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Growing and Caring for a Bird’s Nest Fern – An Essential Guide

a bird's nest fern

Welcome to the wonderful world of Bird’s Nest Ferns! With their charming green fronds nestled in the center to resemble a bird’s nest, these attractive ferns can make a unique and easy-to-care-for houseplant.

Read on for an essential guide on growing and caring for Bird’s Nest ferns so yours can thrive for years to come.

An Introduction to Bird’s Nest Fern Plants

The Bird’s Nest Fern, scientifically known as Asplenium nidus, is native to tropical areas in southeast Asia, Africa, and parts of Australasia. While typically an epiphytic plant that grows on another plant or woody surface in tropical forests, the Bird’s Nest Fern adapts quite well when grown in pots and containers.

Under the right conditions, these hardy ferns can grow up to 3 feet long and wide as the fronds gently cascade down in a nest shape.

The leathery green fronds sprout from the plant’s central rosette, typically around a durable woody stem. New unfurling leaves emerge a lighter green, providing a beautiful contrast against the mature darker green foliage.

Given ideal growing conditions and proper care, the Bird’s Nest Fern grows at a moderate pace and can live up to 15 years.

a bird's nest fern growing outside

The Benefits of a Bird’s Nest Fern

Like many indoor plants, Bird’s Nest Ferns can help purify the air. They have been known to absorb toxins such as formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene, contributing to a healthier indoor environment.

Bird’s Nest Ferns are well-suited for indoor environments because they can thrive in low-light conditions. Although they prefer bright, indirect light, they can tolerate lower light levels better than many other fern species, making them ideal for rooms with limited natural light.

With its lush, green, wavy fronds that can grow quite large, the Bird’s Nest Fern adds a touch of tropical beauty to any indoor space. Its unique appearance, with fronds emerging in a rosette pattern that resembles a bird’s nest, makes it an attractive decorative element.

Choosing a Bird’s Nest Fern

Here are key factors to keep in mind when selecting a Bird’s Nest Fern:

  • Vibrant Green Fronds: Look for a fern with bright, vibrant green leaves. The fronds should be free from brown spots, yellowing, or significant blemishes, which can indicate poor health or pest issues.
  • Firm and Upright Fronds: Healthy fronds should be firm and upright, not limp or drooping. Limpness can be a sign of under-watering, over-watering, or a nutrient deficiency.
  • Dense Growth: A healthy Bird’s Nest Fern should have dense growth with multiple fronds emerging from the center. Sparse growth can indicate poor lighting conditions or other stress factors.
  • Inspect Under Leaves and Stems: Carefully examine the underside of the fronds and the stem for any signs of pests such as scale, mealybugs, or spider mites. Also, look out for any fungal growth or spots that could indicate disease.

How to Grow a Bird’s Nest Fern Plant

a bird's nest fern outside

Providing the proper care is key to keeping your Bird’s Nest Fern thriving. The good news is that this plant is relatively low maintenance if given suitable growing conditions.

Here are the keys for cultivating a happy and healthy Bird’s Nest Fern:


Bird’s Nest Ferns prefer bright, filtered light similar to the tropical forest understory of their native habitat. An east, west, or north facing window is ideal, providing gentle ambient lighting.

Direct hot sunlight should be avoided as too much sun can burn the fronds. Grow lights can supplement lower light indoor areas and rotating the plant gives equal light exposure.


Proper watering is crucial for Bird’s Nest Ferns. Try and keep the soil consistently moist but not saturated. Bird’s Nest Ferns cannot tolerate dry soil and drought stress will quickly damage the plant.

Use room temperature filtered or distilled water if possible. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings then provide a thorough watering until water drains from the drainage holes. Make sure you avoid water accumulation in the center of the rosette, as this can cause rot.

Temperature and Humidity

These plants thrive in average household temperatures between 60°F-80°F. Avoid drafty areas and any drops below 50°F which can harm the foliage.

The plant prefers higher humidity levels around 60-70%. Mist the plant daily, or place the pot on a pebble-filled tray with water, or place a humidifier nearby.

Soil and Potting

Well-draining fertile soil is key. Use a quality peat-based potting mix amended with compost or worm castings. Adding a handful of orchid bark can assist drainage.

They have shallow root systems so choose a wider squat pot over a tall skinny one to give adequate room. As epiphytes, these ferns can also be mounted on plaques or grown in hanging baskets, allowing air to circulate around the roots.


Feed monthly during the growing season with a balanced liquid or water soluble fertilizer diluted by half strength. Suspend feeding over winter months when growth naturally slows.

Bird’s Nest Fern Care

a bird's nest fern on a kitchen shelf


Pruning is essential for maintaining the health and appearance of your Bird’s Nest Fern. Remove any yellow or damaged fronds at the base to encourage new growth.

Regularly wiping the leaves with a damp cloth not only keeps the plant looking its best but also helps prevent pest infestations by removing dust.

Repot a Bird’s Nest Fern

Repotting a Bird’s Nest Fern is a delicate process that should be done with care to avoid damaging the plant. The best time to repot is during the growing season, typically in spring or early summer. This timing helps the plant recover more quickly from any stress caused by repotting.

  • Choose a pot that is one size larger than the current one, ensuring it has good drainage holes.
  • Use a well-draining, peat-based potting mix suitable for ferns.
  • Gently remove the fern from its current pot. Be careful not to pull on the fronds or the central rosette, as this can damage the plant.
  • Inspect the root ball for any signs of rot or disease, which may appear as black, mushy roots.
  • Center the fern in the new pot, ensuring the base of the fronds is at the same level it was in the old pot.
  • Gently fill in around the fern with the new potting mix, pressing lightly to eliminate air pockets.

Bird’s Nest Fern Propagation

bid's nest fern in a potting shed

Propagation is typically done through spore collection, which can be a slow and challenging process for beginners. A more accessible method is division, which involves separating a mature fern into smaller sections during repotting.

  • Gently remove the plant from the pot and carefully split the root ball with a knife or small shovel into smaller sections – aim for at least 3-5 fronds per division.
  • Ensure each section has a portion of the root system intact for the best chance of success.
  • Replant divisions into small pots using a well-draining potting mix.
  • Keep the freshly divided plants warm and lightly misted until established then water and fertilize as normal.

Bird’s Nest Fern Problems

Providing proper conditions as outlined above will avoid most problems. But even with good care, issues can occasionally occur:

  • Brown crinkled leaves: Indicates low humidity levels. Increase misting and ensure adequate airflow. Remove affected leaves.
  • Root rot: Overwatering causes root rot; allow soil to partially dry between waterings.
  • Leaf tip burn: This can result from too much fertilizer or buildup of salts. Flush soil by heavily watering.
  • Drooping yellow leaves: Signals light or temperature stresses. Adjust to better growing conditions. Remove damaged leaves.
  • Slow Growth: Typically caused by inadequate light or nutrient deficiencies. Move your fern to a brighter location and ensure it is being fed regularly with a balanced fertilizer.
  • Pests: Bird’s nest ferns are rarely troubled by insects but watch for spider mites, mealybugs, and scale which may require treatment if infestations occur.

Bird’s Nest Fern in Decor

bird's nest fern on a shelf

The Bird’s Nest Fern is a versatile plant that can be used in various ways to enhance indoor decor. Its lush, green fronds and unique growth pattern make it an attractive addition to any space.

Statement Centerpiece

Place a large Bird’s Nest Fern in a decorative pot as a statement centerpiece on a dining table, coffee table, or sideboard. Its striking appearance and vibrant green color can serve as a natural focal point, drawing the eye and adding a touch of elegance to the room.

Shelf Accent

Smaller Bird’s Nest Ferns can be perfect accents on bookshelves, floating shelves, or mantels. Their arching fronds can add texture and depth, breaking up the monotony of books and decorative items. Ensure the shelf is in a location that receives bright, indirect light to keep the fern healthy.

Bathroom Oasis

The high humidity and often lower light conditions of bathrooms make them an ideal environment for Bird’s Nest Ferns. Place one on a bathroom shelf, windowsill, or hang it in a macrame plant hanger to create a spa-like, tropical feel. The plant’s ability to thrive in humid conditions makes it a perfect choice for this space.

Hanging Planters

Bird’s Nest Ferns look stunning in hanging baskets or planters, where their fronds can elegantly drape over the sides. Hang them near windows with indirect light in living rooms, kitchens, or bedrooms to add a vertical element of greenery and enhance the room’s aesthetic appeal.

When using Bird’s Nest Ferns in decor, always consider the plant’s care requirements, ensuring it receives the right amount of light, humidity, and water to thrive in its new role as a decorative element in your home or office.

With lush vibrant fronds beckoning from their charming center rosette, Bird’s Nest Ferns make ideal ornamental houseplants sure to elevate any indoor space.

Follow this essential guide for properly growing and caring for your Bird’s Nest Fern, and this delightful plant will flourish while adding a unique touch to your home or office.

bird's nest fern on a shelf

How big can a Bird’s Nest Fern get?

Indoors, Bird’s Nest Ferns can reach up to 2 feet in height and width, but this can vary depending on the growing conditions. In their natural habitat, they can grow even larger.

Is the Bird’s Nest Fern toxic to pets?

No, the Bird’s Nest Fern is considered non-toxic to cats and dogs, making it a safe choice for pet owners.

How do I clean the leaves of my Bird’s Nest Fern?

Gently wipe the leaves with a damp cloth to remove dust and help the plant breathe and photosynthesize more efficiently. Avoid using leaf shine products, which can clog the pores of the leaves.

Can a Bird’s Nest Fern survive outdoors?

In suitable climates (tropical or subtropical regions), Bird’s Nest Ferns can thrive outdoors in shaded, humid areas. In temperate zones, they are best kept indoors except during warm, summer months.

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