Plant Care  |  May 20, 2020

Bird's Nest Fern Care


PRO TIP: Keep your plant away from hot and cold air drafts. This includes window drafts, heaters, and air conditioning. Bird's Nest Ferns prefer a temperature between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Night time temperatures should not vary more than a 10 degrees drop.

The Bird's Nest Fern Esplenium nidus is a tropical epiphytic plant that loves humidity and indirect light. Their bright green leaves fan out from a central nest like gathering. In their natural habitat they can grow to be upwards of 15ft in diameter, sprawling on the forest floor or taking host high up in the trees.  There are a few varieties of Bird's Nest Ferns, but the care is similar among them all. Place your fern where it can receive medium to bright indirect light. This plant does not fare well with direct sunlight. Although the Bird's Nest Fern can tolerate lower light levels you will need to be more cautious not to overwater it. 

If you’re unsure about your lighting conditions, please consult our guide for how to measure light in your space. 

Bird's Nest Fern Nidus

Bird's Nest Ferns display a wide morphology in leaf structure. The wavy leaves of a 'Nidus' Bird's Nest Fern are fun and playful. 

Routine Maintenance

PRO TIP: Keep a tray of pebbles, filled with water underneath your plant. This provides extra humidity to the foliage, while keeping the water away from the soil.

 Always be sure to assess your plant's watering needs upon receiving it.  Before giving your plant a drink, it is best to check the moisture level in the soil first. Feel into the top few inches of the soil, if the top 1”-2“ of the soil are dry then your plant is ready to be watered. Below the top few inches should remain moist, but not soggy. Do not let the soil dry out thoroughly between waterings.  Typically watering once a week will suffice. Your plant may need twice a week watering during the growing seasons when temperatures are warmer. Consider aerating the soil of your plant before the initial watering. We compact the soil to avoid shifting during transit, so aerating can help the soil breath and allow for moisture to be released. 

Rotate your plant periodically to ensure even growth on all sides and dust the leaves often so the plant can photosynthesize efficiently. When dusting the leaves, also take the opportunity to inspect the undersides and keep an eye out for pests.

Remember each plant is a unique living thing and may have varying needs, especially in their individual locations. Pay attention to the condition of your Bird's Nest Fern and its watering needs and you will have a long and happy relationship.

Frequently Asked Questions

Help! My fern got too dry. What do I do?

  • Start by giving your plant a nice, thorough watering! Then prune away any dry, crispy leaves with a clean pair of sheers. Keep a close eye on your plant and stay on top of watering to help it bounce back. Be sure not to overwater in compensation for the under-watering. Bird's Nest Ferns are more hardy than most fern varieties, and typically easier to bring back after an under watering.

Why is my Bird's Nest Fern losing color and turning pale?

  • Not enough, or too much light can both cause color to fade on the leaves of the Bird's Nest Fern. Re-assess your lighting conditions and see if you can move it closer or further away from a natural light source. Monitor your plant to see if this improves the condition.

Why are my ferns leaves turning yellow?

  • If the soil is being kept too moist, this can lead to root rot and yellowing leaves. Often when overwatering is the culprit, the leaves will have brown and yellow edging. Alternatively, if the soil becomes too dry entire leaves can turn completely yellow and fall. Check the moisture in the soil and see if watering should be adjusted. 

There are brown raised markings on the underside of the leaves. What are they?

  • Ferns are non flowering, asexual species that propagate through spores on the underside of leaves. This is one of the oldest forms of procreation! 

How often should I fertilize my Bird's Nest Fern?

  • In general, house plants will thrive when they are fertilized spring through fall. Fertilize once a month with an organic houseplant fertilizer, following the package instructions for dilution and administration. Greenery NYC uses an organic potting mix with a slow release fertilizer in the soil, so your plant will not need fertilizer within the first 6 months of receiving it.

How often does my Bird's Nest Fern need to be repotted?

  • For smaller desktop plants, we suggest repotting once every 12-18 months. Typically you want to choose a potting vessel  1”- 2” larger in diameter to allow for growth. Don’t choose a pot much larger than the previous as this could drown the plants roots. If you prefer to maintain the current size of your plant, repot into the same vessel, providing new soil and trimming away some roots and foliage. Repotting in the spring or summer is ideal.

Standard Planter Instructions

There are two types of standard planters offered by Greenery Unlimited—those with drainage holes, and those without. Within these two categories are an array of sizes and styles to choose from. The presence of drainage holes and the size of the planted vessel both play a role in the quantity and frequency of water given to your plant.

Plants purchased in pots without a drainage hole have been set up with a built-in drainage system. A layer of Aeration Stones (porous, absorbent material made of recycled clay) has been placed beneath the soil to act as a reservoir for any excess water that flows through the soil. You will need to be slightly more cautious not to pour too much water into these containers as there is no way for the excess water to escape. We suggest slowly pouring small amounts of water in bit by bit, until you have reached the desired moisture level in the soil.

For plants potted with drainage, water until the excess begins to come out the bottom of the pot and into the catch tray.

Self Watering Container Instructions

The self-watering containers require a deep and thorough watering of the topsoil after they are first placed. This is important because the roots of the plants first need to grow into the reservoir in order to drink from it. Follow the standard planter instructions for at least four weeks, before testing the reservoir. During the dormant seasons, or for plants that have slower growing habits, consider top watering for up to ten weeks. 

TEST: After the initial top water period, fill the water reservoir until the red indicator reaches half way between the MAX and MIN line. If the indicator goes down over the first few days, it means the plant is ready for regular reservoir servicing. If not, be sure to continue top watering for a few more weeks, until the red indicator goes down, meaning the plant has started drinking from the reservoir. 

RESERVOIR SERVICING: Once the indicator goes down, do not refill the reservoir right away. Similar to how humans need a breath of air between gulps of water, almost all plants require a drying out period. Always allow for the reservoir to empty all the way, and after a drying out period of a few days, be sure to refill it until the indicator reaches the MAX line.

From here on out, you should NEVER topwater the plant while using the reservoir system. If you water from the top, it can drown the plant. In the Self Watering Container, the top layer of soil will eventually become extremely dry and hard, and may even pull away from the edges of the pot. This is not a cause for concern, but simply because the plant is drinking directly from its roots in the water reservoir. You may opt for adding fresh soil into the gaps between the soil and planter, so as to give the plant a nutrient boost. You may annually, or bi annually, top water the plant to flush the foot system. Only do so when the reservoir is empty and the plant is ready for more water. 

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