A Bird’s Nest Fern, Asplenium nidus, is member of the Asplenium genus which contains hundreds of different fern species. It is native to the rain forests of Asia, Africa, and Australia which explains why warm temperatures and high humidity are essential for it to thrive. In nature, a Bird’s Nest Fern is an epiphytic plant or “air plant,” meaning it grows on other plants or tall trees. When new fronds first appear, they resemble little bird eggs which is how the plant got the nickname Bird’s Nest Fern.
Bird’s Nest Fern Description
This unusual looking fern has long, erect, leathery, apple-green fronds that never split like those of a Kimberly Queen Fern or a Maidenhair Fern. The wide, rippled leaves of a Bird’s Nest Fern emerge from a central rosette or crown that looks like a fuzzy, brown funnel. The tongue- shaped fronds are fragile so try not to handle the young immature fronds and place the plant in an area where it won’t be bumped. Although in nature a Bird’s Nest Fern may have fronds as long as 5ft (1.5m), as a houseplant, the mature plant forms a compact, vase like shape with leaves not much larger than 24” (60cm) wide and 16” (40cm) tall.
Birds Nest Fern Varieties
There are several cultivars of the Bird’s Nest fern that make excellent houseplants.
“Crispy Wave” Fern has sword shaped, ruffled leaves.
Antiquum ‘Crissy’ has gently, wavy fronds that branch out at the end into crested divided leaf tips.
Osaka or Japanese Bird’s Nest fern has narrow, arching, leaves with very ruffled edges.
Asplenium nidus Leslie has very, very curly, parsley like crested frond ends.
Quick Care Tips for a Bird’s Nest Fern
Prefers warm temperatures 70°- 90°F (21.1°-32.2°C)
Keep soil barely moist and drier in winter
Avoid getting water on the center crown-it can cause plant diseases
Fertilize lightly – too much plant food is worse than too little
Do not use commercial insecticides and fungicides – they damage the leaves.
Regular lines of brown spots on underside of fronds are propagation spores not signs of peats or diseases
High Humidity is a plus
A Bird’s Nest Fern is not an easy care plant and cannot be ignored like some other plants. Many people place this unusual looking fern in a bathroom other humid area which helps it grow a bit more quickly and keep its bright green color.
A Bird’s Nest fern requires medium, indirect light. The distinctive bright green leaves become pale when exposed to too much light. Direct sun causes unsightly burn marks on the fronds of a Bird’s Nest fern.
The soil of a Bird’s Nest fern should be kept barely moist but never soggy at all times.
Fertilize a Bird’s Nest fern once or twice during the spring and summer when the plant is actively growing. Over-fertilizing causes more problems for a Bird’s Nest fern than never fertilizing at all. Use a balanced plant food diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength.
A Bird’s Nest fern grows well when the temperatures is between 70°-90°F (21.1°-32.2°C) during the day and about 10° cooler at night. These slow growing ferns grow even more slowly when the temperature is not warm and the fronds are quickly damaged by hot or cold drafts. The base of the fronds of a Bird’s Nest fern turn yellow when the temperature is too warm.
Bird’s Nest ferns require high humidity. The higher the humidity, the longer the fronds grow; indoors this can be up to 24” and outdoors 4-5 ft. Lack of humidity causes major problems for a Bird’s Nest fern: the entire frond may turn yellow, the tips of the leaves may turn brown, and the plant may stop growing altogether. If the humidity in your home is very low, consider placing your fern on a wet pebble tray, be sure the plant is sitting on pebbles and not in the water. You can also place a small humidifier in the room.
A Bird’s Nest fern is susceptible to plant pests such as mealy bugs, scale, and aphids. Use a Qtip dipped in alcohol to treat plant pests near or on the crown; never spray any liquid directly on the crown. Use a chemical free product like Safer Insecticidal Soap if you need to spray the plant.
The leaves of a Bird’s Nest fern should be kept dry. Misting the plant encourages bacterial and fungal infections such as Erwinia Blight.
The soil for a Bird’s Nest fern should be loose, drain quickly, and. contain a large amount of organic material.
Once the roots of a Bird’s Nest fern fill the pot that its in,, re-pot to the next size container and nothing larger. Be sure there are drip holes in the bottom of the pot so excess water can escape. Never allow the plant posit in the excess water.
A Bird’s Nest fern is propagated using the spores that develop on the back sides of the fronds. Unlike other ferns, a Bird’s Nest fern cannot be propagated by plant division. Propagation is usually best left to the professionals.
Poisonous Plant Info
Bird’s Nest ferns are non-poisonous houseplants and are not toxic cats, dogs, and other pets.
I’m guessing that the brown spots on the leaves of your Bird’s Nest fern are spores, which is how the plant propagates in the wild. If your Bird’s Nest fern really had the plant pest called scale, it would be all over the plant not just on the under-side of the leaves.
Translucent spots on a Bird’s Nest fern are caused by a bacterial plant infection. To treat this plant disease remove any diseased leaves, keep the remaining leaves dry, reduce your water, and keep your Bird’s Nest fern away from your other plants until the infection clears up (or the plant dies).
The leaves of a Bird’s Nest fern may lose their lovely wavy shape if the plant is getting too much fertilizer. Plant food should always be diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength for most houseplants but especially for ferns.