How to Grow Maidenhair Fern and Keep it alive

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Although I have mostly written posts on rare plants, I grow several common plants. Many of them I have grown for several years so I plan to write some posts about how I care for them.

I have seen many posts on people buying and killing the Maidenhair Fern so I thought I would write about how I care for the 2 I currently have. I have had a these 2 maidenhair ferns for many years. Although these plants have had some ups and downs, they continue to live and grow no matter where I happen to place them.

Even though others seem to struggle with the Maidenhair Fern, I have found it to be one of the easier plants to grow. I am considering buying more or propagating them and placing them all over my sunroom because no one can deny that this fern is a beautiful plant.

maidenhair fern in Biorb
Maidenhair Fern growing very nicely in my Biorb

Light

I have grown this plant in all different kinds of light conditions including north, south, east and under a grow light. Some of the best growth for this plant happened when it was growing in a north facing dormer. I live in Ohio so in the winter, this north window doesn’t get much light but the fern continued to grow. It was actually bigger at that time than it is now but that was before the mealy bugs attacked it. Currently both of my ferns are growing in the sunroom. The bigger fern is closer to the south window but I will probably move it further away as the sun intensifies. The the smaller one in the self-watering pot is growing at least 10 to 12 feet from the window and it is still actively growing and looking healthy.

Maidenhair fern growing at night in a north window
My Maidenhair Fern growing in a north window – photo was taken at night

Humidity

The Maidenhair Fern will grow in most conditions, even low humidity if it is watered properly. This past winter I had both of my ferns growing in my sunroom and I struggled with low humidity. I do have a couple of humidifiers in there but the humidity struggled to stay between 40% and 50% due to the need for heating in there. The ferns did not suffer at all, they both continued to grow. I have put a link to the humidifiers I use in my sunroom and I have to say I love them. I just leave them on 50% so they turn on when it gets below that. They have a capacity of over 2 gallons and they are top fill.

My bigger Maidenhair Fern sitting on the fence
My bigger Maidenhair Fern sitting on the fence

Watering

This plant must not dry out or it will die. It should not be in soggy soil but it should be in well draining rich soil that retains moisture. If you travel a lot, you will need to have the plant in a self watering pot so it will not dry out. Recently I let the reservoir dry out in the one that is in a self watering pot and the leaves turned brown. I thought it was dead but I cut the leaves back and it has been growing back.

smaller maidenhair fern in self-watering pot growing back from neglect
smaller maidenhair fern in self-watering pot growing back after neglect

I would not recommend putting this plant in a terra cotta pot unless you want to check on it everyday. I use a ceramic and a self-watering planter. If you are a forgetful waterer like me then the self-watering pot will probably be the better choice.

Fertilization

This plant doesn’t need much fertilization and I honestly don’t fertilize it much. During the times that I do fertilize it, I will give it Liquid dirt or fish emulsion fertilizer.

Propagation

I have not tried to propagate this plant yet but it will need to be propagated by divisions. You can simply do this during a repot and depending on how the big the plant is, you can have multiple new plants.

closeup of the stems of the maidenhair fern showing new growth
Closeup of the wiry stems of the maidenhair fern showing new fronds of growth

Pests

The only type of pest I have had with this plant is mealy bugs and they can be difficult to get rid of because of the fragile and delicate leaves. The best way to get rid of them is to hose down the leaves and consider a systemic to get rid of any of the mealy bugs embedded in the wire like stems and soil. If you don’t want to use a systemic then you can mix up an insecticidal soap. I use Dr. Bronners castile soap and just mix some with water in an automatic spray bottle. I just use a few drops of the soap because a little goes a long way.

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