How to Care for a Bird’s Nest Fern

by | Sep 17, 2019 | 28 comments

I realized the other day that I have 4 different kinds of bird’s nest ferns. I, unfortunately, have killed more than one in the past. Ferns can be a little tricky. But taking care of a bird’s nest fern simply comes down to (in my case, anyway) remembering to water them regularly and upping the humidity a bit. I have decided to keep these ferns together on my counter in the kitchen. That’s where I keep plants that I know need more water so I can keep a close eye on them. I love ferns and these ones are so amazing.

Four types of bird's nest ferns

A compendium of my bird’s nest ferns

Common bird’s nest fern

The fern below is the common bird’s nest fern (though there is nothing “common” about it) or Asplenium nidus. This is probably the one that the others are hybridized from

Asplenium nidus

Asplenium nidus

The common name comes from the center of the fern, which looks like a little nest and the unfurling fronds look like small eggs nestled down in the center before they unfurl. It does look like an egg in the nest, doesn’t it?

Asplenium nidus center

Center of Asplenium nidus

Asplenium nidus ‘Crissie’

This bird’s nest variety is called ‘Crissie’ and has more frilly ends than the Asplenium nidus.

'Crissie' bird's nest fern

Asplenium nidus ‘Crissie’

Below is the center of ‘Crissie’.

Center of 'Crissie' ferno

The nest

I love this extremely ruffled form called ‘Leslie’. It looks like a bunch of lettuce.

‘Leslie’

Here is the center of ‘Leslie’.

Center of "Leslie' bird's nest fern

Center of ‘Leslie’ bird’s nest fern

Here is one that is quite easy to find compared to others. Its called ‘Crispy Wave’, and its edges are wavy all the way down the frond, not just on the ends as on the others.

'Crispy Wave' bird's nest fern

‘Crispy Wave’ fern

Below is the center of the ‘Crispy Wave’.

'Crispy Wave' fern

‘Crispy Wave’ fern center

I think it is cool how the centers all look different. Don’t you think so?

Unfurling frond of 'Crispy Wave'

Unfurling frond of ‘Crispy Wave’ fern

These are gorgeous ferns and not too hard to take care of, as long as you don’t let them dry out at all and elevate the humidity. Put them in an east window if you have one or back a bit from the west and place them on pebble trays to raise the humidity, like the one below.

Pebble tray

A pebble tray helps raise the humidity around the fern

If you can find one of these “nest” ferns, get one. They really are beautiful and not that hard to grow, as ferns go. A fern in the same family, the austral gem fern, (Asplenium dimorphum x difforme) is a great fern for the fern challenged person. So as the family goes, this is a great group of ferns and easier than a lot of ferns. Do you already have any of these ferns?

 

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28 Comments

  1. Nancy

    Hi! I am glad I found your site and this post. I have a bird’s nest fern. Possibly the crispy wave. It’s currently in a room that gets lower light. I just got a mister, since our house is pretty dry. I decided to try out the new mister tonight and turned on all the lights in the room, including accent lights that happen to be above where the plant is located, but typically aren’t turned on. To my horror, I noticed all these tannish things all over the tops of the newer leaves. I’m online for hours trying to figure out does it have mold? a fungus? aphids? what could this be? When I wiped a leaf, it just looks sort of like light brown dirt, or the loose planting medium the plant came in (have only had it 4 or 5 weeks). But when Iooked at the leaves through magnification on my phone to take pictures, there seem to be a lot of individual little dots. Then I look at these pictures and see that you’ve got spots on all of the newer, interior leaves on several of these as well. Do you know what this stuff is? I can’t find anything online. I even posted in a plant group online. Usually there are dozens of responses to posts within minutes. My post (along with pictures) has been up for 5+ hours and gotten no response.

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      I’m not sure of the exact “name” for it, but it resembles the fuzz that grows on the “feeted” ferns. I have written about those, so you can find the post. I will look into it. I have lots of fern books. Thanks for this. You are the second person to ask about it.

      Reply
      • gail

        out of curiosity regarding the white stuff at the base of my rabbit fern’s cluster, i found this post. i am wondering if you did find anything else out. thanks…

        Reply
        • Lisa Steinkopf

          Rabbit’s fern or bird’s nest? It hasn’t turned into anything else and my plant is doing fine, so I think it was just the fuzzy stuff that is on ferns. I looked at that again the other day, and I wondered again about it, too.

          Reply
      • Laura

        Hi,
        I have several birds nest ferns and they all have wilted and almost translucent tips…..
        I have repotted them all like 3 times now, adding peat moss and pearlite to the soil, and this last time I added pebbles to the bottom inside the pot to make sure it’s getting drainage……. what am I doing wrong?
        TIA 😊

        Reply
        • Lisa Steinkopf

          First, drainage material is not a good idea. Hopefully, you have a drainage hole in your pot. Why have you repotted them three times?

          Reply
  2. dolores maggy

    i have been watering my fern in the center wrongly for months what can i do now to save it. It still looks fine.

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Dolores, If it looks fine, then it must be draining well and it isn’t bothering it. I would continue to do what you are doing as long as your plant is fine.

      Reply
  3. dolores

    would it be problematic to do it the correct way beginning now?

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Not at all! It should be fine. Let me know how it goes!

      Reply
  4. Laura

    What is the black sooty like substance on my birds nest fern? I moved it to a screened porch for the summer and it seems so happy outside however, (even though it has spores on the underside) I find little brown oval spots on the tops of the fronds and also a black substance like soot. Can you please help my fern?

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Laura,
      If you have sooty mold on your leaves, that means you have scale, mealybugs, or aphids. They secrete honeydew which is a sticky substance that sooty mold then grows on. If you don’t find anything on your fern, it may be another plant that is over it. Do you have a plant over it that may have insects? If not, really check your fern for insects.

      Reply
      • Christy

        Hi Lisa,

        I also have a crispy wave fern inherited from my sister and I absolutely love it! I’m a plant noob and I tend to helicopter parent. I noticed my fern has a yellow/brown spot in the center of the leaf with a darker brown ring around it. I can’t tell if it’s one spot that grew or two spots that merged. On two leaves beside that one, they also have the light brown/yellow spot either without the darker ring, or with it starting to form. I have pics which might make it easier to explain. Some of his leaves also turned super curly and grew kind of weird, I’m not sure what happened. He’s special to me because he was my sister’s, and she’s not with us anymore unexpectedly. I don’t really know much about plants but I’m learning a lot! Do you know what might be happening to my poor plant?

        Reply
        • Lisa Steinkopf

          Hi Christy, Did you send me a picture. I’m sorry if you did. I recently lost my mom and haven’t looked at email for quite a while.
          Lisa

          Reply
          • Christy

            Hi Lisa, I’m so sorry to hear that, my condolences. My thoughts are with you and your family. I appreciate it even more that you responded during a difficult time, thank you so much. I didn’t email the pics, I was having a hard time trying to find it. Could you let me know what it is? Thank you again.

  5. Aditi

    Hi, I have a crispy wave birds nest fern. I got it around a month ago and have been trying to keep the soil moist. However, each of the tips of the leaves have browned a little now and the leaves also seem crinklier than when I got it.
    I also havent observed any smaller new leaves come up yet
    Havent repotted since it felt like a good size pot
    Im guessing the water is still falling short but could you help? Dont want to overwater it

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Aditi, It may be that the leaves have browned at the tips from inconsistent watering, or just a dry atmosphere. Crinklier leaves are good since it is the crispy wave fern. I wouldn’t pot it up to too large a pot. Hopefully, by keeping it consistently moist, it will do well for you. Lisa

      Reply
  6. Joel Dobbs

    Hello, Lisa. I have a Crested Japanese Birds Nest Fern and it has gotten very wobbly in the pot. It is healthy looking and continues to produce new leaves, but the whole plant leans quite a bit to any side that it is pushed to. The soil in the pot has settled in a way that has left the base of the plant sitting on a mound of soil while the remaining soil around the pot has dropped. Is there a way to stabilize the base?

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Joel, I feel like bird’s nest type ferns often do that. Can you replant the fern and drop it down a bit in the soil? Or do you think that it may rot your plant if you do? Lisa

      Reply
  7. Kirsten Brindley

    Hello, I’ve had a Birds Nest Crissie for a while and there is new growth in the center, but it’s not unfurling. I did discover that it was root bound, so I up potted him- but still no action on the unfurling. I haven’t fertilized (since it’s now winter) and I’m checking to make sure he’s moist. Do they take a long time to unfurl or is this a lost cause? (The rest of the plant looks beautiful!)

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Kirsten,
      I would definitely give it some more time. It is winter and things have slowed down so maybe it is just taking its time.
      Lisa

      Reply
  8. Chris Mc dermott

    I have white spots and brown tips of my lease of my bird nests how can I get rid of the white spots and stop the browning of the leaves

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Chris,
      I also have white spots and I think they are natural. If they look like mealybugs, investigate closer. The brown tips may be from too much or too little water, low humidity, or inconsistent water. See if rectifying any of those helps with the brown ends. In the meantime, cut off the brown parts, mimicking the natural shape of the leaf.
      Lisa

      Reply
  9. Josh

    Hi Lisa, I recently purchased several bird’s nest ferns and repotted them in pots large enough to allow growth. Earlier today, I noticed on a few of them that some leaves are densely covered with very small black dots. On some plants, the dots cover random outer leaves, and on two of them, most of the dots are on the emerging inner leaves. I don’t believe they are spores because they occur on the top and bottom sides of the leaves, but their appearance is very spore-like. Do you have any idea what this might be and, if so, how to remedy the problem? Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Josh, I’m sorry for the late response. Do you think they are scale? Bird’s nest ferns are notorious for getting scale. I won’t even tell you how many I have thrown out because of scale. I hope you resolved the problem in time to save them.
      Lisa

      Reply
  10. Sandie

    I have a birds nest fern as well and I noticed like flaky white stuff on my fern what is this ? I have touched it and it powdery.

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Sandie,
      I’m not sure what that may be. Maybe ferilizer residue from the greenhouse where it was grown. If you could email me a picture, that would be helpful.
      Lisa

      Reply

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  1. Episode 99: How to Care for Ferns with Lisa from The Houseplant Guru - bloomandgrowradio.com - […] How to Care for a Bird’s Nest Fern […]

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