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    How to Grow and Care For Bird's Nest Fern

    Bird’s nest fern has a unique appearance compared to a common fern. Rather than producing fuzzy fronds, this fern itself grows from a central rosette. In this guide, we'll cover all you need to know about bird's nest fern care and different varieties.
    blog post authorVera Kutsenko
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    Many gardeners find the sight of a Bird’s nest fern striking. In the wild, these epiphytic ferns are found growing off jungle and palm trees under the shade of their canopies or alongside streambeds. They produce tiny white spore sacs that resemble small bird nests, hence their name. 
    In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about caring for a bird’s nest fern - indoors and outdoors and what to expect from this fascinating houseplant.

    What is a Bird's Nest Fern?

    Bird’s nest fern (Asplenium nidus) is an epiphyte. This means it cannot grow in soil, but instead grows on other plants like trees. These tropical plants grow best on tree trunks in moist, shaded areas. They prefer less light/partial shade with some bright, natural light, but will tolerate full shade although turning slightly pale.
    The tiny spores produced by the bird’s nest fern resemble small, white bird nests. 
    Bird’s nest fern has a unique appearance compared to a common fern. Rather than producing fuzzy fronds, this fern itself grows from a central rosette, and is made up of many long, green leaves resembling banana leaves that grow from the center. These green leaves grow upwards and intertwine with each other as the plant grows. 
    The bird’s nest fern is native to tropical and subtropical areas of the world like Asia, Australia, etc. It is often seen growing on palm trees, and is often used in humid indoor environments as a decorative houseplant. The fern is very easy to grow although its a slow grower. It also doesn’t require much maintenance and is quiet hardy able to survive in a wide range of outdoor growing conditions.
    If you like Bird’s nest fern, you’ll like these easy to grow varieties: Lemon Button Fern, Foxtail Fern, Asparagus Fern, Crocodile Fern, Staghorn Fern.
    Is Bird’s nest fern an indoor or outdoor plant?
    Bird’s nest fern is commonly grown as an indoor houseplant, but can also thrive outdoors in shade or rock gardens.
    How big can bird’s nest ferns get?
    At maturity, bird’s nest fernsfronds can grow up to 2-5 feet tall. The fern will grow up to 4 feet wide, so keep this in mind if you’re planting outdoors.
    Do bird’s nest ferns like small pots?
    Bird’s nest ferns are slow growers and prefer to be slightly root bound. Opt for smaller, than larger pots.

    Bird's Nest Fern Care Guide

    Asplenium nidus
    Bird’s Nest Fern
    Perennial fern
    Slow growth rate
    Balanced, liquid fertilizer during active growing season in mid spring to early fall.
    Partial shade to shady areas
    Keep soil consistently moist. You can allow topsoil to dry in between waterings.
    Well-draining soil, organic matter rich (peat moss)
    Acidic (peat moss amendments can make soil more acidic)
    Spores (hard!)
    60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, don’t let temps drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit
    East or west-facing windows. North-facing with low light will also work.
    11, 12
    Toxic to dogs and cats
    Botanical Name
    Common Name
    Plant Type
    Growth Rate
    Sun Exposure
    Soil Type
    Soil Ph
    Window Locations (Ideal)
    USDA Hardiness Zones
    Where to Buy

    Types of Bird’s Nest Fern

    Bird’s nest ferns comes in a multitude of cultivars depending on your aesthetic preference and care requirements. We’ll cover some of the most popular varieties of this fern plant below:
    Asplenium nidus ‘Antiquum’ (Asplenium antiquum): Also commonly known as the Japanese Bird’s Nest Fern, the Asplenium nidus ‘Antiquum’ is a beautiful, green bird’s nest fern variety. This variety produces emerald-colored, glossy sword-shaped leaves coming off of a central rosette. The edges are smooth, rather than more wavy like the crispy wave variety.
    Asplenium nidus ‘Leslie’: If you’re looking for a heavily crested version of the bird’s nest fern, look no further than the Leslie cultivar. It’s a more compact variety growing up to 18-24 inches wide and produces granny smith apple-colored fronds with a dramatic midrib that gets darker as the plant matures. It’s leaf edges are extremely ruffled, giving this fern a unique appearance.
    Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’: Bird’s nest fern ‘Crispy Wave’ is another unusual cultivar like the Leslie. It produces emerald to apple green colored leaves that are ribboned in nature. The texture and leaf patterns create a striking silhouette.
    Asplenium nidus ‘Victoria’: This hardy fern variety produces emerald-colored leaves with ruffled edges. More muted in ruffle than the Crispy Wave and Leslie, but enough to add a touch of character.
    Asplenium nidus ‘Osaka’: The Osaka is known for its signature, glossy leaves lined with miniature, but heavily ruffled margins. Unlike the crispy wave, victoria, or leslie, the Osaka’s ruffles are so small that it almost looks like a serrated knife edge on each leaf.
    Asplenium nidus ‘Crissie’: The Crissie cultivar produces glossy, smoother foliage than the other varieties. Rather than the margins or edges being serrated, the Crissie produces ruffles at the tips of each of the large fronds. This growth habit gives the Crissie a unique silhouette as it matures.

    How to Care For Bird's Nest Fern

    Beautiful Bird's Nest Fern in pot
    Image Source:Photo by Michel VIARD on Getty ImagesThe most important factor in growing a  healthy plant is proper water and moisture.
    Bird’s nest ferns are not particularly picky when it comes to caring. Proper water and moisture are the most important factors in growing a  healthy plant. Bird’s nest ferns prefer partially shaded gardens making them a great choice for lower-light rooms, bathrooms, and offices. They do, however, love consistently moist soil and humid environments. 
    As long as you’ve planted your fern in well-draining potting soil, and sprinkled in some indirect light, your bird’s nest fern will thrive.
    In this care guide, we cover everything you need to know about bird’s nest fern care. 

    💧 Water

    Like most ferns, Bird’s nest fern prefers to have its soil consistently moist. You can allow the topsoil (inch) to dry in between waterings. Overly wet soil for prolonged periods of time can lead to fungal diseases like root rot.
    During its active growing season from April to September, we recommend watering 2-3 times a week to maintain consistently moist soil. During the dormant period in the winter time, decrease watering to 1-2 times a week.
    If you’re growing a wood-mounted Bird’s nest fern, we recommend soaking the root ball on the wooden plank in water for a few minutes and letting the roots fully saturate. You can also run water over the root ball for a similar effect.
    When growing indoors, we recommend planting your Bird’s nest fern in a pot with a drainage hole to ensure proper aeration. If you live in dry regions, consider planting your fern in a plastic pot which tends to retain moisture more than clay or terracotta pots.
    How often should I water bird’s nest fern?
    During its active growing season from April to September, we recommend watering 2-3 times a week. Watering schedules depend on humidity levels, temperatures, and sunlight levels, so keep this in mind. During dormant season, decrease to 1-2 times a week.
    Should I bottom water my bird’s nest fern?
    You can bottom water your bird’s nest fern. If your fern is so large that it’s hard to water the soil directly from the top, we recommend bottom watering to avoid moisture buildup in your fern’s leaves.
    What does an overwatered bird’s nest fern look like?
    If your bird’s nest fernfronds are starting to turn yellow (and sometimes followed along with brown edges), you are overwatering your bird’s nest fern. Stop immediately and allow the soil to air out and the top few inches to dry. Then, resume a proper watering schedule but decrease your frequency.

    ☀️ Sunlight

    Unlike other tropical plants that prefer bright, indirect sunlight, bird’s nest ferns thrive best in partial shade to low light environments. Ideally, allow your fern to receive 4-6 hours of moderate to low sunlight a day
    If growing indoors, a north-facing window is a great candidate for your fern as it receives a low amount of light. Bird’s nest ferns can tolerate bright light as well, but overexposure to too much light, especially direct sunlight, can burn the foliage while drying out the soil and leaves. 
    West-facing and east-facing windows will also work as long as you place your fern a few feet away to avoid direct sunlight.
    Can bird’s nest ferns grow in low light or shade?
    Yes! Bird’s nest ferns are a great option if your space doesn’t offer much light. When grown outdoors, we recommend planting these in fully shaded areas.

    🌡️ Temperature and Humidity

    In its natural habitat in tropical Asia, bird’s nest ferns are used to thriving in warm temperatures and moderate to high humidity climates. They are hardy from USDA zone 9 to zone 11 and are not frost tolerant. Don’t let temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit for long, and make sure to bring your ferns inside during cooler months below USDA zone 9.
    Most ideal room temperatures will work, but bird’s nest ferns prefer temperatures in the range from 60 to 80 degrees fahrenheit. 
    If you live in a dry area, we recommend investing in a small humidifier supplemented with occasional misting. Misting, by itself, won’t do much to fix humidity and can, in fact, make your plant susceptible to fungal disease. We only recommend misting in dry, arid regions.
    Should I mist my bird’s nest fern?
    Although misting won’t solve low humidity problems, we recommend misting only if you live in an arid region. Otherwise, we recommend investing in a humidifier. Misting often, especially the foliage, can leave your bird’s nest fern susceptible to fungal diseases.

    🌱 Best Soil for Bird's Nest Fern

    Bird’s nest ferns are epiphytes in their native habitats, so they don’t require soil to grow. However, when grown in soil, they prefer well-draining, organic matter rich potting soil. Most houseplant potting mix will work, but you can also supplement with airy amendments like perlite and orchid bark alongside moisture retentive amendments like peat moss or coco coir
    Bird’s nest ferns prefer acidic soil (5-5.5 pH), so we recommend adding peat moss which tends to decrease pH levels and increase acidity of the soil.
    Similar to Staghorn Ferns, Bird’s nest ferns can also be grown on wooden slabs epiphytically. They are typically mounted on wooden slabs with peat moss.

    🌻 Fertilizer

    Bird’s nest ferns are slow growers and light feeders. They don’t really need fertilizer, but if you’d like to supplement their growth, you can consider feeding them every month during the growing season from April to September. You can apply a balanced, liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength.
    Do not fertilize during its dormant months. Overfertilization can cause root burn and leaf tip burn. If you have been fertilizing frequently and start to see yellow leaves or slightly crispy leaf edges, it may be a sign of over fertilization. We recommend you fully flush the soil out by running water for 10-15 minutes through your pot.

    ☢️ Toxicity

    Fortunately, Bird’s nest fern is not toxic to cats or dogs!

    🏡 Growing Outdoors

    Although more commonly grown as an indoor houseplant, Bird’s nest ferns can also be grown outdoors planted straight into the ground or grown in containers on patios!

    Bird’s nest ferns prefer partial shade to shady areas of your garden, so they make for a perfect selection for a shade garden. They will also tolerate partial sun, but don’t expose them to direct sunlight for too long since their glossy leaves are sensitive and will scorch.
    If you’re growing outdoors, make sure to pick a spot in your garden that retains moisture, but doesn’t pool with water when it rains. Outdoors, bird’s nest ferns are hardy year round from USDA grow zone 10 and up where temperatures don’t drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter months. You can pair them with other ferns like Foxtail ferns that prefer shady spaces and moist soils.
    How cold can bird’s nest ferns tolerate?
    Bird’s nest ferns can tolerate temperatures as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in a region with cold and harsh winters, make sure to move your bird’s nest fern indoors these times.
    Can I plant bird’s nest ferns in the ground?
    Yes! You can plant bird’s nest ferns in the ground. They prefer well-draining, but organic rich soils that retain moisture. You can always supplement with mulch to encourage more moisture retention when planting.
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    How to Propagate Bird's Nest Fern From Spores

    Propagating Bird’s nest ferns can be quiet challenging since you can only do so through spores. It’s often easier to purchase a new fern from your local nursery. However, if you’re up for the challenge of learning a new and unusual way of propagating, here’s how you can do so:
    Step By Step Spore Propagation
    • Step 1: Ferns produce spores at maturity, so you will have best results with a mature bird’s nest fern.
    • Step 2: Inspect a mature bird’s nest fern frond. Look at the underside of the fronds, and you’ll see little brown spots. These are called spores, and this frond is a good candidate to propagate with.
    • Step 3: Take the mature front and place it in a paper bag and let it sit for a few days. During this time, the spores will naturally fall off the front and collect at the bottom of the bag.
    • Step 4: Once you’ve collected the spores, place them on top of sphagnum peat moss growing medium and leave them uncovered.
    • Step 5: Do NOT top water the spores. Instead, bottom water your growing medium by placing the container in a water soak allowing it to absorb water from the bottom.
    • Step 6: We recommend covering your container with a plastic bag (w/ holes) to create a moist, greenhouse like environment.
    • Step 7: Keep your container in a shady area with warm temperatures.
    • Step 8: It will take about two weeks for the spores to germinate and start growing! One your new plants develop, transplant them into a new container.

    How to Repot Bird's Nest Fern

    Bird’s nest ferns are really slow growers, so won’t need to be repotted often. We recommend generally every two to three years, especially to replenish soil nutrients if you don’t fertilize frequently.
    Follow these repotting steps:
    • Step 1: Prepare a new container 2” wider in diameter with a drainage hole, gloves, new well-draining growing medium.
    • Step 2: Gently remove your bird’s nest fern from its old container and shake off any remaining soil and detangle the rootball if necessary.
    • Step 3: Inspect the roots for fungal disease. If you see any mushy or brown roots, this may be a sign of root rot. Use sterilized shears to trim off this unhealthy growth.
    • Step 4: Fill your new container ⅓ of the way with bird’s nest potting soil. Place your new plant into the container and align the top of the plant with the top of the pot.
    • Step 5: Backfill the container with soil, and water thoroughly.

    Common Bird's Nest Fern Disease

    Top view of Bird's Nest Fern
    Image Source:Photo by adisa on Getty ImagesTop view of Bird's Nest Fern
    Bird’s nest ferns can be susceptible to common fungal disease problems because of their moisture loving nature. If their leaves or soil is left overly soggy, they are prone to developing root rot or bacterial leaf spot. 
    Below, we’ll cover how you can identify and treat both of these common problems.

    Bacterial Leaf Spot or Bacterial Blight

    If you’re starting to see brown spots along your Bird’s nest fern’s fronds, it’s a potential sign of bacterial blight. These spots start out small, develop brown and if there’s multiple, they can join overtime.
    Bacterial blight leaf spots can often have yellow halos surrounding a darker brown interior.
    What causes bacterial blight?
    Blight is caused by a bacteria (Psuedomonas spp) which thrives in moist environments. If you’ve left your fronts overly moist combined with warm temperatures, you’re creating a perfect environment for this bacteria to thrive.
    How do I treat bacterial blight?
    To treat bacterial blight, we recommend trimming off unhealthy growth with sterilized shears. Unfortunately, there’s no treatment for bacterial blight. We recommend making sure your plant has good air circulation and you stop misting to allow your plant to evaporate unnecessary moisture.

    Root Rot

    If this is your first time experiencing root rot, read our full guide on root rot.
    Root rot is a common issue with most houseplants including Bird’s nest fern. It’s usually caused by moist or waterlogged soil for prolonged periods of time. Symptoms can include rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and a rotten brown base. If you’re seeing these symptoms, here’s how to treat root rot.
    • Remove the plant from the pot and gently remove the soil so you can see the root system.
    • If the roots are brown and mushy, you must take action immediately.
    • Clean off the roots with sterile water.
    • Take sterilized scissors and trim any mushy roots.
    • You can use a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution to disinfect the roots.
    • Once cleaned up, repot your plant in fresh houseplant soil mix.

    Troubleshooting FAQ

    Why is my bird’s nest fern turning brown?
    If you’re bird’s nest fern leaves are turning brown, it’s likely that your fern isn’t receiving enough water or humidity. Crispy, brown leaf edges are a sign that you may be exposing your plant to too much light. Although that is the most common issue, another cause of brown spots on leaves can be bacterial blight, a fungal disease caused by too much water.
    Why is my bird’s nest fern drooping and wilting?
    If your bird’s nest fern is drooping and wilting, this is a sign of underwatering. Make sure that you’re keeping your fern’s soil consistently moist (not soggy).
    Why is my bird’s nest fern turning yellow?
    If you’re seeing your bird’s nest fern leaves turning yellow, it’s likely for one of two reasons: you’re either overwatering or overfertilizing your fern. Overwatering is the most common symptom. In this case, we recommend you let your fern’s soil dry out a little bit more than usual, and then continue on a less frequent watering cadence. Overfertilization or build up of chemicals in soil can cause root burn which can lead to yellowing leaves. In this case, we recommend flushing your fern’s soil by letting water run through the soil for 10-15 minutes.
    Why does my bird’s nest fern have pale leaves?
    Bird’s nest fern leaves will turn pale if it’s not receiving enough sunlight. Although these are shade loving plants, they still need sun to produce the nutrition to thrive. We recommend moving to a slightly brighter spot in your space.

    Common Bird's Nest Fern Pests

    Houseplant Asplenium nidus in sack pot
    Image Source:Photo by bgton on Getty ImagesHouseplant Asplenium nidus in sack pot
    Bird’s nest ferns are generally disease and pest resistant, but can be susceptible to common houseplant pests like spider mites, fungus gnats, and mealybugs. 
    Once you see an infestation, isolate your plant away from others to prevent spread.
    You can treat most insect infestations with insecticidal soap, neem oil mixtures, or insecticides. Read our in-depth care guides on each pest for more common problem troubleshooting.

    Bird's Nest Fern Care Tips

    If you’re breaking down a difficult concept or task, some readers may still feel overwhelmed and unsure of their ability to tackle it. Break down a few suggestions on how to best approach the concept, and/or a few reminders about it. This is not a list post, so keep this short list to three to five pieces of advice. 
    • Plant your Bird’s nest fern in well-draining, but organic rich soil amended with peat moss or coco coir.
    • Place your Bird’s nest fern in a partially shade location outdoors or near a north, west-facing window indoors.
    • Keep your soil consistently moist only allowing the top inch of soil to dry in between waterings.
    • If you want to propagate your fern, you’ll have to do it via spore propagation.

    Where to buy Bird's Nest Fern?

    Whether you’re a beginner plant parent or an advanced gardener, Bird’s nest ferns are a rewarding houseplant to grow! They offer a touch of bold, bright green and glossy foliage and are really low maintenance. They make for great candidates for bathrooms because they can tolerate low light and love the humidity a bathroom can offer!
    Visit Neverland plant care blog today for more tips and useful resources. Plants bring a lot of joy, so we strive to help you have the best plants growing experience possible!