Asplenium nidus: How to Grow the Crispy Wave Fern

The Crispy Wave Fern is a cultivar of the popular houseplant species Asplenium nidus.

A beautifully bright green fern with marvelous ribbon-shaped, ruffled leaves – which give it the common (and literal) name ‘Crispy Wave’.

It also goes by “Bird’s Nest Fern” for the way the leaves radiate outward, creating a bowl shape in the center.

This characteristic texture ensures a dynamic look from all angles, especially when the light hits the contours, exaggerating the rippled form.

But, it’s not the daring aesthetics alone that make this plant desirable. It’s a fairly low maintenance plant when you know how to care for it.

And that’s exactly what I’m here to help with. Let’s go!

Asplenium Nidus (Crispy Wave Fern)

What is the Crispy Wave Fern?

Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’ is a tropical delight, a proclaimed air-purifier and (surprisingly) an effective epiphyte.

In its native South East Asian countries, you’ll often find it naturally growing in the forked branches of trees. Perhaps another reason it earned its ‘Bird’s Nest’ status…

But fear not, you don’t need an indoor tree to host this plant – it’s plenty happy being planted terrestrially in the home.

And, being tropical in nature, it’s a perfect fit for a terrarium/vivarium build.

Where to Buy Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’

See the links below to purchase from reputable terrarium plant shops and marketplaces (may include affiliate links). 

US – See on Etsy
UK – See on Etsy

Crispy Wave Fern Care & Growth

Plant TypeFern
LightingMedium – high indirect light
Temperature60-72°F (15-22°C)
WateringRegular, even moisture
HumidityHigh humidity (60-90%)
Growth8-40 inches

Lighting

Despite being found halfway up trees in the wild, it remains protected from bright sunlight by the dense canopy. 

It can tolerate a little direct light, but I’d avoid keeping it in harsh rays where possible.

Meaning that bright, yet indirect light is the perfect lighting conditions for this lovely fern (surprise surprise).

How do I achieve this practically, you ask?

  • If you’re in the Northern hemisphere – A North-facing windowsill (where it will only receive indirect sunlight) is perfect, with East-facing (where it will receive mostly indirect sunlight, with a little direct sunlight in the mornings) being the next best thing.
  • If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere – Just take the previous advice, flip it and reverse it. A South-facing window sill is best, with West-facing windows being an appropriate fit too. 

Watering

If you’ve ever taken care of a fern, you’ll know that they’re thirsty little things.

The water-loving Crispy Wave Fern is no exception and it will grow best in an evenly moist environment.

However, because it’s typically epiphytic, good drainage is essential if you want to avoid a root rot nightmare.

And, be sure to not water directly into the ‘nest’ – it’s a surefire way to create a pool of stagnant water. Which it really doesn’t like…

  • As a houseplant – First things first, make sure your pot has a drainage hole. Water when the soil is feeling a little on the dry side, and then tip the excess water out of the tray. I find my plant needs watering much more frequently than my tropical houseplants so make sure to regularly check if it needs a drink.
  • In a terrarium – Getting the watering right becomes much more critical in a closed system. Because you can’t take water out, I recommend only adding a little at a time – it’s very easy to over do it. You can always use a drainage layer for some extra peace of mind. 

Substrate

When grown terrestrially, Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’ can be a tad demanding with its substrate desires.

After all, used to growing on trees, not in soil.

Because its roots are typically free and easy, the main thing you’re going to want in a substrate is root aeration. The chunkier the mix, the better.

Though it does have small roots, so the substrate must be able to retain moisture in the top layer.

To best achieve this, add in some soil supplements (like vermiculite or charcoal) that can help with both water retention and drainage, and you’re good to go.

I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but I promise your fern will thank you!

Just remember to add something like earthworm castings to your substrate if you’re putting your plant in a terrarium, because it’s really tricky to add nutrients to the system post-build. 

Temperature & Humidity

As a native jungle fern, the Crispy Wave will thrive in lovely warm, humid conditions.

A typical household 60-72°F (15-22°C) range will be absolutely fine, and it would certainly be happy in even warmer conditions.

Though it can be a little sensitive to sudden temperature changes, so I’d make sure it’s away from drafts and radiators. Keep your home a consistent temperature where possible.

If there’s one thing this fern absolutely adores, it’s a humid environment. 

Aim for 60-90% humidity. This will be super easy to achieve in a terrarium, and while it can be a little more challenging in the home, I have a few tricks up my sleeve…

  • Group your plants together (yes, this is your express permission you’ve been wanting to buy more plants).
  • Keep watering cans around the room to evaporate.

Voila!

Growth

Under ideal conditions, Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’ can grow very large. I’ve seen some absolutely mega epiphytic plants reaching around 4ft+ in length. 

But while epiphytic in the wild, it’s realistically too big to do this in a terrarium (unless you have raw horticultural audacity I can only dream of and some absolutely monstrous branches that is)…

Thankfully, they tend to grow a lot less quickly when planted up terrestrially, so you’re unlikely to have a jurassic Crispy Wave taking over your container any time soon.

That being said, if your terrarium goes the distance, overgrowth could certainly be an issue over time. Feel free to swap it out/ trim it back as you please.

Kept as a houseplant, this fern appreciates a well-balanced liquid fertilizer once a month or so during  spring and summer.

Propagation

The Crispy Wave Fern is a challenging plant to propagate.

Unlike most ferns, Asplenium nidus cannot be divided.

Well, not usually. Sometimes healthy plants produce baby offshoots which can be carefully separated. But root division of a singular plant won’t work.

The easiest way to propagate them is by spores, and that’s not exactly straightforward.

You’ll need a mature plant, with mature spores (which kind of look like wild rice in my opinion), and a bit of patience and know-how.

Crispy Waves are inexpensive to buy and easy to source, so often it’s more effective to grab a new one and save the time and effort.

Varieties & Similar Plants

If we were to break down the Aspleniaceae family tree, we’d be here for hours. It is absolutely massive. 

There’s even quite a range of Asplenium nidus, let’s have a look:

  • Asplenium nidus ‘Osaka’ – very similar to the Crispy Wave, but it takes the waviness to another level, with long fronds and frilled edges.
  • Asplenium nidus ‘Crissie’ – long fronds spilling from a central point like the Crispy Wave, but the ends of the fronds are forked like little hands. 
  • Asplenium nidus ‘Leslie’ – looks like lettuce. Literally.

And if you’re somehow still fern-hungry there are even more nidus up for grabs. Hurricane, Champion’s and Pleated are all readily available and each boast their own unique features.