Proper Care for a Bird's Nest Fern

Beverly Hills, CA

Hello everyone,

I acquired a very healthy bird's nest fern from our local botanical garden as I have always loved this plant. Unfortunately, I have never really had any luck growing it. The best I ever did was when I lived in England where I had a window in the bathroom and it sat on the window ledge. I am now in Colorado and I have this beautiful plant -- well, it WAS beautiful but slowly I think I may be killing it. It is in a plastic pot with a large hole and then a small tray where the excess water drains into. This whole arrangement is in a decorative clay pot. I would have a photo but it is night here now so the photos are not turning out well.

At any rate, I fear I have made some grave errors. For example, I am watering in the center as I read once that is where you are supposed to water as that is how it receives its water in its natural habitat. Doing some research this evening yielded a different set of instructions. DON'T water in the middle but in the outside. So, now, here I am asking you all in this forum.

The plant is in soil. Should I re-pot it with an orchid mix? The plant is on an upstairs ledge and receives bright (ish) indirect light. Humidity in the house is 55-60% -- perhaps a little higher where it is due to it sharing an area with my pet tarantulas which require higher humidity. Should I get a humidity tray used for bonsais and orchids? How wet should the soil be? Should I allow it to dry out a bit before watering? What of food? We have orchid food mix. Should I use that?

I will follow any and all advice and tomorrow I will post a photo. I am sad to say it is nowhere near its original beauty when I purchased it.

I thank you all very kindly for your help and wish you the very best!

Take care,

Acton, CA(Zone 8b)

Have you looked online for suggestions about this fern? I have seen many dozens of 'how to's for this plant. But one how NOT to is do NOT water the crown of this plant unless you want it to rot... that is, unless you have this plant outdoors in a super warm, super humid environment and its roots are wrapped around a tree or something like that... THEN you can water it from above, but ONLY with rain water (no tap water, please). But since you live in Colorado, I would just stick with watering the soil. Ferns like to have their roots watered, not their leaves (same as most plants I guess). Overwatering the roots on these can also make them rot, though. These are natural epiphytes and are not used to having their roots constantly wet or even in wet soil for that matter, though they seem to adapt to wet soil OK if kept warm enough. Some say to let the soil dry out a bit, and some say to keep it at least somewhat moist... but it should be in super well draining soil. If you plant it in orchid bark, you will have to probably water it twice a day or more, so I would not suggest that medium. These plants NEED high humidity... I think perhaps even higher than you spiders do.... if you cannot provide them with a rainforest like condition, I would put it over a flat pot of evaporating water at all times, and perhaps mist sparingly but frequently with distilled or deionized or reverse osmosis water (tap water just seems to damage delicate meristems resulting in rot and all sorts of related maladies, not to mention the ugly spots tap water leaves behind). I used to grow this plant successfully when I had a greenhouse and they loved it in there... but I live in the deserts of inland So California and these detest the dry heat. No luck with these here myself and I do not have much patience with houseplants. If it can't live outdoors for me, it lives somewhere else.

Beverly Hills, CA

Hi there palmbob,

Thank you very much for your help with my question. I did look online and all I could find was generic information. I have implemented your suggestions. I bought a humidifier from Walgreen's just for the fern. Well, other plants on the ledge are surely benefiting too. Both jets from the humidifier are centered on the fern. It could be just my mind playing tricks on me but it seems to be perking up from this.

I will keep it in its current medium and not move it to the orchid mix. I will post some photos now and then some new photos in a couple weeks. There are several new fronds ready to spring forth so perhaps I am in luck.

Thank you so much again for taking the time to help me out.

All the very best

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