Grow the perfect maidenhair fern

Maidenhair ferns

Maidenhair ferns have a reputation for being divas, and failing at the slightest provocation, but with the right care you can have happy, healthy plants.

There are many species of maidenhair fern, but the one most commonly grown is Adiantum raddianum ‘Fragrans’. This beauty features lacy tufts of soft, lime-green foliage and smooth, black stalks. It’s native to tropical and subtropical South America, where it is found in moist pockets on sheltered forest floors and semi-shaded rock crevices where water mists and drips from high above. This gives us a pretty good idea of what it likes. Here’s what you need to provide for your plant so it will thrive:

  1. Protection from draughts A spot indoors offers the shelter that maidenhair ferns need, but breezes and other airflow will dry and brown the foliage. If you see the fronds moving, or you need to open a window or turn on a fan nearby, move your plant.
  2. Humidity Maidenhair ferns need humidity to thrive. Many people choose to grow them in a bathroom to take advantage of the warm, moist air, but you can provide humidity in any room with regular misting of the leaves.
  3. Plenty of light While these ferns like it bright, direct sunlight will burn their foliage, and too little light will lead to weak, leggy growth.
  4. Moisture Maidenhair ferns must be kept moist. Even if the potting mix dries out for a day, the fern will drop its leaves. Give your pot regular dunks in a bucket of water to soak the mix, and consider planting the fern in a self-watering pot if you’re not good at the watering thing.
  5. Food Give your fern a fortnightly feed of liquid fertiliser to keep it happy.

You’ll find growing tips for lots of other plants, including cordylines and Michaelmas daisies, in the February 2020 issue of ABC Gardening Australia magazine.