birds nest fern (japanese Asplenium nidus)

How To Care For A Crispy Wave Fern (Japanese Asplenium Nidus)

birds nest fern (japanese Asplenium nidus)

A crispy wave fern is one of the most unique plants you can grow in your home. It’s also known as the birds nest fern. The plant is classed as “easy to grow” but when I first got one in my home, there were a few teething problems. So I’ve put together everything I learnt in this guide so you don’t make the same mistakes. But first, let’s get some of the very basics covered.

So, how do you care for a crispy wave plant? Crispy Wave Plants need well-draining soil, but it needs to be constantly moist. Keep it out of direct sunlight, it prefers low-light. Also ensure that the temperature doesn’t fluctuate, keep it in the range of  70-80 °F. Fertilize it once a month during the growing season but only use liquid fertilizer.

Getting these basics right will ensure that you have a healthy plant. Your crispy fern will live for many years to come if you treat it right. Whilst getting the basics is simple, a deeper understanding requires a greater attention to detail. However, it can easily be accomplished by beginners or experts alike.

Taking appropriate care of your crispy wave plant is not difficult as long as you have the right knowledge to hand. Here in this guide, I’ve covered everything that I learned during my time with the plant.

But if you’re more of a visual learner, check out our 60 second care guide below!

how to care for a crispy wave plant

Indoor vs Outdoor Growing

In the wild, crispy wave plants are native to tropical climates. They’re native to southeastern Asia, eastern Australia, Christmas Island, India, Hawaii, Polynesia, and eastern Africa. So they have spread across a wide stretch of the globe.

It can survive as an epiphytal or as a typical terrestrial plant. But typically it grows in organic matter, so having the right soil is essential (as we’ll get into later). Often in these climates it will be found growing on palm trees or nested on a bromeliad.

When growing outside they get a lot of their moisture from the humidity produced by the tree it has attached itself to and surrounding air. That’s why when growing indoors, it’s ideal if you mist it to help simulate a humid environment. 

Best Location For Your Crispy Wave Fern

Crispy wave ferns can be grown in most places in the home. Plus, it gives you the perfect excuse to fill up a unique plant stand, like one of our favourites that you can find here. Ensure you bear in mind they do not like direct sunlight.

How much light they get will have an impact on the leaves. For example, if a crispy wave fern was to get a lot of light then the leaves would start to crinkle. Those situated in lower light areas will have much flatter leaves. Too much light will cause the leaves to yellow and die.

Ideally, you should give your fern a home in a room with an east or northern facing window. This will ensure it doesn’t receive any direct light.

I tend to keep mine slightly away from the windows just to be sure. Doing this will ensure the leaves grow a deep green and flat. If you’re struggling to find a room with the correct lighting, you can always put up a curtain or shade against the window to protect the leaves.

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Don’t worry about it being a very shaded area. These plants really don’t need much light to survive. They thrive in shaded environments. But one of the locations they thrive the most in, is the bathroom, you’ll understand why later.

Soil For Crispy Wave Ferns

These plants are naturally epiphytic so they grow on the surface of other plants. This essentially means that they love being in an organic soil. Ideally you need a really well-draining, organic compost.

So keep it loose. It also does well in peat-based potting mixes. Personally, I’ve been using this one, that’s available on Amazon, for most of my indoor plants.

If you plan on creating your own potting mix, first of all ensure that you avoid too much of anything that’s not organic matter. But it’s also essential that you’re using clean products that are free from any previous seeds or insects.

Watering Your Crispy Wave Fern

birds-nest-fern-2779513_1280

This is a plant that loves the soil to be moist at all times. It should be damp to the touch, but not wet. Wet soil can give the opportunity for root rot to set in. One of the reasons it’s an ideal houseplant though is its hardiness.

It will be able to tolerate dry soil for short periods of time. Don’t let this become a frequent occurrence though.

A common mistake people make when watering this plant is watering the rosette center. Doing this will cause a pool of stagnant water to form. This can bring on rot in the leaves and mould. It can also assist in attracting bugs such as these.

When watering you should opt for room temperature water. Using cold water can send the plant into shock, especially with this being native to the tropics.

If the waters too cold, you might see the plant start to drop some leaves.

Also, try to water your plant in the morning. This gives it ample time to absorb the water and for any excess to evaporate with the heat of the day. Watering in the evening causes the evaporation process to take longer and your plant can become susceptible to various ailments.

gooseneck indoor watering can
I personally use this gooseneck watering can, available on Amazon

If you start to notice brown spots on your leaves, this is usually a sign of something known as leaf spot. Cut away the leaves at the base of the plant and dispose of them. This usually occurs from regular night time watering.

It’s also advisable to use filtered water when watering your crispy wave plant. This helps remove any of the unwanted impurities from your tap water.

If you don’t have access to a filter then you can leave your water in an open container for 24 hours to help some of the chemicals dissipate.

Knowing how much water exactly your plant will need is dependent on various factors. It depends on your home and the environment, so each situation is individual. But one thing for sure is that it will most likely need more water during the spring and summer months.

If you happen to forget to water it for a short period of time, don’t try to give it extra the next time round. This again will just cause stagnant water to pool and root rot to set in.

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Simply stick to your usual watering routine and keep a close eye on your plant.

Humidity For Your Crispy Wave Fern

As this is a plant that’s native to tropical environments, it thrives in humidity.

As I previously stated, an ideal location for this plant is the bathroom. Why? It provides it consistent humidity (assuming you clean yourself regularly!).

Plus it doesn’t like large fluctuations in temperature and bathrooms tend to be smaller than other rooms so you can have greater control over this. Just remember that even if you’re consistent with your watering, it can still be deprived of humidity.

During winter months, it can become more of a challenge to provide the humidity it needs. Plus it’s likely that you’ll be watering your plant much less during these seasons.

So if the bathroom is out of bounds, there are a few things you can do to help negate this problem.

First of all, you could invest in a humidifier like this one on Amazon. This will give the environment a huge boost in humidity.

It’s exactly what the plant will need during the cold months or during a really hot summers. But if having one of these in your home is not an option, there are other ways around this issue.

Another way you can help your plant with the humidity is misting. Misting the leaves twice a day will give them surface moisture but not dampen them.

It’s quite easy for people to think extra watering or watering the leaves themselves will solve the issue of humidity. That’s definitely not the case and will only cause further problems for your plant.

So that’s why you should consider misting your plant instead.

The final solution that’s easy to do at home is creating a small community of plants. Placing them near each other can help raise the humidity in the air.

This is due to plants naturally creating moisture as they grow. But if you’re lacking plants, you can always place a bowl of water nearby.

By placing a water source near your plant helps create moisture without soaking your plant – avoiding any potential rot problems.

crispy wave fern

Fertilizing Your Crispy Wave Fern

Once spring comes around, you should be thinking about fertilizing your fern. For the best results, you should be doing this once every two weeks.

I’ve found that creating your own fertilizer, by investing in a vitamix food cycler like this, provides the best outcome. Plus, you’re doing your part for the environment at the same time. Otherwise, if you don’t feel like spending so much then I recommend that you use this one on Amazon.

Repeat this throughout the growing months, I usually stop using fertilizer around September time for my crispy wave ferns.

Toxicity

Obviously with it being a houseplant, there’s always the concern around toxicity for those with pets. So, is the crispy wave fern safe for pets? Yes, these plants are completely non-toxic. They are safe for dogs, cats, and humans. Even though they’re safe, I still wouldn’t advise you to let your animal or child feast on the plant. It’s definitely not food, but it’s non-toxic.

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Propagation

These are one of the more tricky plants to propagate. If you’re a novice home grower then it’s probably beyond your reach. Most ferns you can simply divide the leaves, this is not the case with this one unfortunately.

To propagate them, you need to collect their spores. This can be done by placing a matured leaf onto a piece of paper and leave it for a few days.

After that, you’ll be able to collect the spores. Now you’ll have to grow them on a moist medium, peat moss is a good choice for this step.

Now, to grow them, keep them in a shaded area under a glass and mist them daily. Once they’re large enough, you’ll be able to transport them into pots.

If you managed to do that, congratulations. It’s one of the more difficult methods of propagation and takes a lot of patience before you are able to do it comfortable so don’t be disheartened if you fail the first time. If you need a little more help, I’ve written up a guide on germinating seeds – click here to check it out.

Repotting

Being naturally epiphytic plants, they’re used to more confined spaces with a minimal amount of organic matter. With this in mind, it’s not a bad thing to keep your fern in a pot slightly smaller than you’d expect it to need.

However, they can still outgrow them and you might find that the pot tips over easily if it becomes too large.

If that’s the case, then it’s simple to repot. All you need to do is take it out of its current home, shake off any excess soil and plant it in a new, larger, pot with a fresh batch of organic compost. Monitor it closely over the next few days after doing this to ensure it’s settling well into its new home.

F.A.Q

There’s quite a few questions that I’ve been asked by people new to growing these plants. Hopefully I’ve covered them below. If not, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

Why Are My Crispy Wave Leaves Drooping?

In a home environment, there’s less competition for light. So it’s quite normal for this fern to grow sideways rather than straight up. As long as your leaves are not limp, dry or brown then it’s not an issue.

Why Do My Leaves Have Brown Tips?

This can be a common issue that owners of this plant face. Usually it’s a sign that the air is too dry around the plant or the soil has been left to dry out too much. In some circumstances it can mean you’re over watering but this is usually not the case. Remember the soil should just be moist to the touch, not dry or saturated.

Do Crispy Wave Ferns Clean The Air?

Yes! They’ve been studied by NASA and were one of the best performing in their clean air study. If you want to check out other plants from this study, click here for my guide.

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