Bird’s nest fern: care, varieties & propagation

Katja
Katja
Katja
Katja

I study landscape ecology and through my studies have discovered a love for plants. Plants are not only beautiful, but also have countless fascinating survival strategies. To bring a bit of nature into my home as well, I nurture my houseplants and herbs on every possible windowsill.

Favourite fruit: rhubarb and all kinds of berries
Favourite vegetables: onions and garlic

The bird’s nest fern is a popular houseplant. Here are tips on caring for Asplenium nidus, where it feels most comfortable, and the most beautiful varieties for the home.

Bird’s nest fern plant in pot
Asplenium nidus is a real eye-catcher with its sprawling green leaves [Photo: Toey Toey/ Shutterstock.com]

With its lush, green leaves, the bird’s nest fern (Asplenium nidus) will add a tropical feel to your home. Want to know how best to care for a bird’s nest plant? Read on for tips and tricks on location, care and varieties of the wonderful tropical evergreen.

Bird’s nest fern: origin and characteristics

The bird’s nest fern (Asplenium nidus) from the genus of striped ferns (Asplenium) belongs to the Aspleniaceae family and originates from the rainforests of East Africa, Asia and Australia. The bird’s nest grows evergreen leaves of up to one metre in length, even if cultivated indoors. The leaves are slightly wavy and have a light green, glossy colour. 

As the name suggests, the plant’s funnel-shaped fern leaves form a kind of nest. The leaves are arranged in such a way that the plant collects water and nutritious plant debris. In its natural environment, the nest fern grows epiphytically, that is, perched on trees – just like orchids. In fact, some amphibians are known to find shelter in its leaves.

Bird’s nest fern growing in tree canopy
The bird’s nest fern is an epiphyte and grows in the canopy of trees in nature [Photo: es3n/ Shutterstock.com]

The most beautiful nest fern varieties for the home

Aside from the classic bird’s nest fern, other varieties stand-out with striking leaf shapes.

Asplenium nidus ‘Crissie’: This variety of nest fern is distinguished by its leaves, whose edges are smooth and spread out like hands at the tips.

Asplenium nidus with hand-like leaf tips
Each leaf of Asplenium nidus ‘Crissie’ is fringed at the tip [Photo: ANTHONY PAZ/ Shutterstock.com]

Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’: The leaves of this variety are remarkably wavy. They resemble luscious, curly locks that grow like a mop of hair.

wavy leaves of ‘crispy wave’ nest fern variety
The ‘Crispy Wave’ variety with pronounced wavy fern leaves [Photo: Sheila Shu Cheung/ Shutterstock.com]

Asplenium nidus ‘Fimbriatum’: With leaf edges that are fringed all around, this nest fern looks similar to carrot greens sprouting from the soil.

Asplenium nidus ‘Osaka’: In contrast to the Crispy Wave nest fern, ‘Osaka’ has leaves that are curled only at the edges.

'Osaka’ nest fern variety
The variety ‘Osaka’ has crimped leaf edges [Photo: Ihere/ Shutterstock.com]

Location and soil for the nest fern

Bird’s nest fern grows naturally in the canopy of tall trees; it is used to partial shade and not touching the ground. As such, find it a home that is in keeping with its natural, tropical environment: partially shaded and draft-free – it does not tolerate direct sun, but still needs enough light to grow. A warm, humid climate is ideal, so keep the temperature around 20°C and provide sufficient humidity.

Tip: To increase the humidity, place a water bowl on the radiator or near the nest fern. As the leaves are quite sensitive, it is best not to use a water spray.

Funnel-shaped leaf formation of bird’s nest fern
The funnel-shaped leaf arrangement allows the plant to collect water and nutrients [Photo: dwimulyani/ Shutterstock.com]

The bird’s nest requires high-quality potting soil. Good soil drainage is also important to prevent waterlogging. To increase permeability, simply mix a little expanded clay or sand into the soil. Add a layer of clay shards or gravel to the bottom of the pot to further improve water drainage. Orchid soil that is designed for epiphytes is also suitable for the bird’s nest fern, but is not absolutely necessary.

Bird’s nest fern care: top tips

Nest fern care is fairly simple. If the plant is in an optimal location, there are only a few small things to keep in mind.

Watering, fertilising and pruning asplenium nidus

It is best to water your bird’s nest fern with low-lime, room temperature water directly into the soil. Rainwater is ideal. Keep the root ball moist, but not overwatered. As soon as the soil dries slightly on the surface, water again.

Tip: In summer, the nest fern needs a lot of water. At this time, you can also occasionally submerge the plant with the root ball in a bucket of water so that the entire pot of soil soaks up water.

Bird’s nest leaf fern unfurling
New leaves unfurl from the centre [Photo: Arthid Whungupdolloh/ Shutterstock.com]

You do not need to fertilise your nest fern until a year after repotting it, as the new soil will already contain plenty of nutrients. From spring to autumn, add half the recommended dosage of fertiliser to some water, and water your plant with this mix every three weeks or so. A great choice is our Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food. This sustainable fertiliser not only provides bird’s nest with all its essential nutrients, but also enriches the soil life with microorganisms.

Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food
Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food

Liquid fertiliser with an NK ratio of 3-4, for all houseplants, promotes healthy plant growth, child & pet friendly

The nest fern does not need pruning. Just carefully remove brown and withered leaves.

Transplanting the bird’s nest fern

As the nest fern grows quite slowly, it will suffice to repot it every two to three years in spring. The fresh soil contains new nutrients that help the plant grow. Opt for a slightly larger pot if the roots get too crowded in the old one.

bird’s nest plants in hanging pots
The nest fern also looks great in a hanging pot with its overhanging leaves [Photo: M.lim/ Shutterstock.com]

Is Asplenium nidus poisonous?

The bird’s nest fern is not poisonous to humans or pets. So there is no need to worry about putting it in some out of reach location.

Looking for an even more tropical atmosphere in your home? The monstera – also known as the swiss cheese plant – brings the jungle into your home. Have a read for our tips on location and care.

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