Bird’s nest ferns, with the scientific name Asplenium nidus, are stunning, bright green ferns of the family Aspleniaceae. They are epiphytes, meaning that they grow on other trees, and are native to the tropical regions of Hawaii, Polynesia, India, Eastern Africa, Eastern Australia and Southeast Asia. These striking ferns have upright, undivided fronds that grow in a rosette formation with a funnel-like center over a mat of fibrous roots. They can grow up to four feet in diameter and five feet high, and are popular as landscaping accents as well as houseplants.
Bird’s Nest Fern Care
Bird’s nest ferns do not need very much bright light to thrive; they prefer filtered or indirect light. An example of filtered light in a household environment would be sunlight lightly filtered by a sheer curtain before it reaches your plant. These plants are therefore great low-light options for your home.
When it comes to their watering requirements, it is important to get the balance right. Bird’s nest ferns prefer moist but not soggy soil. The latter encourages the growth or foot rot, which is a fungal disease that can kill your plant. Water the plant when the top inch of the soil is dry, but do not allow the soil to dry out completely. Ensure that the soil is well-draining so that it does not become waterlogged.
Do not water at the center of the plant, since this is where new leaves unfurl from. If you do this, it could cause the center to rot. These plants love humidity, so remember to mist them a few times weekly, but do not leave them soaking wet.
Because these plants are epiphytes, they do not need to be packed into a potting mix. Just a mix of peat moss, perlite or orchid bark is enough for the plants to thrive. Repot them every two years in pots that are one size up from their current pots, and make sure the pots have drainage holes. Schedule your repotting for the growing seasons of spring and summer.
These plants do not like too much fertilizer, so dilute your balanced houseplant fertilizer to half-strength. Fertilize only a few times during the growing season in spring and summer.
Avoid pruning your ferns; only do so to remove the old, outermost leaves if they start to turn yellow and wilt. Remove these leaves with clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears. You can also gently pull off the old leaves.
Bird’s Nest Fern Propagation
Ferns have spores, rather than seeds, so to propagate your bird’s nest fern you will need to use the spores on the underside of its fronds. To gather them, remove the mature fronds and place them in a paper bag. After a few days, the spores should fall off the fronds and into the bag.
Next, prepare a pot of moistened sphagnum moss and arrange the spores on top. Water from the bottom to maintain the moisture of the moss. Place the pot in a dish of water and allow it to soak up through the drainage holes, rather than watering the top of the moss. Allow the pot to soak until the top of the moss is damp, so that the spores always remain moist.
Do not expose the spores to direct light; they should only get low or filtered light. Place a clear plastic bag or plastic wrap around the top of the pot to lock in moisture, but remove it from time to time to let the air in. Mist the spores regularly. New plants should start to develop in a few weeks to months, and it may take a year for the ferns to fully develop.
How To Mount A Bird’s Nest Fern
- Take an amount of sphagnum moss enough to provide a base for the plant, and place it on a piece of wood.
- Take the fern out of the pot and remove the excess soil.
- Put the fern’s root ball on top of the moss and the wood.
- Add more sphagnum moss around the root ball to cradle it.
- Wrap sheet moss around the outside of the sphagnum moss for a neater appearance. This is optional.
- Secure the fern and moss to the wood using fishing line.
- All that remains is to find a good spot to hang your mounted fern.
Ferns are usually mounted on pieces of driftwood or preserved wood. To water your mounted ferns, take them down from the wall and submerge them in a large bucket, sink or tub for 15 to 30 minutes.
Bird’s nest ferns are popular houseplants because of their aesthetic value and spectacular foliage. These epiphytes can be mounted on walls and are native to the tropical areas of Eastern Australia and Southeastern Asia. They prefer filtered and indirect light and thrive well in moist soil. These plants can be propagated by using the spores and keeping them moist until new growth starts to develop.
Image: istockphoto.com / Khlongwangchao