If you have a bird’s nest fern, you already know how attractive its glossy, crinkled leaves and rosette form can be. But you may be wondering exactly how big this tropical plant can get when it’s grown indoors. You may also want to know how fast a bird’s nest fern can grow. This guide will walk you through how big and fast a bird’s nest fern can grow indoors.
- About Bird’s Nest Ferns
- Bird’s Nest Fern Growth Indoors vs. Outdoors
- Bird’s Nest Fern Natural Growth Cycle
- How Long Does it Take a Bird’s Nest Fern to Reach Full Size?
- Factors Contributing to the Speed and Development of a Bird’s Nest Fern
- Common Reasons Your Bird’s Nest Fern Growth is Slow or Stunted
- How to Make Your Bird’s Nest Fern Grow Faster
- Bird’s Nest Plant Growth FAQs
- Wrapping Up
How Big and How Fast do Bird’s Nest Fern Grow? – The Essentials
When grown indoors, bird’s nest ferns grow relatively slowly, gaining several inches per year. Fronds grow from 2 to 3 feet long. The fronds radiate out from a central rosette, and plant diameter may reach up to 3 feet over time. When grown outdoors, fronds may reach 5 feet long and 8 feet wide.
About Bird’s Nest Ferns
Asplenium nidus is a popular houseplant for a good reason. Much of their appeal stems from their appearance; unlike most other ferns, the bird’s nest boasts glossy, apple-green fronds with a unique crinkled margin. The plants grow in an attractive rosette form, with fronds extending from a central crown or nest.
Family, Genus, and Taxonomy
The bird’s nest fern is a member of the Asplenium genus. It’s a collection of 700 or so species commonly called “spleenworts.”
The name has an unusual origin. Hundreds of years ago, many believed that the fern’s spori (or clusters of spores) found on the underside of the plant’s fronds could cure diseases of the spleen because the spori were shaped like a spleen. Of course, this isn’t true, but it did lead to an interesting common name for the species.
The Asplenium genus belongs to the Aspleniaceae family, commonly called the fern family. Plants in Aspleniaceae grow from rhizomes. They may have undivided fronds, like the bird’s nest fern, or have divided pinnae.
Like all plants in the fern family, A. nidus grows from rhizomes and reproduces through spores found on the underside of fronds. Bird’s nest ferns grow in a rosette form, with fronds emanating from a central “nest.”
Fronds are bright apple-green with crinkled edges and a brown-black midrib. Foliage is glossy and smooth to the touch.
What Regions and Native Habitats are These Plants Native To?
A. nidus is native to Australia, the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, and Madagascar. Here, they thrive in the warm, humid tropical climate.
Bird’s nest ferns are epiphytic in the wild, which means they can grow on tree trunks, logs, and structures. In their native habitat, they live in the forest’s understory, with dappled light and nutrient-rich, moist soil.
Bird’s Nest Fern Growth Indoors vs. Outdoors
When grown indoors under optimal conditions, bird’s nest ferns grow slowly, from two to six inches per year. Fronds eventually reach a maximum size of about 3 feet long, with plant diameter maxing out at about 3 feet wide.
When grown outdoors, bird’s nest ferns grow faster. Fronds may reach lengths up to 5 feet long, with a maximum diameter of around 4 feet.
The ferns grow faster in their natural habitat, as they’re able to access the right soil, water, light, and nutrient conditions. Growing in a container indoors also constrains growth rate and size.
Bird’s Nest Fern Natural Growth Cycle
Bird’s nest ferns have an active growth during the spring and summer and produce new growth during these months.
Growth slows in the fall and remains very slow during the winter months.
How Long Does it Take a Bird’s Nest Fern to Reach Full Size?
On average, bird’s nest ferns may reach their full size within a few years. However, plant growth rate depends on environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, light levels, soil, and more.
Factors Contributing to the Speed and Development of a Bird’s Nest Fern
Care and Maintenance of Bird’s Nest Ferns
While bird’s nest ferns aren’t considered high-maintenance houseplants, they still need proper care for optimal growth rates. This includes:
- Indirect light exposure
- Consistently moist (but never wet) soil
- Soil with an acidic pH
- 20-10-20 fertilizer, diluted to half strength, applied monthly during the growing season
- Adequate humidity
- Occasional pruning to encourage healthy, new growth.
When grown indoors, place bird’s nest ferns in a spot that receives medium indirect light or low light. Consider a spot in a north-facing window, near an east-facing window, or a window covered by a sheer curtain.
Common Reasons Your Bird’s Nest Fern Growth is Slow or Stunted
As with many houseplants, bird’s nest ferns suffer when overwatered. These tropical plants prefer soil that’s consistently moist but never wet. Sitting in wet soil can slow growth or even lead to root rot and plant death.
Water your bird’s nest fern only when the top inch of soil feels dry. Add water around the plant’s perimeter, never directly into the rosette.
Lack of Light
If your bird’s nest fern doesn’t get enough light, it can’t perform photosynthesis. This is the process by which plants transform sunlight into the energy and nutrients they need to survive.
Place your bird’s nest fern in a spot that receives medium indirect light or filtered light for optimal growth rates. Try to mimic the dappled light conditions found in the fern’s native habitat.
Pests and Diseases
Certain pests and diseases can slow or stunt your fern’s growth. Common issues include:
- Scale: These small insects often cause brown spotting on foliage, which can be mistaken for spores
- Foliar nematodes: Look for small, translucent spots on foliage that turn brown or black
- Fungus gnats: Larvae may munch on roots and stems
- Spider mites: Strip out chlorophyll from fronds and make webs
Poor Soil Base
Bird’s nest ferns need a suitable soil base to get the nutrients, water, and air they need to survive. Choose a moist, well-draining soil with an acidic pH around 5 to 6.5.
Overfertilizing creates more problems than under-fertilizing. Bird’s nest ferns only need feeding during their growing season.
Apply a 20-10-20 fertilizer, diluted to half strength, once a month during spring and summer only. Overfertilized plants may develop abnormally-shaped fronds with areas of yellow and brown along the margins.
Bird’s nest ferns grow best in a warm, humid climate. Temperatures around 70 degrees F are ideal. If temperatures drop below 50 degrees, plant growth may creep to a halt.
How to Make Your Bird’s Nest Fern Grow Faster
The Best Soil Types
The soil you choose affects your bird’s nest fern’s growth rate. For optimal growth, choose an acidic (pH 5 to 6.5) soil mix that’s well-draining while retaining moisture.
Choose a soil mix containing coco coir, peat, perlite, and pine bark. This mix works well if you’re considering propagating your bird’s nest fern as well.
The Best Light Conditions
Ideal light conditions for a bird’s nest fern are medium indirect light, filtered light, or reflected light. In a north-facing window, near an east-facing window, in a window with a sheer curtain, or an area with reflected light are all good choices.
Ideal Temperature & Humidity
As tropical plants, bird’s nest ferns prefer warm, humid temperatures. Aim for a spot with consistent temperatures around 70 degrees F for optimal growth. You may increase humidity by setting your plant’s container on a small tray filled with rocks and water.
When and How to Fertilize
Apply fertilizer only during the spring and summer months. Use a water-soluble 20-10-20 fertilizer that’s been diluted to half strength and apply once a month to the soil.
When and How to Repot
If your fern is root bound, growth will slow or stop. Repot bird’s nest ferns every couple of years into a larger container. Use rich, well-draining will and ensure the container has adequate drainage holes.
Bird’s Nest Fern Plant Growth FAQs:
How long does a Bird’s Nest Fern take to grow a new frond?
After a new frond unfurls from the center of the plant’s rosette, it will take several months to reach its mature size.
Are Bird’s Nest Ferns slow-growing?
When grown as houseplants, bird’s nest ferns are relatively slow-growing. Fronds grow from 2 to 3 feet long, with an overall plant diameter up to 3 feet.
Are Bird’s Nest Ferns easy to care for?
While bird’s nest ferns aren’t among the lowest maintenance houseplants, they’re not difficult to care for. They thrive in indirect light, moist (but never wet), well-draining soil, an acidic pH, and warm, humid conditions.
How do you know if your Bird’s Nest Fern is happy?
With the right amount of light and moisture, your fern will sport bright, glossy fronds with crinkled margins. An overfertilized or overwatered plant will appear limp, with yellowing or brown fronds.
Do Bird’s Nest Ferns like grow lights?
Bird’s nest ferns can thrive in grow lights. Just don’t get them too close to the light source and limit exposure to under 6 hours per day.
Bird’s nest ferns add tropical drama to any room, with their shiny, crinkled fronds and attractive rosette form. When grown indoors, they grow slowly, reaching widths of 3 feet with 2 to 3-foot-long fronds. Providing your fern with the right growing conditions may speed up its growth rate.
Linsay is an American copywriter based in the Pacific Northwest with a background in academic writing and research. Linsay holds Master's degree in both Anthropology and Library and Information Sciences and has written for numerous national and international publications including USA Today, SFGATE, Hunker, and The Bump across an array of topics in the gardening, green living, and travel sectors. When she's not writing, you'll usually find Linsay reading, kayaking, sailing, snowboarding, or working in her garden.