The Bird’s Nest Fern Care Guide (Asplenium Nidus)


birds nest fern

The Bird’s Nest Fern is unique because unlike other ferns, it is not feathery and neither does it come with airy fronds. This master of thriving in low light is identified by its crinkly, wavy, and flat fronds that give an impression of seaweed growing on dry land. 

Also known as Asplenium Nidus, this wonder grows on other trees in the wild but will demand a bit of babysitting to remain healthy and grow into the spectacular house plant it can become.

To get the best Bird’s Nest Fern, you should provide the following conditions:

  • Watering: it prefers moist and airy soil. Water once or twice per week.
  • Light: it requires moderate light towards a shade.
  • Soil: keep it in fertile compost soil that drains moderately fast. A peat-based mixture will be adequate but can be enhanced with compost.
  • Temperature: it prefers a warm environment between 68º F and 80º F (20º C and 26.6º C).

The bird’s nest fern is an imposing plant in the tropical regions of East Africa and Southern Asia where it grows to a height of 59 inches with the leaves growing between 4 and 8 inches wide. While it can grow alone in the wild, it requires a little tender-love-and-care to achieve its extraordinary potential indoors.

Here is a guide that will reveal the magic hidden in an Asplenium Nidus that has received the best care possible.

Birds Nest Fern or Asplenium Nidus Basic Care Guidelines

Watering

Like a typical fern, a bird’s nest fern requires proper watering. Once or twice a week, depending on temperature and humidity, necessary to keep the soil moist and the foliage beautifully green. The plant is unforgiving if you allow the soil to turn dry, by abandoning watering for several weeks.

watering a birds nest fern

Asplenium Nidus comes from the thick and rainy tropical forests and, therefore, loves airy and well-drained soil. Do not allow the soil to turn soggy by excessive watering. Stick your finger into the soil and only water when a few inches of the topsoil is dry.

Watering can be used as a form of misting to enhance humidity and in clearing dust or pests from the leaves of many houseplants. However, Asplenium Nidus is different because watering the leaves exposes the plant to fungal and bacterial infections. Therefore, target the base of the plant and protect the water from coming into contact with the leaves or its rosette.

The bird’s nest fern loves moist soil that is airy and well-drained. Water at least once a week. However, sprinkle the soil instead of the leaves. Soggy soil causes root rot and the eventual wilting of your fern.

Humidity

Bird’s nest fern is a typical tropical that loves a very humid environment. In the wild, it grows on tree grooves inside the canopies. It requires humidity levels between 30%-50%.

The fern will still thrive in humidity levels beyond 50% if the temperatures are higher and there is proper air circulation. Regular misting will help you maintain the required humidity levels. However, do not overdo the misting to avoid damaging the leaves through bright.

birds nest fern misting

A humidifier is an automated trick to maintain the right humidity. It is especially necessary indoors where air conditioning systems keep the environment dry. If the leaves do not receive sufficient moisture, they will begin to turn yellow on the edges.

In the absence of a humidifier, a petri dish or pebble tray will work. Such housings provide necessary humidity through natural evaporation. As for plant grouping, it will only work on a flowerbed or when you grow more plants in the same area. However, such an approach dilutes the beauty of individual leaves.

The bird’s nest fern loves a lot of humidity, and the leaves will turn yellow if the air is too dry. Remember to mist the leaves two to three times a week or place a pebbles tray at the foot of the plant. A humidifier will also help you to maintain the required constant humidity.

Soil

It is strange to imagine that a plant growing on tree grooves would be selective of the soil where it is planted. However, the bird’s nest fern is one of the most sensitive houseplants requiring moist to damp soil that is also aerated. The best soil to grow the Asplenium Nidus is one that drains well and remains damp.

Use loose and rich organic compost during potting to ensure a sufficient supply of nutrients and water to the roots. A peat-based potting mix will work best for your bird’s nest fern. Mix one part peat with one part perlite to create the best potting solution.

Rich compost is the best soil because of its humus content. Consider that the plant can thrive on a dead log or groove when preparing your mixture. Such soil calls not only for excellent drainage but also the ability to remain wet all the time without getting soggy. 

A generous layer of mulch on the surface will help the plant conserve water, provide humidity, and fertilize when the mulch decomposes.

The best soil for bird’s nest fern is a porous compost mix that drains well. The soil should hold sufficient nutrients to keep the foliage alive and vibrant. Drainage is especially important because it protects the roots from rotting and the entire plant from dying.

Light

Bird’s nest fern requires moderate light towards a shade. In its natural habitat inside canopies, the plant only receives occasional sunshine. A few houses of sunshine in the morning and late afternoon will provide sufficient lighting for Asplenium Nidus.

Inside the house, the indirect light may be provided by keeping the pot away from the window. The growth habit of a bird’s nest fern reveals a plant that only wants light from the top because of its funnel-shaped foliage. Artificial lighting from a bulb will be sufficient for your fern.

It does not mean growing the plant underneath tables. You may even plant your fern outdoors where direct sunlight is a norm. However, you will need a shade above the plant to shield it from the noon shine. An east or north-facing window will be ideal for your fern.

birds nest fern rosette

Too much light will damage the graceful foliage, causing the leaves to turn yellow and eventually dry. The vibrant midrange green color will disappear as the leaves become even more crinkled. These waxy leaves will only thrive in bright, filtered, and indirect light.

The bird’s nest fern prefers low to moderate lighting. A little sun in the morning and late evening is sufficient. Too much light causes the leaves to turn yellow, become crinkled, and eventually die.

Temperature

The tropical climate is warm, and the bird’s nest fern would prefer to keep it as such. Keep temperatures indoors between 68º F and 80º F (20º C-26.6º C). The temperature may go slightly higher than that but should not go below 60º F(16º C). While the fern will still grow, eventually, it slows down and loses its midrange green foliage.

High temperatures should be complemented with high humidity. The humidity will protect the soil from excessive evaporation and shield the leaves from drying. Use humidifying tricks to balance the high temperature and dry conditions found indoors.

Very high temperatures that leave the soil and leaves dry could also cause diseases and pests. The dry surface easily accommodates mites and scale pests, expositing your plant to attacks. Since it is a graceful and fast-growing ornamental plant, you must watch out for conditions that would affect its elegant appearance.

Protect the bird’s nest fern from sudden temperature drops or drafts. Keep the pot away from air conditioning ducts because they usually create unnecessary drafts. However, ensure proper air circulation around the plant to keep it healthy.

The bird’s nest fern prefers moderate room temperature that is complemented by high humidity. Avoid drafts and sudden temperature fluctuations. If the temperature is too high, scales and mites will perch on the surface, and the soil will lose most of its moisture through evaporation.

Bird’s Nest Fern Advanced Care Guidelines

Do you want to produce a spectacular bird’s nest fern for your office or house? You must go the extra mile to provide specific conditions.

Here are advanced care tips that can help you to produce the most spectacular bird’s nest fern:

Fertilization

More fertilizer for the bird’s nest fern is dangerous than applying less fertilizer. The plant is a survivor considering that it grows on grooves and dead tree trunks. You will know that the plant has more than enough fertilizer when its leaves turn yellow or brown on the edges. It also causes deformed leaves that conceal the beauty of your plant.

Apply nitrogen-rich fertilizer between spring and summer. Just like water, do not pour the compost on the leaves or nest. Further, use liquid fertilizer instead of pebbles to enhance absorption and even distribution.

Do not apply any fertilizer during the dormant autumn and winter months.

Pruning

The bird’s nest fern does not require a lot of pruning because it can naturally maintain its size and shape. However, pruning will help you to maximize the growth of your fern and enhance its aesthetics. It is also useful in controlling pests and diseases by eliminating bushes and improving aeration.

Prune the lower leaves that could be turning yellow and dying. Use a sharp knife to cut the leaves at the bottom if you cannot snip-it from the stem. If the leaves are still healthy, you can use them as mulch to protect the soil and enhance the fertility of it.

The best time to prune is during spring when the weather is warm, and the plant is at a vigorous-growth stage. Since the season also involves fertilization, the plant will heal the wounds faster and avoid wilting.

Repotting

Bird’s nest fern prefers underpotting considering that it can grow on a groove or dead trunk. Its root structure is a bit miniature and will still thrive on minimum organic materials. Such characteristic makes repotting only necessary one or two years after planting.

The fast-growing bird’s nest fern could easily topple its current small container. Use the next pot size and prepare a fresh mixture. Dip the plant with its soil mold in water to remove most of the old soil. Place the plant in the middle of the larger pot and fill it with the new mixture.

The repotted fern adapts fast to the new soil. Repot in spring or summer when the weather is warm enough to facilitate root growth. Compost and nitrogen-rich fertilizer also stimulate faster root growth.

Propagation

Bird’s nest ferns are challenging to propagate for most home growers because they use spores in the wild and tissue culture for commercial growers. It is, therefore, more comfortable to purchase a growing fern than attempt to propagate one at home. Still, the ferns are available from most gardens in neighborhoods.

Pest Prevention

The most common and problematic pest for bird’s nest fern is a foliar nematode that is common when the leaves are in direct contact with the soil. Unlike the spots from blight, the nematode causes the spots to turn from brown to black. The plant is usually thrown away and the soil sterilized. Mealybugs, scale insects, and slugs will also cause a lot of problems.

Bacterial blight is the most common disease you will have to deal with, especially if the soil is soggy, and watering is done through the leaves. Pruning will help you to control the disease. However, you must sustain proper care procedures.

Companion Plants

The Bird’s Nest fern has a spiky, coarse appearance that is perfect to offset the company of other plants. It also looks great when planted near Cast Iron Plants or Hoya Carnosa for their contrasting leaf texture and colors. Some gardeners also like to grow their ferns next to prayer plants like the Stromanthe Triostar.

Top Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium Nidus) Varieties

Bird’s nest fern varieties are easy to identify based on the shape of their leaves, color, and growth pattern, among other factors.

Here is a look at the most common bird’s nest fern varieties to consider:

Asplenium Antiquum: this slow-growing fern comes with bright-green arching leaves with a pointed tip. It also features a strong midrib and will grow to a height of 2-3fts (60-90cm). Unlike other varieties, the fronds are of uniform width, making it easier to identify.

Asplenium australasicum: it is commonly referred to as spleenwort and grows as a shrubby plant with yellow-green fronds that grow to 60-80 cm. This native of Australia has shiny but leathery leaves that form the perfect funnel as they grow. The fronds are undivided and are arranged in a bowl-shaped and upward-spreading manner.

Asplenium Nidus: it is the most common fern in the Asplenium variety for indoor planting. It grows slowly with simple apple-green fronds. The fronds are strap-shaped glossy and come with distinct dark brown to black midribs. You will also notice the undulating margins on the leaves.

Asplenium serratum: it stands among the hardiest Asplenium varieties because it prefers eroded limestone soil. The leaves are broader and a bit fleshy. They also feature brown streaks in the middle, running along the veins from the stalk. It does not get too bushy but will dominate any space where it has been planted.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium Nidus)

Why are the leaves of my bird’s nest fern turning yellow?

Two issues could cause yellowing of leaves:

  • Water
  • Humidity

You could be overwatering the fern or allowing the soil to dry and therefore denying the plant the sufficient water required to thrive. If the air is too dry, the bird’s nest fern leaves turn yellow. Provide the right amount of water and mist the leaves to save the plant before it dies.

Is the bird’s nest fern poisonous or toxic?

The popularity of bird’s nest fern is propped by the fact that the plant is not poisonous or toxic to people or pets. Even when ingested by people or pets, there are no health complications.

How long do bird’s nest ferns live?

Bird’s nest ferns are perennial plants. The plant will live beyond two years based on the care provided. Pests, diseases, overfertilization, and overwatering are some of the threats to the survival of your bird’s nest fern.

How do you revive a dying bird’s nest fern?

A change of environment and care procedures will revive a dying bird’s nest fern. The change is meant to reverse the damage-causing death. For instance, if too much light is killing your fern, take it to a shaded area. Where overfertilization or overwatering is causing death, change the routine. Check whether the plant is dying because of low humidity and begin to mist or install a humidifier.

Do bird’s nest ferns like to be root bound?

The roots of a bird’s nest fern are relatively small and do not like being root-bound. Repotting is only necessary when foliage outgrows and is threatening to topple the pot. The fern can survive with a small bowl as long as it does not topple from the overgrown foliage.

What are the differences between a Bird’s Nest (Asplenium Nidus) and a Mother Fern (Asplenium Bulbiferum)?

The Bird’s Nest is made up of leathery leaves, compared to Mother Fern which has feather-like fronds. Both species can be grown relatively easily with little care for their growth needs.

Our hope is that you’ve learned more about how to care for your Bird’s Nest Fern by reading this blog post. Now all you need to do is follow these basic caring guidelines and then share them with friends who like plants and gardening.

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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