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When you hear the word “fern,” maybe you think of a big Boston fern, the kind with long, chaotic fronds and little leaves. Or maybe you already know there are lots of types of ferns, so you don’t limit your imagination in that way. I don’t know your life! But I do know that if you’re in the market for a fern, the bird’s nest fern is a strong option.
The bird’s nest fern does not really resemble the frilly ferns you see hanging on porches. Like most ferns, its fronds originate from a central rosette, but those fronds are wider with ripply edges — kind of like pieces of curly kale. On a windowsill, it looks like a crown, a trophy, a lovely feathered bowl, a sexy version of Kevin the Sea Cucumber from SpongeBob. It is very beautiful.
This fern is native to the rainforest, where it grows between tree branches. (It’s naturally an epiphyte, which is an organism that grows on the surface of another plant.) There, its fronds often grow over 2 feet in length, but your houseplant version might be a little smaller.
The fern’s warm and humid natural habitat also means that your radiator-laden East Coast apartment, for example, isn’t the best place for it to thrive. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You just have to do a little finagling.
Full disclosure: My bird’s nest fern was tragically killed in a freak accident. (I went on vacation and forgot to ask someone to water it.) For a while, though, it lived a surprisingly luxe life in my dry-ass apartment. The trick was placing it in the bathroom, where steam from the shower provided it with sufficiently moist surroundings.
Writer and editor Delia Cai, who also has a bird’s nest fern, had a similar experience. “Mine was not doing well until I put it in the shower,” she explained via Twitter DM. “So I think it kind of needs a humid place to hang but if you have a shelf in your shower, it’s the perfect bathroom plant.”
Just because the bird’s nest fern loves a steamy room doesn’t mean you should water it to excess, though. In fact, you should avoid pouring water directly onto the plant’s central rosette — if you do, you run the risk of rotting it. Concentrate on spritzing the leaves instead.
Nicole Cammorata, a plant enthusiast who is also Mashable’s Executive Commerce Editor, found that her bird’s nest fern looked much more alert when she stopped babying it.
“It’s so unlike the other ferns that you have to mist or soak all the time,” she explained. (She still keeps it in her bathroom, though.) “This one I’ll water with some leftover water from a glass I pick up in the living room on my way to the dishwasher.”
She also praised the fern for not shedding, which — especially if you keep a leafier fern indoors — can be a downright hellish experience. I do love a home that isn’t laden with mini leaves.
The bird’s nest fern doesn’t generally like bright light, so keep it away from the sunniest spots in your house. Instead, place it somewhere that gets medium to bright indirect light (though if it’s in a low light spot, it might end up fine). They’re pretty common in plant shops, but you can also order one from The Sill if mail-order plants and gorgeous ceramics are your jam.
And be sure to clear some space near the shower.