Originating from the New South Wales and Queensland regions of Australia, eastern tropical Africa and tropical Asia, bird’s nest fern features yellowish green leaves with a prominent central rib on the entire length of the leaf.
Although in the United States and Europe it’s grown as an ornamental houseplant, in certain places like Taiwan, its young green leaves are used as a vegetable.
Growing a healthy and thriving bird’s nest fern can be difficult if you don’t meet its basic potting, lighting and watering requirements.
Before you take it upon yourself to grow this plant, make sure you go over the plant care tips I put together below.
Bird’s Nest Fern Plant Care Tips
An interesting feature of this plant is that it’s naturally epiphytic, that is, it grows on the surface of other plants, e.g. in the crooks of trees.
This feature has implications in its keeping requirements, specifically when it comes to soil, lighting and watering requirements.
In the wild, bird’s nest ferns can get quite big — some plants can get to 4 feet in diameter and fronds can reach 2 to 5 feet.
As ornamental houseplants, they don’t boast the same size measurements as bird’s nest ferns in the wilds. Indoors fronds grow to 20 to 59 inches long and 4 to 8 inches broad.
While bird’s nest ferns do enjoy some light, too much light will cause the leaves to yellow and die. I’ve had the most success when I placed my bird’s nest fern in a window facing East or North.
Very early morning sun will not damage your plant, but I find that it mostly thrives in filtered or partial shade is best for my bird’s nest fern.
If your plant is getting too little light, the leaves will lose their crinkle and flatten. I recommend watching out for signs of damage to your plant and adjust the lighting accordingly.
Since these plants can naturally be found in tropical forests, they enjoy quite a bit of moisture. Therefore, try to keep their soil moist but without it becoming soggy.
Also, when watering the plant don’t pour water into the “nest” of the plant. Instead water the soil. Putting water into the nest will increase the chances of mold forming and rotting.
Now, even if the soil of your bird’s nest fern dries out from time to time, it’s not the end of the world, but do make sure it doesn’t happen regularly.
Temperature & Humidity
Indoor temperature for this fern should be between 68-80 degrees. Make sure the temperature in your home doesn’t get below 60 F.
Likewise, cold drafts and sudden changes in temperature can be fatal to your fern, so avoid exposing your plant to temperature fluctuations and the cold.
The plant enjoys humid environments best, but if you can’t or won’t keep it in a terrarium or bathroom, you can use a humidifier near the fern to increase humidity levels around the plant. Unlike other fern types, the bird’s nest fern is more forgiving when it comes to humidity levels.
Loose, rich, organic compost soil works best for this plant. You can try a peat-based mixture with organic material or perlite for best results. I like to use a two parts peat and one part perlite mixture.
Feeding the plant with fertilizer is only required during the growing season. Use a fertilizer only during the spring and summer, and withhold completely during the winter, when plants are dormant or resting.
I find that my bird’s nest fern doesn’t require any fancy fertilizer and that a general houseplant fertilizer will do fine, just make sure it’s half strength.
Avoid using fertilizer pellets and don’t use fertilizer on the central nest of the plant. Too much fertilizer or fertilizer that is too strong will damage the leaves. Look out for signs such as deformed leaves or yellow-brown spots.
Potting & Repotting
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned how bird’s nest ferns are epiphytic and that they naturally grow on the crowns of trees.
What this translates to in indoors growing it that this fern can do well with little organic matter. Therefore, you can slightly under-pot these ferns as they’ll elongate above the soil and shed their lower leaves as they mature.
If the pot is too small, there is a risk of tipping over the pot as the plant grows and matures, so replant every other year in a bitter pot size to avoid this from happening.
Bird’s Nest Fern Plant Propagation
Unfortunately, propagation of these plants is troublesome as they cannot be divided like other fern types. You’ll need spore cultures and tissue cultures to grow this plant, so propagation is not something you can easily achieve at home.
Expert growers can easily spot bird’s nest fern spores and harvest them. These spores can be found on the underside of some of the plants, and they look like line of brownish, fuzzy spots.
These spores can be germinated in a pot of sphagnum moss over the course of a couple of weeks. Because the germination process doesn’t require anything special other than a plastic wrap, water and warm temperature, you can try your hand at propagating this fern.
Different Types of Bird’s Nest Fern Plant
As for bird’s nest fern varieties, there aren’t many available in commercial settings. The varieties that do exist have been developed to have frilly and crinkled leaves.
In the wild, the Asplenium genus covers around 700 species of ferns, however, ferns known around the world as bird’s nest are the Asplenium antiquum, found in temperate regions of eastern Asia, the Asplenium australasicum, found in Australia, and Asplenium nidus, found in northern Australia and tropical regions of Africa.
Bird’s Nest Fern Problems & Diseases
As other plants, this fern can also have issues related to pests or diseases. Chief among the issues to affect this plant is bacterial blight, which appear as small translucent, watery spots on the plant.
As the disease progresses, these spots enlarge and become reddish-purple around the edges. To prevent the disease from spreading, trim off infected leaves at the base.
Preventing the disease is the easiest way to avoid problems by only using plant soil that has been sterilized.
A disease that initially looks a lot like bacterial blight is foliar nematodes, which start out looking like the watery spots of bacterial blight, except they turn to a brownish black as the disease progresses.
In this case as well, prevention by sterilizing plant soil is the easiest way to avoid this problem with your bird’s nest fern.
Applying beneficial nematodes at the first signs of disease may help clear out harmful nematodes.
Cutworms, fungus gnat, mealybugs, scales, slugs are other pests that can damage your bird’s nest fern, so keep an eye on your plant for unusual signs such as munching alongside the leaves (cutworms), cottony masses on leaves and roots (mealybugs), webbing on the leaf surface (fungus gnat), etc.
Some of these problems are preventable by practicing good soil hygiene (e.g. buying sterilized plant soil or sterilizing plant soil yourself. Other issues require antifungal treatment (e.g. with neem oil) or antibacterial treatment or using beneficial bacteria that can help fight off pests and diseases.
These diseases are not singular to bird’s nest ferns, so I recommend reading up on their symptoms to help you spot them early on all your affected houseplants and to prevent them spreading to healthy plants.
Bird’s Nest Fern FAQs
Find out more about this fern in the Q&A I put together below:
Is Bird’s Nest Fern Plant Toxic for Pets?
No, this fern is not toxic to children, cats or dogs, so it’s safe to keep it in your home as it won’t cause issues if accidentally ingested. In fact, in some regions of the world like Taiwan, this plant is used as a vegetable.
Why are My Bird’s Nest Fern’s Leaves Turning Yellow?
Yellowing leaves can be a sign of too much direct sunlight that scorches the leave, or the use of too much fertilizer. Excessively watering the plant can also have this effect.
Do I Need to Mist My Bird’s Nest Fern?
This fern thrives in humid environments. If the air is too dry in your home, occasionally misting the plan, helps in maintaining good humidity levels.
Do I Need to Trim My Bird’s Nest Fern?
Because the plant maintains its shape, trimming and/or pruning is not necessary. If you do want to trim back your fern, remove some of the outside leaves at the base of the plant.
If you want to add some greenery to your living room or office, the bird’s nest fern will certainly add a great splash of green to any room.
Once to get a handle on the plan’s watering and soil requirements, you can successfully grow a healthy bird’s nest fern indoors.
Make sure to avoid overfertilization and exposing the fern to too much direct sunlight, be on the lookout for signs of diseases to help your fern thrive.