How to Grow Bird's Nest Ferns

Bird's nest fern on a bedside table

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida 

In This Article

Bird's nest ferns (Asplenium nidus) are naturally epiphytic, meaning they grow on the surface of other plants. In their rainforest homes, they can be found growing high in the crooks of trees. They form a series of erect, spoon-shaped, bright green fronds that rise from a central rosette. Healthy plants can have fronds up to 5 feet long, but bird's nest ferns grown as houseplants typically have fronds that grow only about 2 feet long. The plants have a moderate growth rate. They're best planted in the spring, though houseplants generally can be started year-round.

Botanical Name Asplenium nidus
Common Names Bird's nest fern, nest fern
Plant Type Fern
Mature Size 3–5 ft. tall, 2–3 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Partial shade to full shade; avoid direct sun
Soil Type Loamy, moist, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time None
Flower Color None
Hardiness Zones 11–12 (USDA)
Native Area Asia, Australia, Madagascar, Hawaii, Polynesia
Toxicity Nontoxic
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Watch Now: How to Grow and Care for Bird's Nest Ferns

Bird's Nest Fern Care

The key to a healthy bird's nest fern is providing it with ample warmth, humidity, and moisture. When growing it as a houseplant, one of the best places to locate a bird's nest fern is near a shower or tub in a bathroom where it will receive optimal humidity and warmth along with sufficient light.

New leaves will constantly emerge from the central area of the plant, which resembles a bird's nest. Do not touch, move, or handle the new, delicate fronds as they emerge from the nest. They are extremely fragile, and if you touch them, there is a high chance of them becoming damaged or deformed.

No serious disease or pest problems affect bird's nest ferns, though they can be affected by some insects common to houseplants, such as scale. Natural insecticidal soaps are the best solution because chemical pesticides will damage this plant.

a bird's nest fern
The Spruce / Leticia Almeida
crinkly leaves of a bird's nest fern
The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Light

Bird’s nest ferns grow well in filtered sunlight to a moderate amount of shade. Don’t expose them to direct sunlight other than the very early morning sun. Direct sunlight can burn the leaves. Indoors, an east- or north-facing window is ideal.

Soil

These plants like soil that’s loose and rich in organic matter with excellent drainage. A peat-based potting mix is good for container plants. 

Water

The ferns prefer a consistent amount of soil moisture, but they don’t do well sitting in soggy soil. Water whenever the top inch of soil begins to dry out. Avoid watering directly into the center of the plant, as this can encourage mold growth and rot in the dense nest. Aim water at the soil to avoid wetting the fern's fronds.

Temperature and Humidity

The bird’s nest fern thrives in warmth with temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It can tolerate temperatures down to 50 degrees, but anything colder than that can harm the plant, especially with prolonged exposure. Indoors, be sure to protect your plant from cool drafts, such as air blowing from an air-conditioning vent. 

This fern thrives in high humidity and humid environments, such as a bathroom, greenhouse, or terrarium. To raise humidity around a bird’s nest fern, you can use a humidifier. Or, you can set its pot on a tray filled with pebbles and water. But, make sure the bottom of the pot isn’t sitting in the water because doing so can lead to root rot.

Fertilizer

During the fern's growing season (April through September), fertilize once a month with a balanced liquid fertilizer that's diluted to half strength. Make sure to apply the fertilizer to the soil and not the fronds. Withhold fertilizer for the rest of the year because too much food can cause the fronds to have an abnormal shape or take on a yellowish or brownish color.

Potting and Repotting Bird's Nest Ferns

As an epiphytic plant, bird’s nest ferns are accustomed to growing with minimal potting media. So your plant generally won’t need repotting because its roots have run out of space. Instead, these ferns will need repotting once they’ve grown so large that they’re unstable in their pot and need a larger container to attach themselves to. This will typically occur every two to three years. When it’s time to repot, select the next pot size up. Carefully loosen your plant from its previous pot, and set it in the new pot, filling around it with fresh potting mix.

Bird's Nest Fern Varieties

There are only a handful of varieties of bird’s nest ferns, which typically feature different leaf shapes: 

  • Asplenium nidus 'Crispy Wave’: sword-shaped ruffled leaves
  • Asplenium nidus 'Osaka’: narrow, strap-like leaves with rippled edges
  • Asplenium nidus 'Antiquum’: wavy leaf margins 
  • Asplenium nidus ‘Victoria’: long, wavy, tongue-shaped fronds

Watch Now: 19 Timelapses Perfect for Plant Lovers

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Asplenium Nidus. North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension.

  2. Bird's Nest Fern. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.