Crested Japanese bird’s nest fern (Asplenium antiquum) – not to be confused with the similarly named bird’s nest fern – is an evergreen fern native to temperate East Asia and popular in the United States as a houseplant. In Japan, it’s known as ō-tani-watari and tani-watari.
Typically smaller than the bird’s nest fern, this species has wavy-edged leaves that are more v-shaped and sturdier. A compact plant, Crested Japanese bird’s nest fern reaches 1 – 2 feet (30 – 61 cm) tall indoors with proper care. It adapts well to indoor environments.
Crested Japanese Bird’s Nest Fern Care
I would consider crested Japanese bird’s nest fern of moderate difficulty to grow. It’s a fast grower that tolerates dry air better than many other ferns, but it will only really thrive when provided with adequate moisture.
- WATER: Moderate. Water when the top 1 inch (2.5 cm) soil is dry.
- HUMIDITY: High
- FEEDING: Once every three months
- LIGHT: Bright, indirect light
- TEMPERATURE: 60 to 70 degrees F (16 – 21 degrees C)
- SAFETY: Safe for dogs and cats
- DIFFICULTY: Moderate
This is a basic run-down of care guidelines for this lovely fern. Keep reading for more in-depth information, including potting, propagation, maintenance, and troubleshooting.
Crested Japanese bird’s nest fern likes its root system to be evenly moist at all times. To recreate it’s natural environment, water frequently but make sure to maintain a very well-draining soil.
Avoid getting water in the plant’s center “nest” to prevent root rot. Apply water to the surface of the soil – don’t just dump it on top of the plant. If the soil feels moist to the touch, do not water. Over-watering kills this fern. It can tolerate drier soil in the winter.
This fern needs extra humidity when grown indoors. Place on a humidity tray (a tray filled with pebbles and water), group together with other ferns if you have any, spray daily with a spray bottle filled with room temperature water, and/or place a houseplant humidifier nearby.
With my ferns, I typically perform the triple threat – humidity tray, regular misting, and running a humidifier nearby. This ensures they get the moisture they need. But if you can’t do them all, don’t worry – simply misting once or twice a day usually works.
Also, see my article on How to Increase Humidity for Plants Without a Humidifier if you don’t currently have a humidifier.
Fertilize young plants monthly and older plants (over a year old) four times annually – once every three months. Use a granular or water-soluble food with a complete, balanced formula.
My favorite food for crested Japanese bird’s nest fern is Jack’s Classic All Purpose 20-20-20 Plant Food, but you can use any kind you like as long as it’s balanced. I like Jack’s because it’s good quality and contains micro-nutrients – plus you can use it most of your other plants too!
Place crested Japanese bird’s nest fern in an area that receives bright, indirect sunlight. An east-facing window is an ideal location. But it will also grow well in a west-facing window if the light is diffused by sheer curtains.
Avoid direct sunlight, which can burn the delicate fronds. If you notice your fronds are scorching and turning bronze or brown, move to a location with less light.
Too little light can also cause this plant to decline. If you notice slow or no growth, it may need more light. You can always use an indoor plant light to supplement if necessary. (That’s what I have to do since my house is so dark, but I love growing ferns!)
Although this fern is technically root hardy to 40 degrees F (4 degrees C) outdoors, it performs best with warmer temperatures when grown as a houseplant. Keep the indoor temperature between 60 and 70 degrees F (15 to 21 degrees C) for the best results.
Never allow the temperature to drop below 55 degrees F (13 degrees C) to prevent cold injury to your indoor fern.
Grow crested Japanese bird’s nest fern in well-draining potting soil amended with compost and finely ground bark. For the best results, use 1 part compost/bark mix to 1 part potting soil. Any good houseplant soil will work – but I personally like this one by Happy Frog for all my plants.
Re-pot once every two years, or when water runs through the pot too quickly to be absorbed. Use a pot no more than 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter larger than its current container. If you use anything larger, the plant will spend all its energy growing new roots.
In most cases, a single plant performs best in a planter that’s around 6 – 8 inches wide. If you have multiple plants, grow up to three of them in a 15-inch planter. Because it’s an epiphyte, this fern can also be grown on a tree mount.
This fern is grown from spores, and unfortunately cannot be divided. I have never tried to propagate this plant, and would recommend just purchasing a second one if you have the desire. Growing from spores is more of an advanced technique, but if you’re determined there are guides you can follow out there.
Crested Japanese bird’s nest fern requires very little maintenance outside its regular care. However, its outer leaves will gradually die and can be cut off. Maintain the attractive appearance of leaves by keeping humidity high and avoiding direct sunlight.
Here are some common problems you may experience with this fern, and suggestions for how to fix them:
- Brown Leaf Tips – If your crested Japanese bird’s nest fern has brown leaf tips, this is usually a sign of over-watering. Reduce watering and ensure your soil is draining well. If soil is not draining quickly enough, try amending with some finely ground bark to increase drainage.
- Bronzing – This can also look similar to brown leaf tips and is caused by too much sun. If your fern is turning brown/bronze, move to a location that receives less sunlight. If you’re growing in a window, try diffusing the sunlight by hanging sheer curtains.
- Slow Growth – Too little light can cause slow growth (or even no growth at all). Make sure it receives moderately bright light, but no direct sunlight. A plant light may help if your home is dark and you still want to grow this lovely fern.
- Scale Insects – If conditions are too dry, it’s possible your fern may attract scale insects. Scrape them off and treat leaves with a mild insecticidal soap. (Do not use pesticides, as most ferns – including this one – are very sensitive to chemical insecticides.) Increase humidity around the plant to prevent scale.
Here are some frequently asked questions related to crested Japanese bird’s nest fern that you might find helpful (with answers):
- Can I Put My Crested Japanese Bird’s Nest Fern Outside? Yes, this fern can be grown outdoors. Place in an area that receives full shade or mostly shade, and receives lots of moisture. Make sure to water regularly when it’s hot outside. Bring indoors when temperatures drop below 60 degrees F (21 degrees C).
Where to Buy Crested Japanese Bird’s Nest Fern
You can typically find Crested Japanese Bird’s nest ferns at local nurseries and plant centers, especially if you live in a more tropical climate. If you’re unable to find one locally, I recommend checking Etsy listings.
I love buying my exotic and hard-to-find plants from small growers on Etsy, and I always recommend it in my care guides. I prefer to support small growers, and they tend to have much better quality plants than large online nurseries.
Click here to see the current Etsy listings for crested Japanese bird’s nest fern. Good luck and happy growing!