Going for the tropical look? No urban jungle is complete without the strapping, bright green foliage of the Bird's Nest Fern. Here's everything you need to know about Birds Nest Fern care.
While it's no beginner plant, the Bird's Nest Fern is a good fern of choice if you've struggled to keep other varieties alive.
It's more forgiving than other ferns and attractive too - vibrant, waxy green, wavy-edged leaves unfurl from a central nest-like structure, which conceals a tight root mass. The Bird's Nest Fern is widely cultivated as an ornamental houseplant, and can be found adorning homes throughout the US and Europe.
Asplenium Nidus as it is known botanically, belongs to the Aspleniaceae family. Confusingly, the common name Bird's Nest Fern also applies to some other epiphytic ferns in the genus Asplenium. They include:
When it comes to Bird's Nest Fern care, top on this plant's wish list are an evenly moist atmosphere and bright, filtered light, making it a great choice for a greenhouse or terrarium (go for smaller varieties for the latter).
Native to tropical regions across Asia, Africa, Australia, the Caribbean, and the United States, the Bird's Nest Fern is an epiphyte, which sprouts rather majestically from tree trunks, where it enjoys the damp air and dappled light of tropical forests. It's also as a lithophyte, growing on rocks and cliffsides.
Sadly, some species are now endangered in the wild. Reasons include deforestation, climate change and over-exploitation for the nursery trade, so it's important to buy your Bird's Nest Fern from reputable sources, such as our vetted sellers on Candide.
How to care for a Bird's Nest Fern
Find out specific care tips for a Japanese Nest Fern in our video.
Humidity: Unlike most of the UK's human population, the Bird's Nest Fern is a sucker for humidity. Pop it in your bathroom on a pebble tray and group with other plants to get those moisture levels up. Mist regularly or consider investing in a humidifier.
Water: The Bird's Nest Fern likes consistently moist soil. Don't allow the soil to dry out but don't let things get soggy either. Make sure you water around the base of the plant rather than the centre.
Soil: When it comes to compost, the Bird's Nest Fern needs a well-draining potting mix with lots of rich organic matter. An orchid mix or a peat-free blend that is high in perlite would work well. Or try a mix of equal parts loam, coarse leaf mould or peat substitute and charcoal.
Light: The Bird's Nest Fern has a reputation for being a shade-loving plant. However, it's worth remembering that the light conditions in our house aren't a match for the dappled light in a tropical wood. Ideally, a position with bright, indirect light is best if you're keeping it as an indoor plant.
Find the perfect houseplant for low light conditions here:
How to propagate a Bird's Nest Fern
Bird's Nest Fern propagation is slightly trickier than your standard houseplant as ferns multiply by spores, which appear in striations on the back of the leaves. As the spores mature, they'll turn a dark brown colour. When these markings show up, they're often mistaken for a pest or disease but it's just your plant trying to reproduce. To help it along you'll need a warm, bright spot and plenty of patience!
Here's how to propagate a Bird's Nest Fern via spore sowing in 5 easy steps.
- Cut off a leaf carrying ripe spore-cases and pop it in a paper bag (alternatively scrape off the spores with a knife).
- Leave to dry out for a couple of weeks.
- Pick a pot with good drainage and part fill with perlite and a seed potting compost. Pour boiling water over your compost to sterilise it, then leave to cool down.
- Once cool, lightly sprinkle your spores over the surface of the compost (try not to over sow). Cover with a plastic bag and pop in a warm, well-lit spot.
- Keep moist and pot on your Fern plantlets once the fronds are large enough to handle.
If you don't fancy harvesting spores on your lunch break, you can divide the plant instead. Divide and repot in spring when the root mass has filled its current pot.
Tips for repotting a Bird's Nest Fern
- The good news for time-poor gardeners is the Birds Nest Fern doesn't require regular repotting. Epiphytes generally only need repotting once every 2-3 years.
- Don't bury the crown of the plant
- If transplanting your Bird's Nest Fern from a piece of wood, be ultra careful when prying the roots away and supply with a support while it grows into its upsized home.
Common Birds Nest Fern problems
Scorched leaves: Direct sun is usually the culprit, but an over fertilised plant will also suffer from scorching.
Bacterial blight: Usually a watering issue. Cutaway diseased growth. The Birds Nest Fern doesn't need regular pruning. Just trim away dead or damaged leaves when you notice them.
Brown tips: The air is too dry, increase the moisture around your Bird's Nest Fern.
Yellow, wilting leaves: Adjust your watering and move away from heat sources such as radiators.
Brown scale: Scab-like markings scattered across the leaves are a sign of Scale. Find out more here: