How to Grow and Care for Bird's Nest Ferns

Bird’s nest ferns are naturally found growing on other plants in rainforests. They have bright green, spoon-shaped fronds that rise from a central rosette. In their natural habitat, they can grow up to 5 feet tall, but as houseplants, they typically only grow to be about 2 feet tall. They have a slow growth rate and are best planted in the spring, but can be started year-round.

To keep a bird’s nest fern healthy, provide it with warm, humid, and moist conditions. A bathroom is a good place to keep it, as it will receive humidity from the shower or tub. The plant also needs some light, so place it near a window.

New leaves will emerge from the center of the plant. These new leaves are delicate and should not be touched. If you touch them, they may be damaged or deformed.

Light

Bird’s nest ferns prefer indirect sunlight or partial shade. They can tolerate direct sunlight in the early morning, but prolonged exposure to harsh sunlight can scorch their leaves. An east- or north-facing window is ideal for indoor bird’s nest ferns.

Water

Bird’s nest ferns prefer moist soil, but not soggy soil. To check the moisture level, stick your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle. If the soil feels dry, it’s time to water. Avoid watering directly into the center of the plant, as this can encourage mold growth and rot. Instead, water at the soil around the plant. You can also mist the leaves of your bird’s nest fern occasionally to increase humidity.

  • Water deeply and thoroughly, until water runs out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.
  • Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings, but do not let it dry out completely.
  • Water more often during the summer months, when the plant is growing more actively.
  • Reduce watering during the winter months, when the plant is dormant.
  • Mist the leaves of your bird’s nest fern occasionally to increase humidity.

Temperature and Humidity

Bird’s nest ferns prefer warm temperatures and high humidity. They thrive in temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but can tolerate temperatures down to 50 degrees. Prolonged exposure to colder temperatures can harm the plant.

Indoors, protect your bird’s nest fern from cool drafts, such as air blowing from an air conditioner. Place your plant in a warm, humid location, such as a bathroom, greenhouse, or terrarium.

To increase the humidity around your bird’s nest fern, you can use a humidifier or place the pot on a tray filled with pebbles and water. Be sure the bottom of the pot is not sitting in water, as this can lead to root rot.

Fertilizer

During the spring and summer, when the bird’s nest fern is actively growing, fertilize it once a month with a balanced liquid fertilizer that has been diluted to half strength. Apply the fertilizer to the soil around the plant, not directly to the leaves. Too much fertilizer can cause the leaves to become misshapen or discolored. Do not fertilize during the fall and winter, when the plant is dormant.

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