Bird's Nest Fern

Picture of birds nest fern

The Asplenium nidus is an epiphytic species known as the Bird's nest fern that roots itself to trees in it's natural habitat and warmer climates.

Facts

Origin: South East Asia and East Australia.
Names: Bird's Nest Fern (common). -- Asplenium Nidus (botanical/scientific).
Max Growth (approx): Height 2ft.

From the range of ferns that can be grown indoors this plant has larger leaflets than most and gives that large full leaf foliage plant appearance.


Description and Information

Growing On A Tree In Thailand

Attached to tree

Now I spend most of my time in Thailand I get to find all sorts of great indoor plants growing in the wild and within gardens. This A.nidus is growing in my neighbors garden attached to the tree in the above picture.

Although a native to tropical regions - the A.nidus that roots itself on trees has adapted very well to growing in temperate regions as a house plant.

Two reasons it grows well under and attached to trees is because it receives the moisture (humidity) it requires and shade by taking cover from direct sunlight. Indoors we must also provide these humidity levels and provide enough light without direct sunlight to enable the plant to grow well and remain healthy.

How it looks: Ferns are quite an interesting group of plants to grow indoors because of the various types of fronds they display, so you could have three ferns in one room from the same class and genera that look kind of unrelated.

The Bird's nest differs from many in appearance because of it's spear like shaped leaves rather than feather or palm like fronds. The leaves (have a brown mid-rib and wavy margin) grow up to about 2ft long from a rosette of fronds where new leaves appear when the plant is producing new growth.

Displaying: While a plant is young and small it can be placed anywhere in a home or office with the correct conditions provided (light, etc.). Once it matures though, you'll need to provide enough space for the rosette of fronds to spread out over 2ft each side. A conservatory is best suited or a fairly large room once it does mature.

Care level: The two main conditions to provide well is enough humidity and to protect the leaves from direct sunlight (they become scorched), although some sunlight is ideal for them. If a person has sufficient living space and can follow the straight forward care instructions below, anyone can grow and maintain them.

close up of plant

Care Instructions To Provide

  • Temperature: Room temperatures between 65-75ºF (18-24ºC) are ideal, and no lower than 55ºF (13ºC).

  • Light: Most books and guides will agree that bright light without direct sunlight should be provided. However, providing some direct sunlight is great for the Bird's nest fern to grow well, but you need to only provide some morning or a small amount of pre-sunset. The fronds can become pale or have scorch marks on them if the sun is too hot. During the winter the sun is much less harmful to the plant.

  • Watering: This is a species that loves it's soil to remain moist at all times, but not soggy. Water around the edge of the center rosette to avoid the water becoming stagnant in the center, which may cause rot.

  • Soil: A peat based potting mix is required. 2 parts peat and 1 part perlite (maybe a little less) is one mixture that will be fine. A peat based mixture with organic material is also good.

  • Fertilizer: From April - September feed the plant with a weak diluted fertilizer every 2 weeks to encourage new growth and healthy looking leaves.

  • Re-Potting: The Asplenium nidus does not need a pot change very often because it's roots are very small. Once every 2 years is advised for a mature species and once a year while it's young. These do not generally have a problem with becoming root bound, but have more of an issue with staying stable in the pot - this is because the roots are small and they're usually attached to a tree making their own mount. Watch out to see if the plant is becoming unstable and move to a larger pot if it is.

  • spray bottle picture

    Misting: To improve humidity mist the leaves frequently.

  • Humidity: Humidity may need to be improved if it becomes low and the plant is showing signs of being affected by dry air. You can improve the humidity by standing the plant in a humidity tray, a tray of peat moss or use an electronic humidifier.

  • Propagation: These are propagated by spore sowing which is very difficult for the average indoor grower to carry out. Many ferns can be propagated by division, not this species though.

Potential Problems

  • Scale: Scale insect is a common problem for the Bird's nest fern. These can be identified when the underside of leaves have small brown discs on them. They are usually removed by wiping them off with a damp cloth and once removed spray the foliage with an insecticide.

  • Frond tips brown: Most likely cause here is dry air and lack of humidity. The solution is to increase humidity levels.

  • Brown dots on underside: These are called spores which are used for propagation - These spores show you the plant is healthy and well.

  • Pale fronds and plant lacking growth: The likely cause here is the need for fertilizer within the soil. Pale fronds can also relate to the plant being exposed to too much sunlight.

  • Limp and wilting plant: You could be possibly over-watering the plant.

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