Asplenium nidus, or bird’s nest fern, belongs to the Aspleniaceae family and is indigenous to the tropics of Southeast Asia, Australia, Hawaii, Polynesia, Christmas Island, India, and East Africa. Bird’s-nest ferns have been popularly grown by fern aficionados since Victorian times.
Its crinkled leaves or fronds are light green and banana-like, growing to 59 inches long and 8 inches wide and rise from a fuzzy rosette in the center where young fronds emerge looking like bird’s eggs – the reason for its common name.
It reaches a height of 5 feet and spreads to 3 feet after several years when it grows in ideal environments that are very humid. Expect it to attain half this size when grown indoors. Spores develop underneath the fronds, forming long rows on the front.
The fronds turn brown and roll back, creating a huge nest of leaves among the trunks and branches of trees it typically grows on. It often grows on palm trees, collecting water and decomposed vegetation among its fronds. When bought as an ornamental indoor plant, it is usually in a container, but it can be attached to wooden planks and suspended on walls.
It will thrive in bright to medium indirect light but also can endure low indirect lighting, doesn’t like direct sunlight, and prefers partial to complete shade.
They are often cultivated for their crinkled leaves and the amount of light they receive affects how crinkled the leaves will be. More light makes more crinkles, while less light will result in flatter leaves.
Too much direct light will make the fronds turn yellow and die. Consistent medium light levels throughout the day are necessary for the plant to do well.
Water the plant once or twice every two weeks, letting the soil get dry between watering. It needs more water under bright light and a smaller amount in lower lighting conditions. The water around the fern rather than in the center.
Usually, ferns prefer damp, but not water-logged soil. Part of the attraction of this fern is that it tolerates soil that dries out regularly. Ferns usually fail to thrive indoors because they are either over or under-watered.
Just ensure that you keep the soil just damp in the warmer months without water-logging the soil. Water it less in winter as the water around the roots will boost rotting.
It can tolerate average indoor humidity levels but prefers higher humidity since this is more lenient to the occasionally neglectful owner when compared to other ferns. They’re particularly good to be grown in bathrooms or kitchens because these locations usually have a more humid atmosphere.
Misting regularly is important because it does need some humidity to get that extra shiny frond and help it grow larger.
Then again, if time is limited for regular misting, the fern can be cultivated in a terrarium as this naturally creates humid situations that many plants grown indoors will thrive well in.
It will do well in an average home temperature of 65 -75°F with a low of 50°F, as this is a plant that will struggle in very warm rooms.
It grows best in porous and well-draining soil in a container with holes for drainage, as sufficient drainage is important to avoid root rot.
It must be repotted into a slightly bigger container when the fern becomes root-bound. Normally, young plants have to be repotted each year until attaining maturity, repot once in two years after that.
This plant will still grow well in smaller pots so there’s no necessity to repot into a considerably larger pot every time. Just water it more often as smaller pots store less water.
Standard porous soil is satisfactory and gently loosens the roots if they are very compressed. When you’re planting it into a new pot, make sure that the crown is not covered with soil.
Ferns are propagated through spores and it’s quite difficult to successfully propagate ferns without specialized equipment, almost impossible in fact – simply buy a new plant.
The fern should be fed with diluted fertilizer at least two times a year in warmer months. Over-fertilization will result in brown and/or yellow spotting on the leaves. While it is not very demanding, leaves will look dull and growth will slow down if you don’t feed it over a long period.
If you are properly taking care of the fern, growth will be fairly regular and fast during the warmer months, with new leaves constantly emerging from the rosette. Be careful however not to touch the fragile young fronds as they emerge because of how delicate they are as it will result in damage or deformation.
Ferns are generally disliked chemicals so never use leaf shine to prevent any issues. While the leaves are glossy, dust and dirt will make them look dull – give the plant a nice shower to wash away the grime.
Growth will be slowed down if the plant gets root-bound or if the temperature stays below 50°F. Repot the plant with fresh soil and ensure the temperature stays above 50°F.
Luckily, the plant is not very prone to any severe diseases or pests, although they can be affected by a scale that appears as brown spots of the fronds. This can be misleading as the spores are also brown.
Spores are regularly spaced and appear only on older plants, while scale appears randomly and can affect plants at any age. If you notice scales on the fronds, prune any affected fronds. If it’s just a few insects, they can be rubbed off the fronds by hand. Pests can be controlled with soap and/or neem oil.
A healthy plant can help prevent disease or pest infestations so make sure your fern has proper lighting, enough nutrients, and proper watering. Regularly inspect the fronds to ensure no pests are hiding somewhere.
Sometimes the fronds are coated with a fine brown fuzz. This is not a problem as there’s a brown mound in the heart of the fern from which new fronds emerge and some of the brown fuzz will cling to the new frond. It’s harmless and it will ultimately dry out and can be washed off if it appears unsightly.
Brown tips on the fronds are due to either low humidity or dry soil. Sometimes it could also indicate overwatering – soil must be moist, but not very dry or very wet.
Sometimes, the ends of the fronds begin to turn yellow – this is possibly due to aging. If the frond base is becoming yellow then it’s probably due to the temperature being too high – look for a cooler place for the fern to live. Other causes might be from using cold water, exposure to drafts, or chemicals.
Lighter green leaves and dry soil are a sign that the plant is thirsty and under-watered. Follow the recommended watering schedule.
Lower leaves turning yellow and wet potting mix are an indication of either excessive light or over-watering. Look for a more shaded place and make sure not to over-water the fern.
Brown or crispy leaves indicate that the plant is under-watered or it’s living in low humid conditions, increasing humidity or mist the fern more.