After a long winter, we all can appreciate a little touch of tropical paradise to call our own. Setting up gorgeous greenery and vibrant flowers that remind us of a faraway oasis is one of the best ways to bring a bit of a sunny island feel to our home.
There’s nothing better than a fern to start the transformation from a dreary winter hideaway to a lush escape from the mundane. Not only do they look fabulous, but they are also easy to maintain and grow.
One of the most popular species of indoor plants is the bird’s nest fern. They are moderate growers, don’t take up much space, and require minimal responsibility to keep up, making them perfect for beginning growers.
So how do these heat-loving plants fair in colder weather? Is it even possible to maintain them in an area that snows? Luckily, we’ve put together all the information you need to get started.
Are bird’s nest ferns frost tolerant?
No. In fact, these ferns are just the opposite. Bird’s nest ferns are native to tropical climates, primarily found in Southeast Asia, Australia, and Polynesia. The coldest USDA zone the plant thrives in is zone 11.
This location already places it amongst the hottest temperatures in the country.
The coldest temperatures get in this zone are approximately 40ºF. Anything below this 40ºF mark causes the plant to suffer significant harm.
Even a light freeze begins at around 32ºF, which means the bird’s nest fern stands little chance of surviving the winter in such weather.
How to protect your ferns from frost?
The best way to avoid frost damage to your ferns is to bring them inside. Covering them helps in the light cold. But for an extended period where the weather dips below the recommended temperature, the ideal solution is still to bring them indoors.
Some gardeners keep their ferns in a container throughout the entire year. Doing this allows them to seamlessly transport their fern from their porch to their garden or back indoors, depending on the weather.
Another option is to plant your fern outdoors during the warmer months. Then as the temperatures slowly begin to drop, transplant the specimen back into a container to move into the home.
This practice is perfectly acceptable for bird’s nest ferns so long as the roots are well-cared for when replanting.
More pronounced ferns often benefit from this move, anyway, as it allows you to divide the plant into smaller, more manageable ferns, too.
Can bird’s nest ferns be outside?
Absolutely! Like any plant, bird’s nest ferns love the outdoors. It’s their natural habitat and allows them to soak up all the nutrients and sunlight being outside only provides. The thing to keep in mind is whether or not the place you live in is the right location for your bird’s nest fern.
If temperatures drop below 40ºF often, then it’s better to keep them as an indoor plant. You can always set them outside during warmer times of the year to soak up the sun and fresh air.
If the plant is in an area where it receives too much direct sunlight throughout the day, this also causes damage.
For more tips on how to take care of your bird’s nest fern, try these helpful tips.
Where do you put a bird’s nest fern?
If planting your bird’s nest fern outside, there are several distinct places that it may gladly call home.
Bird’s nest ferns love the warmth and humidity, but they are total shade-loving plants. Too much sun causes scorched and wilted leaves, and no fern owner wants that.
Here are some tips for planting your bird’s nest fern outdoors, with some helpful tips for where to leave them indoors.
Groundcover for a Tall Tree
If you have a tall tree in need of groundcover, this is where your bird’s nest fern comes into play.
Unlike other groundcover plants that reach only about one to two feet in height, bird’s nest ferns grow up to five feet in height when left to reach mature height.
As a result, placing them under a tree is your best bet of providing them the shade they need.
Plus, most trees prevent any plant growth from forming around their bases due to the lack of sunlight.
In their natural environment, bird’s nest ferns actually grow on top of other plants and trees. This feature, coupled with their love of shade, makes them fantastic candidates for a companion plant.
Along the Home’s Perimeter
Another area where the plant may receive enough shade throughout the day is along the edges of your house.
Especially if there is a long awning that casts shadows, this makes the ideal home for your new fern.
Using this location for your specimen provides an alternative benefit, as well. Planting shrubs and bushes below windows is one of the best ways to deter intruders.
Try Container Gardening
When all else fails, make your bird’s nest fern mobile. Container gardening has just as many aesthetic qualities as it does practical ones.
Some gardeners use decorative vases to ensure these temporary homes stand out in their gardens.
It also makes it even easier to move them indoors when the weather gets cold.
Placing the plant on your porch or in a hanging basket also increases the curb appeal of your garden while allowing you to transport the fern at any given moment.
Where to Plant Indoors
Since an abundance of sunlight isn’t your biggest problem when growing your fern indoors, you have a little leeway on where to put it.
The bird’s nest fern is not like other plants that enjoy a place by a bright, sunny window.
During certain parts of the day, you should bring your plant closer to the center of the room.
Humidity is another big concern for bird’s nest ferns. Outdoors, they’re used to drawing the moisture from the air, though that’s not necessarily a desirable condition for inside your home.
An incredible way to provide your fern with enough humidity indoors is by placing it inside your bathroom.
The lighting from any windows is less intense in bathrooms and placing the fern near a shower or tub during a hot shower gives the plant plenty of steam to be content.
How often should you water a bird’s nest fern?
Bird’s nest ferns only need to be watered every 1 to 2 weeks. They require a consistently moist soil that doesn’t get too soggy or too dried out either.
The best way to ensure you are properly watering your plant is to allow the soil to dry out halfway in between each time you water it.
That way, you don’t drown the plant or cause a pool of water at its root that may cause rotting.
Do bird’s nest ferns like to be root bound?
Being root bound is not an issue that affects the bird’s nest fern. Root-bound plants have extensive root systems that often outgrow their containers. These roots continue growing within the pot, often coiling into a circular pattern that builds pressure.
Plants with this issue often experience a lack of growth and eventually begin to die.
Bird’s nest ferns, on the other hand, are epiphytic. This term means that the species is an air plant that pulls its nutrients from particles in the air and rain rather than the soil itself.
These plants often use their roots as a support system, clinging onto other plants in the wild as a way to grasp outlying nutrients.
Epiphytes don’t feed on the plant like a parasite. However, any minerals circulating around the plant go to the hanging species.
A highly recognizable example of an epiphytic flower is the orchid. Approximately 70% of the species of orchids are epiphytes.
How do you propagate bird’s nest?
Bird’s nest ferns propagate by way of spores, which means you don’t need one male and one female plant in order to make new plants. These spores look like tiny, dark brown dots that grown on the underside of your bird’s nest fern’s leaves.
They often reside in the leaf grooves, and when fuzzy, they are ready to be harvested.
Start by removing the leaf from the fern and placing it in a paper bag. Seal it up and let the spore naturally fall off over the next several days.
After enough time has passed, open the bag and remove the leaf. The spores should be lining the bottom at this point.
The growing medium to use for the next step is sphagnum moss. If you cannot find this type of moss, then peat moss with dolomite also works.
Sprinkle the spores over top of the moss and place them in a dish of water inside a pot. Ideally, leave the plant covered. Otherwise, mist it once a day to keep it moist.
Allow 4-6 weeks to pass before moving the pot to a shady new home. Keep the temperature at least at 70ºF but no more than 80ºF.
The fern will naturally germinate on its own after approximately two weeks or so.
Bird’s nest ferns are some of the easiest plants to take care of, especially when you want something small and tropical for the home.
But even the easiest-going plants have their breaking points, and frost is a definite “no” for these shrubs.
Living in USDA zones above the 11-zone marker doesn’t mean your dreams of growing this fern won’t come true. Simply follow our helpful advice, and both you and your plant can rest easy.
For more information about maintaining your bird’s nest fern, check out this article about whether the species is a slow grower or not.