Bring the tropical outdoors inside with the beautiful and easy-to-care-for bird’s nest fern. With its cascading fronds and tropical look, this houseplant can provide a splash of the tropics in any indoor space.
An Overview of the Bird’s Nest Fern
The bird’s nest fern, also known as nest fern or asplenium nidus, is native to tropical Southeast Asia, Eastern Australia, Hawaii, Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and parts of East Africa. This popular houseplant gets its name from the way its long, drooping fronds cascade out of its central rosette, resembling a bird’s nest.
Some key facts about the bird’s nest fern:
- Growth pattern – The bird’s nest fern has a vase-shaped growth habit, with long, strap-shaped fronds arching and spreading out from a central crown or rosette. The fronds can reach up to 3 feet long.
- Size – These ferns grow up to 3 feet tall and wide when mature. Their spreading, cascading shape takes up quite a bit of horizontal space.
- Light requirements – Bird’s nest ferns do best in bright, indirect sunlight. They can tolerate low light, but their growth will slow. Direct sunlight can scorch their foliage.
- Watering – Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Water thoroughly until it runs from the drainage holes. Avoid letting the plant sit in water.
- Humidity – High humidity is key to this tropical plant. Mist the fronds regularly or use a pebble tray for added humidity.
- Temperature – Average room temperatures from 65°F to 80°F suit it well. Avoid cold drafts.
- Soil – Use a well-draining potting mix. Add peat moss to help retain moisture.
- Fertilizer – Feed monthly in the growing season with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half.
With proper care, the bird’s nest fern makes an excellent houseplant that can be enjoyed for many years. The visually pleasing, cascading foliage brings a touch of the tropics indoors.
Selecting a Healthy Bird’s Nest Fern
When choosing a bird’s nest fern for your home, pick a plant with vigor and with no signs of disease or pests. Here’s what to look for:
- Fronds – Choose a plant with glossy, bright green fronds. Avoid any with browning, yellowing, or damaged fronds.
- Central crown – The center rosette where fronds emerge should be full, not sparse. Older plants may have some dead fronds in center which can be pruned.
- Roots – If purchasing a potted plant, check roots for signs of being root-bound. Healthy roots should be firm and white.
- Pests – Inspect fronds carefully for signs of scale, mealybugs, or spider mites which will show up as bumps, cobwebs or stippling damage.
- Disease – Leaf spots or spores on the fronds may indicate a fungal infection. Choose plants with clean fronds.
Select a plant that matches your light conditions and space needs. Larger plants with long, full fronds will make more of an impact, while small starter plants are ideal for tabletops and growing on to maturity.
Providing the Right Growing Conditions
While relatively easy to care for, there are some key conditions bird’s nest ferns need in order to really thrive indoors:
Bright, filtered light is ideal for bird’s nest ferns. Near an east or west window works well. Direct hot sunlight will scorch the foliage, causing browning or yellowing. Insufficient light leads to slow growth and sparse fronds. Rotate the plant periodically so all sides get light.
Average room temperatures from 65-80°F suit bird’s nest ferns well. Avoid cold drafts which can damage the fronds. The foliage can suffer if temperatures dip much below 60°F. Warmer temperatures in the 70s F will keep its growth steady.
High humidity is critical for bird’s nest ferns which originate in tropical rainforests. Minimum 40% humidity is recommended, but 50-60% humidity is better. Use a humidifier nearby or place the pot on a pebble tray to increase humidity around the plant. Mist the fronds daily.
Keep the soil consistently moist but avoid soggy soil. Water thoroughly until water runs from the drainage holes. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings. The fronds will start to curl and dry out if the plant needs water.
Drainage and Potting
Plant in a pot with drainage holes using an airy, peat-based potting mix amended with perlite, orchid bark or coco coir to allow excess water to drain away readily. Ensure the pot is not too large for the root system to avoid staying too wet. Repot every 2-3 years in spring into a slightly larger pot.
Feed monthly in the growing season with a balanced liquid fertilizer like 20-20-20, diluted to half strength. Too much fertilizer can damage the roots. No fertilizer is needed in the winter when growth slows.
Displaying Bird’s Nest Ferns
A few ideas for showcasing bird’s nest ferns in your home:
- Place a large specimen on the floor beside an armchair or corner to make a bold statement.
- Cluster three smaller bird’s nest ferns on a tabletop or plant stand for greater visual impact.
- Allow the cascading fronds to flow over the edges of a tall plant stand or shelf.
- Position in front of a bright, sunny window where the arching fronds will be backlit.
- Display on a front porch or patio during warm months for tropical outdoor flair. Bring it back inside when temperatures cool.
- Contrast the wide, spreading fronds with tall, upright plants like snake plants or dracaena.
- Complement the tropical style with rattan, wicker or bamboo accessories.
- Set on a decorative plant saucer atop a console table or kitchen island.
Let this graceful tropical plant showcase its flowing, arching form for maximum impact. Avoid crowding or hiding its beautiful cascading fronds.
Common Problems and Solutions
While relatively easy care when their needs are met, bird’s nest ferns can develop issues if given improper care.
Browning or crisping fronds
This can be due to several factors:
- Dry air – Increase humidity via pebble tray or humidifier. Mist leaves frequently.
- Underwatering – Water thoroughly until it runs from the drainage holes.
- Overwatering – Allow more time to dry out between waterings.
- Too much fertilizer – Flush soil and avoid overfeeding.
- Sunburn – Move out of direct sunlight.
- Cold drafts – Protect from drafty windows or air vents.
Sparse, stunted growth
- Insufficient light – Place in bright, indirect sunlight. Rotate plant to expose all sides to light.
- Temperature too low – Move to warmer room between 65-80°F. Avoid temperatures below 60°F.
- Repotting needed – Plant may be root bound. Repot in fresh potting mix every 2-3 years.
This fungal disease causes brown spots on fronds. Causes include:
- Excess moisture – Allow soil to dry out between waterings.
- Poor air circulation – Space plants to allow air movement.
- High humidity – Only provide humidity fern needs (40-60%).
- Water on leaves – Avoid wetting foliage when watering.
Bird’s nest ferns can fall victim to common houseplant pests. Inspect regularly. Treatments include:
- Mealybugs – Wipe away with cotton swab dipped in alcohol.
- Scale – Remove manually and treat with neem oil or insecticidal soap.
- Spider mites – Rinse off plant and wipe leaves. Apply neem oil.
With good care and prompt attention to any issues, bird’s nest ferns make lovely, rewarding houseplants. Their graceful form and tropical flair are sure to provide enjoyment.
Growing Bird’s Nest Ferns from Pups
Bird’s nest ferns are one of those special plants that grow baby plantlets called pups right on the mature plant. Here’s how to grow new ferns from these charming plantlets.
What are pups?
Pups are miniature plantlets that form on the mature plant, usually where fronds join the main stem. They have their own small root system. Once the pups reach 3-6 inches tall, they can be carefully removed and potted up to grow into full-sized, independent plants. This allows you to produce more bird’s nest ferns easily for free.
When do pups appear?
Pups can start forming once the mother plant is 3-4 years old and reaches maturity. Ideally allow the main plant to become well-established before removing pups. They’ll appear on the mother plant in the summer months when growth is vigorous.
How to remove and pot up pups
Wait until the pups have 3-6 inch long fronds before removing. Carefully detach the pup from the main stem using a clean, sharp knife or snips. Pot the pup in a 3-4 inch pot using a peaty potting mix. Water gently and keep in warm, bright but indirect light while it establishes roots and fronds. Once potted up, the pup can be grown on to a full mature size just like the parent plant. Pups grow fairly quickly once established in their own pot.
Aftercare of mother plant
Removing pups allows the mother plant to put energy into its own growth rather than the pups. After the pups are detached, keep the mother plant in its ideal growing conditions. Water when the top inch of soil is dry, fertilize monthly and provide bright filtered light and high humidity. The mother plant will continue growing and may produce more pups over time which can be propagated.
Growing bird’s nest ferns from pups
Growing bird’s nest ferns from the pups they produce is an easy, gratifying way to propagate more of these tropical beauties for free. Plus, you’ll have the enjoyment of nurturing the babies into fully grown specimens bursting with arching fronds. Share the gift of bird’s nest ferns with friends and family.
Creative and Practical Uses for Bird’s Nest Ferns
Beyond using the bird’s nest fern as an attractive houseplant, there are some fun and functional ways to incorporate these tropical plants into your home and outdoor spaces:
As a room divider
Place a row of bird’s nest ferns in front of a solid wall to create a living room divider. The arching fronds will provide a lush, tropical wall while allowing light and air to pass through. Coordinate pots and plant stands for visual continuity.
Natural air purifiers
Like many houseplants, bird’s nest ferns help remove pollutants from indoor air. Use them in rooms where you spend a lot of time like bedrooms and home offices. Their lush foliage provides air-refreshing benefits.
Low light areas
While they thrive in medium to bright light, bird’s nest ferns will tolerate low-light spots better than many houseplants. Try them in dim hallways or bathrooms. Their graceful cascading shape brings life to darker spaces.
Cover up problem spots
Struggling with a blank wall, awkward corner or unsightly view? Use bird’s nest ferns as natural camouflage to mask problem areas with vibrant living green. Their spreading, vining growth is perfect for this task.
Place bird’s nest ferns by outdoor living spaces to enhance the transition between indoor and outdoor areas with lush greenery. Easily move pots around to modify the look and ambiance.
Outdoor summer use
Place bird’s nest ferns on a covered patio or under a pergola for tropical flair during the warm months. Bring them indoors before temperatures drop below 60 degrees F. They make great temporary outdoor accents.
With their graceful forms and cascading fronds, bird’s nest ferns allow you to bring the vibrance of the tropics to both indoor and outdoor spaces in creative ways.
Tips for Maximizing Growth
Bird’s nest ferns tend to grow fairly slowly overall. Here are some tips to ensure your fern reaches its maximum size and shows off full, robust fronds:
- Give it bright filtered sunlight near an east or west window to encourage growth. Turn the pot periodically for even sun exposure.
- Maintain warm temperatures between 65-80°F year round. Cooler temps may cause growth to stall. Avoid drafty locations.
- Provide constant humidity around 50-60% via pebble trays or humidifiers. Misting leaves also helps.
- Use room temperature water when watering. Cold water can shock the roots and slow growth.
- Feed every 2-4 weeks during the active growing season using a balanced liquid fertilizer.
- Repot in fresh potting mix every 2-3 years in the spring. This provides new nutrients.
- Prune away any dead or damaged fronds close to the crown to encourage new growth.
- Keep plant free of pests like scale and mealybugs which can weaken the plant.
- Propagate new plants from pups to share the fern and expand your collection.
Given the right care, your bird’s nest fern will produce ever-lengthening, arching fronds for a lush tropical effect in your indoor garden.
Bird’s Nest Ferns As Gifts
Due to their tropical flair, relatively easy care needs, and availability in a range of sizes, bird’s nest ferns make excellent gifts for the plant lovers in your life. Here are some tips for presenting bird’s nest ferns as memorable gifts:
- Select a fern with full, healthy fronds and vigorous growth as your gift plant. Check for any pests or diseases.
- Choose a size suitable for the space the recipient has and the impact you want to create. Larger plants make bolder statements.
- Plant in an attractive container that complements the fern’s tropical style, like a rattan hanging basket or colorful glazed ceramic pot.
- Include a humidity tray, pebbles, moisture meter, or other useful care accessories to help the recipient care for the plant.
- Attach care instructions to the plant with proper advice on lighting, watering, humidity and temperature preferences.
- Add a decorative bow, plant tag, or gift wrap that matches the container. Tropical inspired prints work nicely.
- Present the gift plant with a card sharing why you chose this particular plant, like its connection to cherished travel memories.
- For plant lovers moving to a new home, give a bird’s nest fern as a vibrant living housewarming gift.
Giving a bird’s nest fern shows you recognize the recipient’s love of plants and tropical environments. With the right presentation and accessories, it makes a thoughtful, memorable gift.
With its gracefully arching fronds and tropical origins, the bird’s nest fern is a captivating houseplant that brings a taste of the rainforest indoors. When provided with warm, humid conditions and bright filtered sunlight, this fern will produce beautiful cascading greenery to adorn your home or office. Its flowing form can be used in creative ways as a room divider, living wall, or decorative feature. Though slow growing, bird’s nest ferns can be propagated by separating their charming plantlets or “pups”. Their tropical vibe and easy care make them an excellent gift plant as well. Give the special plant lovers in your life the gift of this tropical jewel.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions and answers about growing bird’s nest ferns indoors:
How much light does a bird’s nest fern need?
Bird’s nest ferns thrive in bright, indirect sunlight. An east or west facing window is ideal. Direct hot sunlight can burn their fragile fronds. They can tolerate some shade but will grow slower.
What type of potting mix is best?
Use a peat-based potting mix amended with perlite or orchid bark for drainage. The potting media should retain some moisture but also allow excess water to drain away readily.
Should I mist my bird’s nest fern?
Yes, misting the leaves and providing ambient humidity through a humidifier or pebble tray is highly beneficial. Bird’s nest ferns crave the tropical humidity found in their native rainforest homes.
How often do I need to water the fern?
Allow the top 1-2 inches of soil to dry out between thorough waterings. Check by inserting your finger in the soil. Water until it runs from the drainage holes to ensure the entire root area gets hydrated.
What’s the best temperature range for bird’s nest ferns?
These tropical plants prefers average room temperatures between 65-80°F. Avoid cold drafts which can damage fronds. Cooler temps below 60°F may slow growth dramatically.
Should I prune my bird’s nest fern?
Remove any dead or damaged fronds at the base to keep your plant looking tidy and encourage new growth. Pruning pups will also direct more energy toward the mother plant. Avoid over-pruning.
Why are the fronds turning brown or yellow?
Issues like dry air, improper watering, temperature extremes, pests, and direct sun can cause fronds to brown, yellow or crisp up. Review growing conditions and make needed adjustments.
When should I repot my bird’s nest fern?
Repotting into fresh soil every 2-3 years encourages growth as nutrients are renewed. Watch for roots coming from the drainage holes, a sign it’s become root bound. Use a slightly larger pot.
Growing bird’s nest ferns provides a gratifying way to bring the ambiance of the tropics into your indoor garden. With proper care, this graceful plant will thrive and add beauty to your home