How to grow maidenhair fern (Adiantum raddianum)

Maidenhair fern (Addiantum raddianum)

The pretty maidenhair fern (Adiantum raddianum) makes a gorgeous, leafy house plant. Each frond bears small, delicate, apple-green leaves held on contrasting dark stems and the plant has an elegant, arching shape. It’s also known as Venus hair fern or Delta hair fern, and is sometimes sold as Adiantum rubellum or Adiantum cuneatum. Its botanical name is derived from the Greek word ‘adiantos’, which means ‘unwetted’ – water rolls off the leaves. 

The maidenhair fern has a reputation of being a little tricky to grow – its leaves have a tendency to turn brown when something is wrong with its growing conditions. To grow it successfully, you need to replicate its natural environment. It’s native to tropical regions and is often found growing in cracks in rocks, especially near waterfalls, where it gets moisture from constant water run off. This means it does best in a humid environment, with moist soil. A maidenhair fern is perfect for growing in a steamy bathroom, bottle garden or terrarium.

How to grow maidenhair fern

The maidenhair fern needs moisture, warmth and plenty of humidity to thrive. It needs a little daily attention – mist at least every couple of days if it’s not kept in a humid room such as a bathroom or kitchen – or place on a dish of moist pebbles filled with water. Make sure the soil doesn’t dry out, keeping it moist but not waterlogged.

Maidenhair fern: jump links

Where to grow maidenhair fern

Maidenhair fern growing in a bathroom
Maidenhair fern growing in a bathroom

Grow your maidenhair fern in a spot that gets plenty of bright, indirect light but no direct sunshine. It does best in a warm, humid room that’s around 15-21°C, away from draughts and radiators – don’t let it go below 10°C in winter. Growing it in a bathroom or terrarium is ideal.

How to plant a maidenhair fern

Plant into a pot filled with peat-free multi-purpose compost, ensuring the root ball just above the soil surface. Water in well, allowing any excess to drain away.

Where to buy maidenhair fern online

Caring for maidenhair fern

Maidenhair fern foliage
Maidenhair fern foliage

Keep the compost moist but not wet at all times – allow any excess to drain away.

The maidenhair fern loves moist air, so is perfect for a steamy bathroom or terrarium. If that’s not possible, mist regularly or stand on a dish of moist pebbles filled with water.

Feed once a month in spring and summer with a weak balanced liquid feed.

How to repot a maidenhair fern

Repot your maidenhair fern every year or two years – whenever the roots have filled the pot. The best time to do this is in spring. Pot into a pot that is slightly larger than the rootball.

How to propagate maidenhair fern

You can propagate a maidenhair fern by dividing it – a good time to do this is when you repot it. Gently pull the plant apart, dividing it into sections. Plant each section in its own container. 

Growing maidenhair fern: problem solving

Brown leaves at the base of the plant are normal – these are old leaves.

Brown, crispy fronds elsewhere on a maidenhair fern is a common problem and can be due to a number of factors – most commonly low humidity, but also draughts, a nearby radiator, or because the compost is too dry. Harsh sun create dark scorch marks on the leaves. Leaves can also turn brown if they are touched too much.

Pale leaves mean your plant may be in too much direct sunlight (in which case it will have scorch marks on the leaves too). It could also be lacking light. Your plant may also need feeding.

Yellow leaves can be due to under or over-watering, or fluctuating temperatures.

Raised brown spots on the leaves could be scale insects. Spray with an organic insecticide that contains fatty acids or plant oils.

You may spot mealybugs on the foliage. Look out for insects that look like white, fluffy blobs on the undersides of leaves. Spray with an organic insecticide that contains fatty acids or plant oils.

Advice on buying maidenhair fern

  • Maidenhair fern needs regular care, so only buy this plant if you’re able to commit to this
  • You can buy maidenhair ferns in garden centres, specialist houseplant retailers and online

Where to buy maidenhair online

Varieties of maidenhair fern to grow

Addiantum raddianum ‘Fragantissimum’ has attractive black stems and pretty, lime coloured foliage that turns deeper green with age.
Height x Spread: 50cm x 40cm



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