With delicate, lacy leaves, the maidenhair fern is a plant that requires your attention to detail to keep it in good health.
As long as you’re clear on its requirements and you’re willing to put in a little effort, this plant will charm in both an indoor setting as a container plant and outdoors as a ground cover plant.
If you’re worried that this plant may be too finicky for you — and truthfully, the plant does have a reputation of being sensitive — I encourage you to read the care tips below and decide for yourself.
Maidenhair Fern Plant Care Tips
As you will see, the maidenhair fern is a bit particular when it comes to its environment, but with a little effort, you too can match its keeping requirements.
– Plant Size
Assuming its keeping conditions are favorable, the maidenhair fern can achieve a maximum height of 3 feet and about half of that in width.
I mentioned how outdoors they’re used as ground cover plants. In truth, the maidenhair fern is a clump-forming ground cover plant, which means that they can be planted closely together (in clumps) to give the impression that they’re spreading out as a ground cover.
Indoors, they can be comfortably grown in a container but there are some special requirements concerning the material of the pot I will detail in the section dedicated to potting and repotting this fern.
– Light Requirements
Right off the bat, light is one of the problem areas for maidenhair ferns.
If planted outdoors, a shady place works best. Indoors, the plant requires a bit of indirect light, so placing it near a north-facing window will provide it with a gentler exposure to the sun.
Whatever you do, do not expose the plant to direct sunlight because it will scorch the gentle fronds of the plant.
Watering is another problem area that you need to keep a close eye on. The maidenhair fern needs constantly moist soil. But don’t allow the soil to get soggy and never allow it to dry out completely either.
Now, if this sounds difficult to achieve, it’s really not. If you follow my instructions concerning the type of soil needed for these ferns (well-draining soil is a must!), and you keep an eye on moisture levels, you’ll ace the watering requirements of this plant.
Depending on the temperature and humidity levels in your home, you may need to water the maidenhair fern every few days.
Just remember to never allow the soil to dry out completely, nor overwater to the point that the soil is constantly soggy.
– Temperature & Humidity
Ideally, the maidenhair fern should be kept in a room where the temperature is around 70 F or above. Anything below 60 F is bad news, so don’t even try to acclimate this plant to lower temperatures.
Cold drafts, sudden temperature changes and exposure to A/C or heating vents must also be avoided.
Humidity is another indispensable factor that promotes the maidenhair fern’s good health and development. Dry air is not tolerated by the plant, so if your home isn’t naturally humid (and most homes aren’t), you’re going to need to either mist the plant regularly or place it on a tray of pebbles with water, or simply turn on a humidifier to do the job for you.
– Soil Type
I mentioned that well-draining soil will help prevent soil sogginess issues. In their natural habitat, these ferns grow in humus-rich soil. Adding compost to the soil will help recreate a humus-rich soil these plants are accustomed to in their natural habitat.
Unlike most ferns that prefer acidic soil, the maidenhair fern is special in this regard as well — it has a preference of slightly alkaline soil ph.
Fertilizing your maidenhair fern should be done only with a weak liquid fertilizer. Fertilize sparingly, every two weeks or monthly, depending on need. Fertilizing is only really needed during the growing season.
– Potting & Repotting
Since you want the soil of your maidenhair fern to be constantly moist, you’re going to need a pot that’s good at retaining moisture. Plastic containers will do the trick, just make sure they have draining holes on the bottom.
It’s not an issue for your maidenhair fern to be slightly pot-bound, but once the roots fill the pot, it’s best to move the plant to a bigger container.
– Maidenhair Fern Plant Propagation
When repotting your maidenhair fern, you can use a knife to divide the roots and plant each resulting plant individually. Once repotted in fresh, humus-rich soil, water them well and withhold fertilization to avoid burning the roots.
Different Types of Maidenhair Fern
There are a wide range of different maidenhair fern cultivars, some of them even suited for growing in terrariums. I’m going to list a few varieties that stand out because of their beauty.
– Adiantum Tenerum Peacock
With feathery stems and fan-shaped leaves this adiantum variety is highly ornamental. It needs high humidity and a shady location.
– Adiantum Tenerum Giant Bensoniae
This maidenhair fern is a rare variety originating from Indonesia. The beautiful round fronds are made even cuter because of the light pink coloration when they’re still young. Its soil should be peat based with addition of limestone chips for best results.
– Adiantum Raddianum Mist
With weeping fronds and teardrop shaped pinnacles, this maidenhair fern variety is a compact grower that requires constantly moist soil and a well-drained media.
– Adiantum Tenerum Jamaica
Another interesting maidenhair fern variety, the Adiantum Tenerum Jamaica features leaves with ragged or shredded edges on upright stems. It does best in a peat-based medium.
– Adiantum Reniforme Sinense
The single, rounded fronds of this maidenhair fern variety set it apart from the other maidenhair ferns. This variety is suitable to be grown in terrariums or other decorative glass.
– Adiantum Trapeziform
Named after its trapezoid shaped leaves, the Adiantum trapeziform is a fast grower that can reach a height of 3-4 ft. Once the plant is established, its watering requirements are high. Traditional indoor plant potting mixes are suitable for this maidenhair fern.
Maidenhair Fern FAQs
The FAQs below will get you up to speed with some common questions about the maidenhair fern and its care.
Why did a Frond of my Maidenhair Fern Died?
If only a few fronds on your maidenhair fern are dying back, there’s no need to worry. This is perfectly normal, and it will happen even with the best of care.
New fronds will replace the old ones. This is something natural and not to be feared. If you’re keeping the plant in optimal conditions, dying back is a perfectly normal and natural process.
What are the Small Dots on the Underside of Maidenhair Fern Leaves?
If the dots are brownish and located on the underside of leaves, at the edges, at almost equal distance from each other, you can congratulate yourself!
These are spores and a sign that you’re doing a very good job at caring for your maidenhair fern. While propagation via spores is possible, it’s a more difficult process than simply propagating via roots.
Is the Maidenhair Fern Toxic to Pets?
The maidenhair fern is not toxic to dogs or cats. Although toxicity is not something you have to worry about if you have a maidenhair fern, the plant can still pose a choking hazard to small pets, so be careful to keep an eye on your pets.
Can You Save a Dying Maidenhair Fern?
If you suspect you’ve killed off your maidenhair fern, you can try to resurrect it. Sometimes, simply trimming off all the died back fronds and returning to a regular watering schedule can help.
Why are the Leaves of Maidenhair Fern Turning Brown?
Browning leaves on your maidenhair fern are either a sign of too much light exposure, especially direct sunlight, or a sign of bad quality water.
Hard water can cause the green leaves of your maidenhair fern to turn brown. You can gently cut back yellowing or browning leaves and change the location of your maidenhair fern by moving it out of direct sunlight or into a location where it gets more shade.
You can also switch to watering with rainwater to see if the problem was caused by hard water issues.
Are Maidenhair Ferns Susceptible to Diseases?
Like most houseplants, the maidenhair fern is also prone to diseases that are caused by overwatering (fungal problems and rotting) and pests that often attack houseplants like mealybugs, mites and scales. A good insect prevention and treatment regimen will help you deal with these issues.
Maidenhair ferns are splendid plants that are available in quite a few varieties. Although a bit high-maintenance and a bit sensitive, growing these plants is manageable.
You may think they’re only reserved for experienced growers, but you can try your hand at growing them even if you’re not as experienced. As long as you’re willing to read up on their requirements and monitor their health, you will be able to successfully grow this plant.
Remember that these are warmth loving plants that thrive in a humid and moist environment. Don’t expose the plant to direct sunlight and make sure the potting soil is rich in organic matter.