The Japanese bird's nest fern (Asplenium nidus) is a fern native to tropical Asia, according to Cal Lemke, a horticulturist with the University of Oklahoma. This dramatic fern is epiphytic, meaning it usually grows attached to a host plant. Lemke suggests growing it in a container, as it can get quite large--with fronds up to 4 feet long--when not pot-bound. Care of the Japanese bird's nest plant is not complicated but does go beyond basic culture.
Bird's nest ferns are tropical plants, and as such, they should not be grown outdoors save for in subtropical and tropical climates. In America, they can be grown outside year-round in United States Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 9 through 11, according to Edward F. Gilman, a horticulturist with the University of Florida. In cooler climates, they can be grown as indoor plants or kept outside during the summer and brought indoors when the weather cools.
This plant prefers shady locations, according to the University of Florida's Gilman. In fact, too much exposure to the direct rays of the sun will turn the bright green leaves a dull yellow color. Still, the Japanese bird's nest fern does need some exposure to sunlight in order to grow. Morning sun followed by afternoon shade is ideal. Indoor plants can be placed several feet away from a window, or close to a south-facing window or a window that is covered with a curtain to filter the light.
These plants do not grow in the ground and will not do well if planted in a heavy soil mix. Instead, plant your bird's nest fern in a loose planting medium, such as one composed primarily of peat moss, perlite and coarse sand. Asplenium nidus can also be fastened to a piece of wood or bark, which mimics the fact that this fern often grows on trees in the rainforest.
Asplenium nidus will tolerate a wide range of conditions. They will thrive if the planting medium is kept moist, or even if it is allowed to dry out a bit. These ferns will not tolerate extended drought conditions, however, nor will they do well in very soggy soil. Watch your fern and when it starts to wilt, water it.
Japanese bird's nest plants thrive in humid conditions and need moisture in the air in order to continue to grow. Keep your plant away from drafts or drying winter winds. Provide humidity for indoor plants by placing the container on a tray filled with pebbles and water. As the water evaporates, it will add moisture to the air around the fern.