Whilst there are many different types of Asplenium fern, there are only a few (such as Asplenium Nidus, known as the birds nest fern) that are worth keeping as houseplants. They are found growing in rainforests across the globe (particularly tropical Asia and East Africa) where they are epiphytes, meaning they grow on the surface of another plant (in this case a tree) and derive moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, or debris accumulating around them. Unlike other ferns you may have encountered, Aspleniums are generally considered a pretty hardy houseplant and with the right care, you will see their thick glossy leaves grow to impressive lengths over the years.
Aspleniums prefer a spot with bright but indirect light. Although consistent direct light coming from a south facing window would surely scorch the leaves of an asplenium, they can tolerate a bit of direct light if it’s from the morning or early evening sun.
They prefer an environment with warmth and humidity so a kitchen or bathroom is ideal. If your chosen spot doesn’t naturally have high humidity, a saucer with pebbles and water underneath the plant will do the trick. Grouping Aspleniums with other tropical plants will benefit them too.
Like other ferns, Aspleniums like their compost to be kept slightly damp. They will tolerate a certain amount of neglectful watering, but new growth will be slow and leaves will become thinner and lose their glossiness. They should be watered directly onto the soil surrounding the plant or, if the plant is filling the top of the pot, from the base. Avoid watering into the centre of the plant (or “nest”) as this can cause new fronds to rot. Giving your plant a mist when watering is a good idea too!
As Aspleniums are an epiphyte, its best to plant them into a free draining compost. Adding small lumps of bark, sand, or mixing the compost with an orchid potting mix will help to ensure the compost isn’t waterlogged. Repotting should be done yearly in spring, but skipping a year shouldn’t cause too much of a problem if you’re making sure to feed your plant during spring and summer months.
Propagating an Asplenium would usually be done by spore sowing as this isn’t a plant that can be divided. As this is quite a difficult process, we recommend simply nurturing and enjoying the one you have.