Bird Nest Fern Indoors and Out
Michalis 'BIG Mike' Kotzakolios
Defined Tag: Bird Nest Fern.
The charming bird nest fern is a plant reminiscent of a hot South Seas island. However, some varieties of this native of the tropics are actually somewhat cold hardy, and grow well in some parts of the US. The scientific name of this particular cold-hardy bird nest fern is Asplenium australasicum, but it is usually sold in America, oddly enough, as Asplenium nidus. It has broad, flat leaves, without the toothed edges you may attribute to ferns. The fronds are nearly upright, and grow in a tight cluster called a 'rosette'. In the wild, fallen leaves collect in between the fronds in the rosette, forming a "nest" in the center of the fern; hence the name.
As said before, this bird nest fern (A. australasicum, sold as A. nidus) can live outside throughout much of the United States. It must be planted in very loose, coarse soil; a mixture of bark mulch, heavy sand, and small gravel usually works well. Some protection from the cold must be provided if you live where winters are very cold. It is still a tropical plant, albeit a somewhat cold-hardy one. And unlike other varieties of ferns, the bird nest fern does not like much water. Too dry is better than too wet.
Alternately, if you live where winters are very cold, indeed, or if you would rather not try to grow the bird nest fern outside, it can be grown inside. It must be given plenty of light, not too much water, and the pot should seem to be too big for the fern. (In reality, the small pot keeps excess moisture from building up in the soil.) Potted in such a small pot the fern will, naturally, be top-heavy, and the small pot can be placed inside a larger decorative one to keep the plant from always tipping over. When planted inside like this, the bird nest fern makes an excellent houseplant; however, without leaves falling into the rosette, it will not develop its distinctive 'nest' in the center. A third option is to leave it outside for the summer, in a pot, and bring it inside for the winter; but this is not generally recommended, since the fern has difficulty adjusting to its new environment each time it is moved.
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