How to Propagate Bird’s Nest Ferns (Essential Tips)

If you have questions about how to propagate bird’s nest ferns, you’ve come to the right place. We’re not surprised you want to grow more Asplenium nidus plants; these beautiful tropical ferns provide a host of benefits and add a lush look to any room with their glossy, bright fronds, crinkled foliage, and attractive rosette shape. Propagating bird’s nest ferns takes a bit of time and effort, but it is possible. Here’s what you need to know about growing bird’s nest ferns yourself.

How to Propagate Bird’s Nest Ferns (Essential Tips)

How to Propagate Bird’s Nest Ferns – The Essentials

The most reliable way to propagate is with spores. Locate large, fuzzy spores underneath a frond. Wrap a cut frond in paper. Once spores drop, sprinkle onto a dish of moist peat or alternative substrate. Cover with plastic, and keep moist and shaded at 70-80 degrees F for at least 2 weeks. Remove plastic once ferns sprout and mist to keep consistently moist.

Can Bird’s Nest Ferns be Propagated? 

Can Bird's Nest Ferns be Propagated?

You can propagate bird’s nest ferns at home by collecting the plant’s spores and cultivating them under controlled environmental conditions. If you’re new to propagation, the process can be a bit tricky.

However, once you figure out the method, propagating with spores isn’t that difficult. Simply follow the correct process and steps for effective propagation.

Key Considerations When Propagating a Bird’s Nest Fern

Key Considerations When Propagating a Bird's Nest Fern

Level of Effort and Difficulty

When considering propagating a bird’s nest fern, know that you’ll need to put in some time and effort. Though propagation using spores is a reliable way to grow new bird’s nest fern plants, it can be a bit tricky for beginners.

Before you start, make sure you have the right supplies, environmental conditions, and time needed to complete the process correctly. Once you’ve gone through the process, it shouldn’t seem difficult. That’s why we rate the level of effort/difficulty at moderate.

Can Bird’s Nest Fern grow in Water and/or Soil?

Bird’s nest ferns do not grow in water. That means that, unlike some other houseplants, you can’t simply take a leaf cutting, place it in water and wait for it to root. Unlike some other ferns, they can’t be divided or propagated using rhizomes, either.

Rather, bird’s nest ferns must be propagated using spores under controlled conditions. Once new plants have sprouted, you can grow your tiny bird’s nest ferns in soil. The plants prefer a rich, acidic, evenly moist (but never wet) soil mix.

In their natural habitat, the tropical rainforest, bird’s nest ferns often grow on trees or other structures. As epiphytes, they’re used to thriving in conditions where they compete for nutrients and light. Mimicking these conditions will help you successfully propagate a bird’s nest fern.

How to Propagate a Bird’s Nest Fern

How to Propagate a Bird's Nest Fern

When ferns are grown indoors in a heated home, you can propagate at any time of year. However, you’ll likely find the best spores for propagation purposes in March or July.

Finding Appropriate Spores for Propagation

Start the propagation process by looking underneath your fern’s fronds. You’re looking for spores, or spots that dot the underside of fern foliage. Spores cluster in capsules known as sporangia. They may look a bit like dust or pollen.

Spores that are large and fuzzy are the best for propagation purposes. Keep your eye on the sporangia, and check them periodically. When they turn dark and look as though they’re about to burst, cut off a frond. Just be sure to cut the frond before the sporangia burst. Wrap the cut frond in a piece of smooth, white paper and place it in a paper bag.

Preparing Spores for Potting

Let the wrapped frond sit in the bag for 1 to 2 days so it can dry out a little. Carefully unwrap it. Be sure not to let any of the spores — which will resemble brown dust or pollen — spill. Instead, catch the “dust” in the paper bag or on the white paper wrapping. This “dust” contains millions of spores.

Once you’ve harvested the spores, set them aside in a safe place while you prepare your containers. Sterilize plant pots or dishes in a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Rinse and dry thoroughly.

Preparing an Appropriate Potting Medium

Preparing an Appropriate Potting Medium

Next, prepare your planting medium. You may use peat or sphagnum moss supplemented with dolomite, or a peat substitute. Place the moss in the container and firm it lightly. Mist to moisten the moss thoroughly, without allowing it to get saturated or soggy.

Sprinkle the spores thinly on top of the moss. Mist again lightly and cover each container with plastic wrap. Place each container in a dish of water, so the planting substrate stays moist from the bottom. Do not water the containers from the top.

Post Potting Care & Environmental Considerations

Place the container in a shady spot, away from direct light. Keep the room at a temperature between 70 and 80 degrees F.

Check on the containers often to ensure that the moss and spores remain moist. Remove the plastic wrap for a few minutes every few days to ensure air flow.

The ferns should germinate within 4 to 6 weeks. Remove the plastic once plants sprout or at 6 weeks, whichever comes first. Keep the planting media moist at all times. When sprouts are a few inches tall, carefully transplant into their own containers.

How Long Does it Take for a Bird’s Nest Fern to Root?

How Long Does it Take for a Bird's Nest Fern to Root?

The propagation process will take at least several weeks, and possibly longer.

First, you need to find sporangia on the underside of fronds before they burst. You’ll have to wait a few days to harvest them. Then, the spores must germinate in moist planting medium. This process takes at least 4 to 6 weeks.

Bird’s nest ferns grow slowly, so expect the entire propagation process to take a minimum of 6.5 weeks.

Common Problems and Remedies

Common Problems and Remedies

Bird’s nest ferns require specific environmental conditions in order for propagation to succeed. Spores must be harvested at the right time, then placed in the right substrate. They must be kept moist, but not saturated. For more, see our guide to watering bird’s nest ferns.

They must also be kept warm, between 70 and 80 degrees. Bird’s nest fern spores need shady, warm, and humid conditions to germinate. If conditions are too cold or too warm, germination will likely fail or result in slow growth.

Too much light can halt the germination process. If spores and planting media dry out, the propagation process may fail, as well.

In addition, keep an eye on any common bird’s nest fern pests and diseases, browning fronds, and consider fertilizing, regular pruning, and repotting when the plant starts to reach maturity.  

Wrapping Up

While bird’s nest ferns aren’t the easiest indoor plant to propagate, it can be done. With the right planting medium, proper moisture and humidity levels, shaded exposure, and warm temperatures, you can propagate bird’s nest ferns at home. The process may seem tricky at first, but with some experience, you’ll gain confidence.

For more, see our in-depth guide to the meaning and symbolism of ferns.

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