Did you bring home a twisted-looking fern and are wondering how to care for it? It’s a hurricane fern, and hurricane fern care indoors is luckily much easier to master than some other ferns. Learn more with my care post!
How do you care for a hurricane fern?
Hello all! Today I have a totally new genus and species of plant to write about…well, new for this blog, at least! That’s because I am not typically a fern gal. However, I could not resist snagging this fern when I saw it. It’s a hurricane fern.
And why did I snag it? Well, because hurricane fern care is not as difficult as caring for some other ferns. I generally hate ferns indoors because they are be so finicky in my dry house. So let’s talk about the hurricane fern.
What is this plant & where is it from?
A hurricane fern is actually a type of bird’s nest fern, which you may have heard of. The scientific name for bird’s nest fern is Asplenium antiquum. Asplenium antiquum is an evergreen fern native to East Asia—specifically China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.
In my research on this plant, I learned that it grows in a variety of locations. Off of cliffs, in dark forests, and on tree trunks. And it’s actually endangered in its native habitats.
But more recently, the bird’s nest fern has been popularized as a houseplant. That’s because, unlike many other ferns, it has thick leaves that allow it to thrive in lower humidity environments like your home.
Is a hurricane fern the same as a bird’s nest fern?
The hurricane fern is a newer type of bird’s nest fern. It was created in 2014 in the Netherlands. The major difference between the bird’s nest fern and the hurricane fern are the directional growth of the leaves.
On a bird’s nest fern, the medium green leaves grow straight up and out, creating a bit of a showy look. They also have a crinkled/wavy edge. Kind of looks like Sideshow Bob’s hair if you ever watch the Simpsons.
The hurricane fern has similar leaves, but they twist and grow in a spiral-like pattern from the base of the plant. This creates the “hurricane” pattern. Note that this plant is actually patented with the name Asplenium antiquum ‘VITASPHUR’ after its breeder, Vitro Plus BV (patent number: PP28746P3).
How much sun does a hurricane fern need?
The hurricane fern can tolerate a variety of different light levels. Medium to bright indirect light is best, which means that you can be a bit flexible on where to place this plant in relation to a window.
I’m always looking for good lower light plants to put in darker areas of my home. But, if you put the plant in low light, it will grow slower. Keep an eye on it to make sure it isn’t suffering.
If you don’t have a bright enough spot for the hurricane fern, you can add a grow light to the equation. Read more about using grow lights with houseplants here. It’s easy, I promise—the article is long and tells you almost everything you need to knwo!
If you move your plant outdoors for the spring and summer, make sure to keep it out of direct sun. Too much direct light can burn the leaves. This usually isn’t a problem for me indoors, though. Even in my brightest windows!
How often do you water a hurricane fern?
Don’t ever let the soil dry out completely. A bit of drying is fine—I’d say the top few inches of soil. Because it isn’t terribly drought tolerant, the leaves will begin showing signs of stress when it gets thirsty.
These signs of stress can manifest in dull leaves, which will revert back to their normal shine once they get a drink. Crispy brown edges are another sign of stress. And unfortunately the crisping can’t be reversed. You’ll need to perform surgery and watch the soil moisture in the future.
Why is my hurricane fern turning brown?
As noted above, crispy brown edges on a hurricane fern’s leaves can signal underwatering. However, if your watering routine is fine, it could be suffering from dry air.
While this type of fern is much more tolerant of lower humidity levels, it is still a fern. Try to keep it away from heat and AC vents, which can artificially dry out the air.
If the plant has been overwatered, you’ll likely notice mold on the top layer of soil and yellowing or browning leaves that drop from the plant. In this case, it’s probably overwatering and root rot. But that probably won’t be a crispy brown.
As with all plants, soil is a critical part of the watering equation and overall hurricane fern care. To ensure your fern stays moist but not wet, you want to use a soil mixture designed for houseplants.
Any plant mix labeled “houseplant” or “indoor potting soil” works great. These mixtures come pre-mixed with things to help encourage good drainage and help with aeration. Think perlite, moss, bark, etc.
I do recommend throwing in an extra handful of coco coir to the mix. Coco coir is a great alteratnive to peat moss because it is much more renewable. Like peat moss, it helps retain moisture in a way that isn’t heavy and suffocating for the roots.
Temperature & humidity needs
The hurricane fern will tolerate a variety of normal household temperatures and humidity levels. That generally means it grows best in temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit and below 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It is not cold or frost hardy.
I mentioned that hurricane ferns do enjoy some extra humidity. It certainly won’t hurt the plant’s growth! However, if you don’t see any signs of stress (crisping on the tips or other browning), then your humidity is likely fine.
How big will a hurricane fern get?
The hurricane fern isn’t terribly fast growing, but it can eventually grow to be a couple feet tall and wide. It retains a slightly more compact appearance than the bird’s nest fern, though, since the leaves grow in a tighter coiled pattern.
It’s likely you’ll only need to repot your hurricane fern every few years. It will probably stay relatively compact for a while, even in ideal growing conditions.
How do you prune a hurricane fern?
Because of its growth pattern and speed, you don’t really need to prune it. You can always prune plants to control their size, though. The growth on a hurricane fern emerges from the middle, so I’d recommend pruning off the leaves around the outside.
You’ll also want to prune off any dead or dying leaves, which are usually older ones. And you can chop off crispy leaves. You can see one leaf on my plant is slowly crisping, and I’ve mostly just been ignoring it until it dies.
Is the hurricane fern toxic to dogs and cats?
The ASPCA website did not have an entry for the bird’s nest fern, and that’s usually my go-to resource. However, I read from other sources that the plant is not considered to be toxic to dogs and cats.
That said, it is also not intended to be consumed. As always, I recommend keeping it up and away from animals or kids who might take a bite.
Wait…are those mealybugs on my fern?
Well…it could be! Mealybugs are generally white fuzzy-looking bugs. A tell-tale sign of hem are their white cotton-ball-looking nests that they lay eggs in. They often lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves or in the areas where leaves meet the plant’s stems.
So you can imagine my freak out I had when I took a closer look at my plant and noticed THIS on the inside where the new growth emerges! Noooooooooooo!
But—not so fast. As it turns out, this wasn’t mealybugs. And looking closer, that’s pretty obvious. But it wasn’t at first. The little white things emerge with new growth from the center of the plant and eventually disappear as the plant gets bigger.
However, my mom has had a bad mealybugs infestation on her plant, so it definitely is possible. Take a look at my how to get rid of mealybugs on houseplants post for pics and tips.
How do you propagate a hurricane fern?
You don’t. Because it’s a patented plant 🙂 And propagation is prohibited with patented plants. And propagating ferns in general is not exactly a walk in the park.
Unlike some other plants, you can’t grow a new fern from a leaf cutting. Instead, you need to remove a frond and collect spores that fall off the bottom of the frond. Because I don’t have personal experience with this process, I’ll leave it at that.