- TEMPERATURE: 55 to 75 degrees F (13 to 24 degrees C)
- LIGHT: Bright, indirect
- HUMIDITY: High
- SAFETY: Non-toxic to pets
- DIFFICULTY: Challenging
Maidenhair fern, also known as Adiantum, produces beautiful fronds made of lacy, fan-shaped leaflets on glossy black stems that reach up to 18-inches in length when grown in a pot (depending on the variety).
Popular varieties for houseplants include the Southern maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris), Delta maidenhair fern (Adiantum raddianum), and Brittle maidenhair fern (Adiantum tenerum). All have similar care requirements.
I personally own a Southern maidenhair fern and it has become one of my favorite houseplants. It’s not the easiest to grow indoors because of its high humidity requirements, but it’s a beautiful addition to your home if you can keep it happy.
It is quite certain that a very large number of maidenhair ferns are killed by ladies who pretend to love ferns and really have no real care for them at all.
– Shirley Hibbard, The Fern Garden: How to Make, Keep, and Enjoy it, 1869
Keep the soil moist, but make sure it drains well. Maidenhair fern does not like wet feet. Water your fern at its base for the best results.
My house is very dry since I live in the high plains desert and we have central heat/air, so the soil tends to dry out very quickly for me. I water my maidenhair fern every few days. I feel the top of the soil each morning. If it’s dry at all, I water thoroughly.
Watering can be reduced in winter, but always keep humidity levels high (see humidity section below).
Maidenhair fern requires high humidity. If you can meet the plant’s humidity requirements, it will thrive. If you can’t, it will quickly dry out and die.
Mist several times a day, place the plant on a humidity tray (a tray full of pebbles and water), and/or place it near a good quality humidifier. See my favorite houseplant humidifier review (the one I’m using right now), or click here to view it directly on Amazon.
Maidenhair fern is right at home in a well-lit bathroom, as it thrives in the steamy air. A humid kitchen also makes a great location for the plant.
Feed once a month during spring through fall with a balanced houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength. My favorite and the one I use on my maidenhair fern is Jack’s Classic All-Purpose Fertilizer (Amazon link).
For the best results, place maidenhair fern in an area that receives bright, indirect light or strong artificial light (see my favorite lights for indoor plants). Avoid full sun,which burns the leaves, and full shade, which reduces growth and vigor.
This plant is fussy and does not like being moved, so choose its location wisely. Giving it the perfect spot from the start will save you a lot of grief. Make sure you have adequate light, no drafts or blasts from heating sources, and a warm temperature.
Keep the temperature near your fern from 55 to 75 degrees F (13 to 24 degrees C). Never allow the temperature to drop below 50 degrees F (10 degrees C), or your plant may not recover.
Avoid placing maidenhair fern near heat sources (such as heating vents or wood stoves) and keep it away from drafts.
Pot maidenhair fern in an all-purpose, well-draining potting mix formulated for houseplants. I like this one by Happy Frog, but any commercial potting soil meant for indoor plants will work fine.
Repot in spring when the fern outgrows its current pot (or when you want to propagate).
When you repot your fern, you might consider propagating – especially if its grown quite large. Carefully divide the root ball into two or three pieces, and replant each one in its own pot.
Remove any brown foliage immediately to prevent rot, and remove any scruffy growth at the base. Besides this, the fern requires no other pruning or maintenance.
The most common problem people have with this plant is browning foliage – and it’s usually due to low humidity or not enough water.
- Browning Frond Tips – If the tips of your maidenhair ferns are turning brown, this is an indication that the humidity is too low or your fern isn’t getting enough water. Increase humidity by placing the fern on a tray filled with pebbles and water, or place it near a humidifier, and make sure the soil stays moist at all times (but never wet).
Where to Buy Maidenhair Fern
You can purchase maidenhair ferns at your local nursery (call first to inquire if they have them), and in some cases you may find them at big box stores like Lowe’s or Walmart.
If you’re unable to find the plant locally, my first choice for buying houseplants online is Etsy. See the current selections of maidenhair ferns on Etsy.
I like buying from Etsy because the plants are grown and shipped by individuals – not some huge, nameless nursery that doesn’t care about the quality of your order. In fact, I bought my maidenhair fern from Etsy and it arrived in wonderful condition!
I bought from the shop called Bear Foot Farms and I can vouch for them. Here’s a picture of my fern the day it arrived:
If Etsy isn’t your thing, you can also check out Amazon. Numerous reputable nurseries also sell through the site. Click here to see the current selections.