Bird’s nest ferns are foliage plants with a little character. Unlike other houseplants, they’re epiphytes, which means they grow on trees and other structures besides soil.
In addition to that, their fronts have curved edges that make them look vastly different from other plants.
Here’s how to grow and care for these lovely ferns indoors.
About Bird’s Nest Ferns
The bird’s nest fern is an epiphyte that’s native to the tropical rainforests of Africa and Asia. It’s a perennial in warm climates. But, needs to stay indoors in areas where winters are cold.
If you’re wondering where they get their name, it’s because of their central crown, which is located in the middle of the plant, and where leaves come from. When you look closely, this resembles a bird’s nest.
In any case, because of their nature, you’ll often see these plants clinging to trees in their natural habitats. As such, they don’t necessarily need soil to live. So, you don’t need to keep them potted if you can provide them with somewhere to hang on to.
One of the reasons they’re popular as houseplants is because of their lovely fronds (leaves). Their unique-looking green foliage makes them very appealing as indoor decor.
And, they don’t grow too big either. Maturing to about 2-3 feet high, they make perfect indoor plants for homes and offices.
Add to that the fact that they’re easy to grow and can tolerate low light conditions and dry air, then you’ve got a winner.
Last but not least, you don’t have to worry about keeping it around curious young kids or pets. That’s because they don’t pose any threat to them even when ingested.
Bird’s Nest Ferns Care
Bird’s Nest Fern Light Requirements
Being epiphytes, these ferns get a lot of shade from trees in their natural habitat. So, even if tropical rainforests have hot and humid conditions, the Bird’s nest fern isn’t accustomed to getting a lot of sunlight.
This means that it prefers indirect or filtered light. And, keeping it away from direct sunlight is a good idea.
At most, you can give it some early morning sunlight. But, anything more than that its leaves will lose their lush green color and start turning pale. Similarly, you’ll see them become crinkled.
When these symptoms show up, your plant is telling you it’s being exposed to too much light.
As such, keeping it near a north-facing window works well. You can likewise place it a little farther away from an east-facing window. And, to a lesser degree a west-facing window since the afternoon sun can get quite intense, especially during the summertime.
These ferns likewise do well under bright fluorescent lights. Thus making them well-suited for homes and offices.
Outdoors, they’re best situated under the shade. This way, they can avoid getting their leaves scorched, which happens with direct sunlight.
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Bird’s Nest Fern Temperature & Humidity
The bird’s nest fern thrives in zones 11 and 12. And, in warm climate areas, it’s a perennial.
As you would guess, it enjoys fairly warm temperatures due to its tropical origins. This means it loves temperatures that are between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
These can likewise tolerate a little bit of the cold going down to around 55 degrees.
Warm temperatures also allow it to be more tolerant of higher light conditions. But, once it gets cold, they start becoming unhappy.
As such, besides keeping the temperature up, you should also keep them away from areas where they can experience cold drafts or sudden drops in temperature.
Similarly, it likes high humidity. This makes it perfect for areas in your home with moisture like the bathroom and kitchen.
But, if you want to put in somewhere else, you can likewise increase the humidity around the plant but placing it over a pebble tray that’s filled with water. As the water evaporates, it increases the vapor above it, which in turn ups the humidity in that area of your home.
Watering Bird’s Nest Fern
The bird’s nest plant is used to tropical jungle environments. As such, it enjoys soil that is kept moist, but not wet.
This means that you’ll want to be careful with overwatering.
In the summer, provide your plant with constant moisture, but not too much. Come winter, you can keep the soil drier.
Just as importantly, you shouldn’t water into the nest, which is the center part of the plant where its foliage grows from. Doing so increases the risk of rot and mold. Both of which aren’t good for your plant.
Thus, instead of watering from overhead, a better way to do so is to water the soil around it. Watering around the base of the plant allows you to avoid getting the foliage as well as the center of the plant wet. At the same time, it allows you to provide the roots with moisture.
The bird’s nest plant is designed to grow on wood (epiphytic) or rocks (lithophytic). So, it doesn’t really need soil at all.
Instead, you can use smaller pieces from old logs or other chunks of wood as their growing medium.
But, you can likewise grow in on potting soil if you want to keep it in a container.
This allows you to set it on the ground like most other houseplants.
If you decide to go this route, then do choose a fast-draining potting mix that’s acidic (pH level between 5.0 and 5.5).
When it comes to feeding, less is more for the bird’s nest fern. In fact, giving it too much fertilizer or feeding it too often will make its leaves to turn yellow or brown and also cause their fronds to become deformed.
During its growing season, which is spring to fall, you can give it a balanced liquid fertilizer that’s been diluted to half strength or less. Doing so once a month will be sufficient.
Once winter arrives, cut down the dose to quarter strength, while applying the same frequency.
Like water, don’t feed it in the center (its nest).
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Pruning Bird’s Nest Fern
The bird’s nest fern doesn’t need a lot of pruning. To a large degree, it maintains its size and size because it grows very slowly.
That said, from time to time, you may need to remove some of the older fronds on the outside. This is easily done using a pair of scissors.
Since the plant produces new fronts from its nest in the center, the older ones are gradually moved to the outer end of the plant. And as they age, they turn brown.
Thus, trimming these leaves helps keep your plant looking fresh and green.
Bird’s Nest Fern Propagation
If there’s an issue or drawback to this plant, it is that it’s hard to propagate. Unlike other ferns, it can’t be divided. And, the main method of propagation is via spores and tissue culture.
This makes it less accessible to home growers.
As a result, you can’t grow new ones for free at home.
Instead, you’ll have to head on to the garden center and buy them.
Since they’re slow growers, these plants don’t require regular repotting. Additionally, they do well in slightly undersized pots.
That said, as they grow, being in smaller pots increases their risk of imbalance and instability. That’s because the top gets heavier and wider while the base stays tiny.
As such, you’ll likely need to repot every 2-3 years or so to keep this from happening.
While you’re at it, use this as an opportunity to refresh the soil and add compost to your plant as well.