Total Bird’s Nest Fern Guide

25 Sep 2022

The beautiful and bright bird’s nest fern is native to Africa, Australia, and Asia and is well-known and loved by indoor gardeners.

Interestingly, if you spot one in its natural habitat in a rainforest, you will see that they grow on the surface of other plants and can often be found high up in the fork of two branches or a crevice in a tree, just like an orchid.

These perennials are relatively easy to grow, so we have put together a guideline to give houseplant lovers their best chance at success with this popular houseplant.

Fun fact: The name bird’s nest refers to the plant’s design and how it grows into a shape like a nest. Its funnel shape allows it to collect water and nutrients.

Key Characteristics

The Botanical or scientific name for the bird’s nest fern is Asplenium nidus, and it belongs to the Aspleniaceae family.

This evergreen can grow beautiful long spear-shaped leaves that are a light green color and glossy. These leaves give a tropical look and feel to anyone’s home as they radiate a bright green glow.


Here are our four favorite varieties of the bird’s nest houseplant:

  • Asplenium nidus ‘Crissie’: The leaf ends of this variety can be described as fringed or forked.
  • Asplenium nidus ‘Fimbriatum’: This version is fringed around the leaf edges.
  • Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’: Interesting wavy edges give this variety its name.
  • Asplenium nidus ‘Osaka’: This plant curls only along its leaf edges.

Fun fact: in its natural habitat, it is a popular retreat for little lizards and insects due to its shape.

How Big Does It Get?

A mature and healthy specimen will reach between 3-5 feet (91.4-152.4cm) and 2-3 feet (61-91.4cm) wide. This houseplant choice can make a natural feature in your home due to its length and breadth.

How Fast Does It Grow?

These relatively slow-growing plant pets will grow around 2-6 inches (5-15cm) per year. It can take anywhere from 5 to 10 years to reach maturity, and a lot will depend on the environment in which it is kept.

How Long Does It Live?

Your Asplenium nidus will give you 8 to 10 beautiful years if given the proper attention and environment.

Is It Toxic to Cats, Dogs, and Humans?

Like the Canna Lily and polka dot plant, these plants are entirely non-toxic, making them an excellent choice for a family home or a house with pets.

Bird’s Nest Fern Care

While these evergreens are relatively easygoing, they prefer conditions that closely resemble their natural rainforest habitat.

When their optimal environment is created for them, they should thrive.

How Often to Water It

Water your Asplenium nidus once a week in the summer and once every month in the year’s colder months. While this is a general direction, it is essential that the top third of the plant’s soil has dried out before rewatering it.

This houseplant likes consistently moist soil but will be unhappy sitting in a soggy bed, so beware not to overwater it.

Avoid watering directly on or into the center of the leaves, as this can lead to rot and mold. Instead, aim your watering can or spray it into the soil.

Drainage Requirements

Give your plant a pot with drainage holes and a layer of drainage stones at the bottom of its pot. The best type of soil in terms of drainage for this houseplant is well-draining but semi-water retentive.


The bird’s nest fern does not require any pruning. If you find any brown or wilting leaves, remove them carefully.

When and How to Repot It

Due to the plant being epiphytic and being used to growing in small spaces, their root systems don’t grow very big. Instead, the fern will need to be repotted because it has grown too large for the pot up top, which may make it unstable – this can happen every two years or so. Hence, repotting your fern every two years is the rule to follow.

Spring or early summer is the best time to repot, and we suggest you select a pot that is large enough to keep the plant stable, so roughly 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the previous pot.

Use the following as a guideline when repotting:

  1. Repot the plant on the day after you have watered it.
  2. Tip the pot gently onto one side and loosen the edges of the soil; wiggle the ground until it frees from the edges of the pot.
  3. Remove the plant and set it aside.
  4. Layer your new pot with drainage stones or a sponge and then fill it with soil, leaving room for the fern.
  5. Place your fern inside its new home so that it is roughly at the same point where it was previously.
  6. Pat the top layer of soil in, but try not to compact it too much.
  7. Mist the top of the soil and place your plant in its favorite spot in your home.

Fun Fact: It is said that a grouping of bird’s nest ferns can assist with allergies. The theory follows the idea that the plant filters contaminants from the air and increases humidity levels, thus improving the home’s environment as a low-allergy zone.

Best Environmental Conditions

Here are some guidelines for providing the best conditions for your bird’s nest fern:

Light Requirements

If it’s possible to find a north-facing or east-facing window for your fern, that would be an ideal spot. These plant pets enjoy moderate, indirect, and filtered light but no direct harsh sun.

Any harsh direct light rays will scorch the beautiful leaves on your fern, so it’s best not to expose them to it and risk killing your plant.

Best Soil

Bird’s nest ferns do well in slightly moisture-retentive soil with good draining properties and high nutritional value.

Expanded clay or sand can be mixed into the potting soil medium to improve the permeability of the soil, and peat-based soil is an excellent option for these ferns. Adding some shards of bark can assist with loosening up the soil environment that you offer your bird’s nest fern.


Feed the bird’s nest fern once a month during its active growing season. Apply a well-balanced liquid fertilizer like a 10-10-10. Make sure you apply this liquid to the soil and not onto the plant’s leaves or fronds.

Hold back on fertilizing the plant during the colder seasons when it slows down, as feeding it during this time can cause the leaves to discolor and turn yellow.

Pot Size and Type

Choose a sturdy pot roughly 2 inches (5cm) wider than the base of the fern. The pot should be strong as the growth and shape of the leaves is likely to tip the fern over as it grows.

Choose a pot with decent-sized draining holes; a terracotta or unglazed ceramic pot is ideal as it will allow the soil and roots to breathe.

Temperature Tolerance

The bird’s nest fern is happiest between 60 and 80°F (15-26°C) in a warm home. It will manage in an environment down to around 50°F (10°C) but anything below that, and it will begin to die.

Consider its natural rainforest home when choosing a spot for this plant. A misty and warm bathroom or kitchen will do the trick.

Keep it far away from drafts or cold air.

Humidity Level

Like the rattlesnake plant, the bird’s nest fern enjoys humidity at around 50%-60%. As mentioned before, this fern is accustomed to humid little nooks and crannies in its rainforest home, and any effort to recreate that environment will go down well.

A humidifier in the corner of the room or near the plant will create a heavenly spot for it. Another idea is to pop the pot above a tray of water and pebbles, although take note not to allow the bottom of the pot and drainage holes to sit directly in the water as this will increase its chance of root rot.

Can It Live Outside?

As a tropical fern, it can live happily in USDA hardiness zones 11 and 12.

Make sure you keep it in a spot with protection from direct sun and don’t leave it there in the colder months, or it will die. Choose a cozy place where it will receive indirect bright light in the months when the air is warm and moist.

Does It Bloom?

Like its fern friend, the maidenhair fern, your bird’s nest fern will not produce flowers or fruit.

If you are specifically looking for a blooming plant, pick a goldfish plant for your home instead.

How to Grow It

Here are some points around growing your own bird’s nest fern.

Can They Be Divided, Split, or Cut?

These pretty ferns cannot be grown via dividing, splitting, or cutting them and then propagating them in water.

How to Harvest the Spores

This is not the most straightforward plant to regrow and propagate, but it’s certainly worth a try. As with most ferns, they reproduce via spores as opposed to seeds.

The spores can be found on the underside of the leaves; you will know when it’s time to harvest them as they will be particularly plump and fuzzy.

Here is a guide of steps on how to collect spores:

  1. Cut off a section of a leaf you wish to harvest. Take care not to cut through the spores but instead around them.
  2. Place this frond into a paper bag. After a few days, the spores will drop off the section of the leaf.

Propagation via Moss

Once you have collected your spores and they have dropped off the leaf-cutting, follow the next few steps to achieve propagation:

  1. Place some sphagnum moss into a little dish with water underneath. The moss will suck up the water as the spores grow. Take note that the moss should not become waterlogged.
  2. Cover the container with plastic wrap to create a humid environment and place it in a cozy warm spot that is out of direct light.
  3. Mist the moss and ensure there is constant water at the bottom of the dish.

After a few weeks, roughly 4 to 6, the spores will begin to germinate.

How to Plant Germinated Spores

Once your spores have germinated, it is time to plant them in their growing mix:

  1. Fill your little seedling containers with a moist growing mix.
  2. Sprinkle the germinated spores on top of the growing mix.
  3. Work with and keep your baby ferns in a warm, draft-free zone that will provide them with the right environment to thrive.
  4. Care for your new ferns by keeping their potting soil moist.
  5. Once they have rooted and turned into seedlings, they are ready to plant. This may take several months.
  6. Choose a well-draining pot with holes at the bottom and add a layer of drainage holes to the bottom of the pot.
  7. Choose peat-based potting soil and mix through some sand or expanded clay.
  8. Plant the seedlings into their new home and care for them as per our guidelines.

How to Revive It

A couple of issues may creep up when dealing with your beautiful fern; here are some of those issues and a guide on how to attend to them.

Yellowing Leaves

A common issue with most indoor plants and ferns is the yellowing of their leaves. If the plant is overexposed to light, its leaves can turn yellow.

It is a good idea to cut off the yellow leaves at their base with scissors or shears that have been sanitized and move the plant to a spot with less direct and more filtered sunlight.

Browning Leaves

If your bird’s nest fern is browning, it may have dried out and needs more water.

Ensure the plant is watered more often – as a guide, once a week in the summer and once a month in the cooler months.

If the leaves on your houseplant are turning pale and browning, it’s a great idea to use a humidifier and to increase your watering schedule. Another option is to set up a waterbed with pebbles underneath the plant’s pot base.

Crinkling Leaves

If the leaves on your fern crinkle up, this is likely a sign of sun exposure. Move your evergreen into an area with less direct light.

Browning in Its Centre and Wilting

If you are overwatering your houseplant, you will notice that the center or crown will turn brown. As the roots begin to rot, so does the crown. A second diagnostic method is to check the soil – if it seems soggy, you have confirmed that root rot and waterlogging have occurred.

There is a chance the plant cannot be saved, but the best opportunity to save it will be to repot the plant into fresh soil. From here on, you must ensure you refrain from overwatering the plant and follow a more conservative schedule.

Ending Off

With a favorable habitat and conditions, you are set to get so much joy from your bird’s nest fern.

Find a steamy little bathroom or humid kitchen for your plant and watch it grow and flourish.

Enjoy the health benefits of having this luscious air purifier in your home.

Leave a comment if you have something to share with us

Your email address will not be published.