s best to keep this fact in mind since it will affect where you want to keep yours at home.

This is why experts recommend keeping an area of approximately 24″ – 36″ (60cm – 90cm) free so the Mother Fern can spread to its best extent.


In terms of watering, the Mother Fern is a fairly complicated plant to take care of. This is mostly because it has a not so straightforward watering schedule and somewhat regular watering needs.

Specifically, most experts agree that the Asplenium Bulbiferum grows best with regular watering to keep the soil moist during the dry season. Reduce watering once the plant is established.

Which is why it is considered a plant with relatively average needs in terms of water. 

As a rule of thumb, you should remember to keep your Mother Fern in soil with moist but well-draining to well-draining characteristics, as these will guarantee the right conditions for your plant to grow and thrive. 

But, if you want a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to watering your Mother Fern then you should consider the famous ‘finger’ test. To perform this test, you just need to put your finger in your plant’s soil and determine if it’s moist or not. If it is, then don’t water; if it isn’t, then please do. In any case, this test will allow you to know if your Mother Fern needs or does not need water, every time.

Soil Mix

The Mother Fern’s ideal soil potting mix is made out of clay, loam, chalk, and sand.

In addition to this, expert gardeners recommend having preferably alkaline, acid or neutral soil.

Light and Exposure

In terms of light & exposure, the Mother Fern requires full to partial shade in order for it to thrive under the right conditions

Most experts agree that this fern will do well as long as you keep it in partial sun, and it will be able to grow properly.

Specifically, we recommend that you place your Asplenium Bulbiferum in from full or deep shade (no direct sunlight or at most 2 hours per day), to little to partial shade (only 2-6 hours of direct sunlight a day).=


Being an evergreen plant, the Mother Fern will be present year round in your garden. But, you can expect it to have its ‘prime-time’ during the spring (early, mid, late), the summer (early, mid, late), the fall, and during the winter.


One way to propagate a Mother Fern is by taking cuttings from the mother fern. To do this, you’ll need a sharp knife or shears. Insert the planet into a pot of moist soil. Make sure that the soil is damp but not wet, and then place it in a location that gets indirect bright light. Keep an eye on it to make sure that the soil stays moist, and wait for new leaves to grow. As soon as new leaves emerge, you can start watering more frequently.


The leaves from the Mother Fern have a beautiful green color during most of the year.

In particular, they have a compound (pinnately, bipinnately, palmately) and fronds arrangement in their leaves.


Now, let’s talk garden and how your Mother Fern will look best in it.

Most Asplenium Bulbiferum owners agree that this fern will look great in most asian/zen and tropical gardens of all types. 

Other owners consider that they complement well most gardens of gravel and rock garden styles. 

In particular, the Mother Fern’s best location within your garden is in beds and borders, and in patio and containers, others use it for landscaping in a specimen, rock garden, container, border, houseplant, mass planting, or a woodland garden.

Companion Plants

Mother Fern’s do well with some other plants beside it. One good companion plant is the Goldfish Plant, which will pair up nicely with your leafy friend.

Others consider that a nice Dicentra will work well too, so choose whichever you find works best for you!

What is the difference between a Bird’s Nest and a Mother Fern?

A Bird’s Nest and a Mother Ferns are two varieties of fern that look similar in their physical features. The difference is, the former has large leathery leaves while the latter produces feather-like ones with many plantlets on mature fronds. Both types can be grown without much hassle as they belong to an easy-to-grow category

What is the difference between a Mother Fern and a Boston fern?

The easiest way to distinguish a Mother Fern from a Boston Fern is by their leaves. Mother Ferns have broad, shuttle-shaped leaves, while Boston Ferns have fronds that are divided into many leaflets.

Boston Ferns also tend to be taller than mother ferns, and they often have a more upright growth habit. Lastly, Mother Ferns typically produce spores on the undersides of their leaves, while Boston ferns produce spores on the tips of their fronds.


And we’ve come to an end. Fortunately, that’s everything you need to know about your Mother Fern to keep it safe and sound in your garden or home. Enjoy planting!

Martin Duran

Hey y'all! My name is Martin Duran and I am from Cali, Colombia. Since 2018 I have been learning about plants and how to take care of them. Here's is my journey... “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ― John Muir

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