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. So you can be successful in caring for yours.

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


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.


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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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.


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.


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.

31 thoughts on “How To Care For A Crispy Wave Fern (Japanese Asplenium Nidus)

    1. It’s not ideal but you can always try it! If you start to notice its health declining then you should probably move it to a brighter room with a window. Hope that helps you! Let me know if you have any other questions!

  1. This was an extremely thorough and informative article. I’ve been taking care of my Wave Fern all wrong, and you set me straight. It is now living in my bathroom on a shelf out of direct sunlight. The proper way to water and to keep it ‘moist’ were very helpful tips as well.

    Thank you!

  2. Hi, I was curious as to how difficult it would be to revive a fern that is already wilting. The centre of the plant is still green, but I’ve got some brown, dry leaves before I found this article. Can I save my plant?

    1. Hopefully, you should be able to revive it. Try cutting away the brown leaves then just take care of it as laid out in the guide. Make sure you keep a close eye on it though.

      1. That’s what I did when my crispy wave plant started looking like that. I movedit to lower light and cut off the dead parts which seemed to help it a lot. . I also am grateful for you article . It’s funny how much we can get attached to certain plants. Thank you!!

  3. I just got this plant (actually 2 of them from my son and his Japanese fiancé) I LOVE these! I appreciate all your great info how to grow them. Too beautiful to hide in my bathroom though! I may be moving them around house. Is that okay?

    1. That’s absolutely fine! Just keep an eye on it, you might need to help boost the humidity. But I wouldn’t move it around too much, try to keep it in one location. Moving plants can send them into shock, especially if there’s sudden changes in temperature.

    2. My crispy wave leaves aren’t crispy. They are straightening out & going limp. It’s in a relatively low light area in my house. Any suggestions?

  4. I bought a Crispy Wave today and have it among my african violets. I face south but only get the early morning sun as I live in an apartment. Is it ok to put it out on the balcony for the summer? Also, when should I repot my plant?

    1. It’s usually a sign of a fungus damaging your plant. Typically, there’s not much option with this apart from cutting away the affected areas. If it doesn’t go well, you may have to replace the plant. Make sure you keep it away from others though to reduce any chance of it spreading. Also, it’s probably worth repotting it in some fresh soil and discarding the old soil.

  5. Thank you for such clear and helpful information. I am new to plants of any kind. I’ve been spraying it with a fine midst but maybe watering it twice a week is too much. I noticed some of the tips are browning. I have to remember “moist” and not “saturated”. Thanks again.

  6. I just bought my first Crispy Wave, it’s so beautiful! Thank you for your tips on caring for it. You’ve got me excited to take this journey with my “Wavy”. *smiling*

  7. Hi! I sincerely appreciate your information!
    I’ve never owned a plant in my life.
    I purchased my plants from Trader Joe’s. I’ve placed my plants in my salon suite. Because they were air purifiers. I’ve notice that’s it white stuff sitting on top of the soil (maybe mold). What steps should I take in caring for the mold? And are there any extra helpful tips on taking care of them while in a salon? Thank you so much in advance

    1. First of all, you can try scraping away the top layer of soil where there’s mold. Then let the soil dry out. Hopefully this will sort it, but keep an eye out for it coming back. If it does, repot the plant with some fresh and sterile potting mix and discard of the old soil.

  8. Hi there! Thanks for this article, it gave me a lot more confidence in caring for my new plant.

    I just have one question: it likes high humidity so the bathroom seems like a great spot, but the temperature fluctuates a great deal in that room, getting quite warm when I shower, after which I open the window to let out the moisture & help cool down the room. Would this not be a problem for the plant?

  9. Hi! Thank you so much for that thorough information. I fell in love with this plant and bought it . It’s actually my first time taking care of plants myself so I’m being extra careful in making sure it stays healthy. I’ve been keeping my plant in my bedroom that has AC and I noticed that some of the tiny baby leaves are dying and I’m also getting some holes on my leaves as well. Any idea what may have caused this and how I could get it healthier again? I was planning on re-potting it to a larger pot as well because it’s getting a little crowded. Thank you so much for your help!

    1. It depends how far the rot has spread, if it’s only a few small areas then you can try to cut them away. If it’s spread throughout the roots, I’m afraid it may be too late!

      1. the leaves on my cobra fern started to become yellowish. what does this mean? is it root rot or lack of water?

    1. I wouldn’t! Pots without drainage shouldn’t even be a thing. You’re asking for root rot if you use a pot without drainage holes for any houseplant.

  10. Hi, great article.
    I should have read your article, my plant was doing great and I took it outside since it was a beautiful summer day.
    Now all the leaves are browning and the center is completely dry, ans on top of that I watered the center 😫
    Is there anyway to help it now?

  11. Laura,

    I have my crispy wave Japanese Asplenium in my hall entrance and no window. I leave the table light (low wattage) on day and night. I have had it for a month and it seems fine. Occasionally, I turn the light off during the day and open my door and let the outside light shown through.

    Will my low table light suffice for maintaining my plant? By the way my leaves tips curl a lot. I am thinking my plant maybe a different variety.

  12. the leaves on my cobra fern started to become yellowish. what does this mean? is it root rot or lack of water?

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