Maidenhair Fern Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Adiantum Capillus-Veneris”

Complete guide to Maidenhair Ferns for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for planting & caring for “Adiantum Capillus-Veneris”
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Adiantum Capillus-Veneris, commonly known as Maidenhair Fern, Black Maidenhair Fern, Venus Hair Fern, or the Southern Maidenhair Fern, is a species of ferns in the Pteridaceae family. Originated in the southern half of the United States, in Mexico, Central America, Eurasia, Africa, and Western Asia, the Maidenhair Fern loves high humidity and well-drained soils.

In some areas such as the Zvonce Spa Resort in Serbia, the Black Hills of South Dakota, and the hot springs of British Columbia, Adiantum Capillus-Veneris can be found in the suitable microclimate created by the hot mineral springs. You can also spot this beautiful fern in rainforests, desert cliff seeps, springs, shrub and woodlands, coniferous forests, and of course, in our gardens and homes.

The Maidenhair Fern is a popular choice among all types of gardeners, so you shouldn’t feel discouraged if you are a novice gardener. This fern can make a superb addition to the shady parts of your garden or your home when placed in bright corners without any direct sunlight.

Its gray-green, feathery foliage adds a picturesque vibe to any landscape setting, especially moist areas of the garden. Furthermore, it looks great in a container on the windowsill, in the bathroom, or a hanging pot.

Maidenhair Fern
Maidenhair Fern

About Maidenhair Fern

  • The Maidenhair Fern is often found growing on humid, sheltered sandstone or limestone formations. In the Southern hemisphere, it generally grows south-facing, while in the northern hemisphere it grows north-facing.
  • The name of the genus Adiantum comes from the Greek word “adiantos” which means “non-wetting”, due to the fronds’ ability to repel water without becoming wet.
  • The Maidenhair Fern is known to have medicinal properties and can be used for treating rheumatism, coughs, jaundice, and menstrual cramps. Also, some people apply it directly to their scalp to make their hair darker and to prevent hair loss.
  • Native Americans used Maidenhair Fern to make a poultice for wounds and stings. The Navajo people consume it or smoke it to treat mental illness.
  • Maidenhair Fern is not the same as Maidenhair Tree, also known as Ginkgo biloba, an old species with medicinal uses native to China.
  • There are more than 250 Adiantum species. The most popular ones include the Southern maidenhair fern (A. Capillus-Veneris), Silver dollar maidenhair (A. peruvianum), Western maidenhair (A. pedatum), Northern maidenhair (A. pedatum), and Rosy maidenhair (A. hispidulum).
Adiantum Capillus-Veneris
Adiantum Capillus-Veneris

Maidenhair Fern Features: An overview

  • Another name for Adiantum Capillus-Veneris is the five-fingered fern, because of its finger-shaped fronds growing on dark brown stems. The stems were once used for the weaving of baskets.
  • Although Maidenhair Ferns are asthetically pleasing throughout all stages of their growth, they are considered to be slow-growing plants, so arm yourself with lots of patience: it can take up to 3 years for them to reach full mature size.
  • These ferns love to be admired, but they are not happy when touched. If you want to keep your plant pretty, avoid touching the leaves or they might turn brown.
  • Although the ASPCA doesn’t have information about the Maidenhair Ferns, the consensus is that they’re not toxic for dogs and cats, like most ferns.
  • Maidenhair Ferns can grow from 6 to 12 in (15 to 30 cm) in height. New growth appears in the middle of the plant. To make room, lower leaves fie off, so don’t panic if you notice a few brown lower leaves.
  • In North Carolina, the Southern Maidenhair-fern is listed as an endangered species, while in Kentucky it’s listed as a threatened species due to Appalachian habitat loss.

Growing Maidenhair Fern

There is a lot of misconception about the Maidenhair Fern, as it is considered to be finicky and hard to keep alive. In reality, they are quite easy to care for if you keep in mind a few simple aspects. Looking at their natural habitat, one can see that some things matter more when growing this lush and elegant fern.

The most important factor in successfully growing this fern is humidity – it needs a lot of moisture to survive and thrive, so make sure you choose a moist place in your garden for it. Indoors, make sure you mist the plant with water a couple of times a day. Alternatively, you can use a room humidifier, or place the container on top of a water-filled pebble tray.

Maidenhair Fern aka Adiantum Live Plant, From Amazon

If you have a window in your bathroom with enough indirect light, try placing the fern there, as it will be exposed to moisture every time your shower. If you notice your Maidenhair Fern’s leaves are curling up, falling off frequently, or that the tips are dry, it means the air is too dry and the plant needs more moisture.

Regarding temperature, the fern is best kept at temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21°C). Avoid placing it anywhere the temperature can drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16°C) or in spots exposed to cold drafts.

In their natural environment, Maidenhair Ferns receive a bit of shade and a bit of partial sunlight. To mimic these growing conditions indoors, find a place that only receives indirect sunlight. Direct rays can cause their delicate leaves to burn very easily. If the room is darker, keep the fern as close to the windows as possible. If you can see the sky from the plant’s perspective, it means it’s a good position. Direct sunlight in the morning or direct sun in the afternoon during winter can help boost the growth speed.

Planting Maidenhair Fern

Maidenhair Ferns prefer a moist, well-drained soil enriched with organic matter, such as the humus-rich soil found in their natural environment. Although ferns typically grow in slightly acidic soils, Adiantum Capillus-Veneris prefers a more alkaline soil PH. Add some ground limestone to the potting mix, or just mix it into your outdoor garden beds.

When grown indoors, Maidenhair Ferns prefer small containers with drainage holes. Clay containers are not recommended because they allow the soil to quickly dry out. This plant dislikes repotting, so try to repot in the spring, and only when the plant is root-bound.

Fertilizer is not necessarily needed, but if you do wish to fertilize your plant, feed with a half-strength liquid fertilizer once a month. Make sure to regularly remove browned leaves to help the fern grow denser foliage. If your Maidenhair Fern dies, you might be able to resurrect it by cutting the fronds at ground level. New fronds will start to emerge from the roots if they are kept moist.

Young Maidenhair Ferns
Young Maidenhair Ferns

Maidenhair Fern Pests

Maidenhair Ferns are more likely to die from neglect or drying out. However, sometimes they can suffer from insect attacks. If you are growing your fern outdoors, keep an eye out for slugs and snails. These are easily removed by hand-picking or slug bait. Keep the area around the plant clean and water early in the day. Another pest that can attack your fern is the fern aphid, which can cause the fronds to curl up and turn black. Luckily, aphids can be hosed off, or sprayed with Confidor.

Mealybugs, mites, and scale can sometimes affect plants that are stressed because of lack of water. Mealybugs leave white clusters on the underside of the leaves. Mites usually feed on the undersides of the leaves. They are easy to distinguish as they are tiny and oval-shaped.

If you notice a hard, waxy coating on your fern, you are probably dealing with scale. An infestation of mealy bugs, mites, and scale can be removed with a cloth dipped in ¼ teaspoon liquid dishwashing detergent mixed with a quart of warm water. If the problem persists, you can try using rubbing alcohol or an insecticide.

They make great indoor plants
They make great indoor plants

Watering Maidenhair Fern

This thirsty species needs consistent watering, so make sure the soil remains moist at all times. Normally you will need to water every day or every other day. However, it is essential not to over-water your Maidenhair Fern.

Allow the top of the soil to dry slightly between watering. Rot and fungal disease can appear as a result of excessively wet soil. If you notice wilted, yellowing fronds that take a soggy appearance eventually, your plant most likely suffers from root rot.

Propagating Maidenhair Fern

Maidenhair Ferns can be propagated in two ways: through their spores or via division. We recommend propagating your plant during the warmer months.

To propagate it via division, take an established plant and gently rip or cut the root ball in half with a clean knife. Expect a few leaves to die off after the division is complete. The new plants can be placed into pots and cared for as usual. Make sure the new pots are not too big, but a bi bigger than the new root ball.

Propagation via spores is possible only when your plant is ready to produce spores. When you see the little brown dots under the leaf tips, cut off a few fronds that have them and place them between two pieces of paper. Leave them for about a week or until de spores drop onto the paper. Next, spread them over the soil in a tiny pot and cover it with plastic wrap to create a greenhouse. Avoid placing the pot in direct sunlight to prevent it from getting too hot. The soil must be kept moist. After a few weeks, you should start seeing gametophytes emerging.

In Conclusion

Maidenhair Ferns are elegant plants that make a superb addition to any shady garden or home. Although their reputation as finicky plants precedes them, don’t be discouraged! With just a few tricks and tips, you can become an expert in growing Adiantum Capillus-Veneris.

One of the most important aspects to keep in mind is that these ferns love moisture and humidity. If you manage to mimic their natural environment, they will surely thrive, even indoors in containers. Of course, there are a few pests and diseases you must be aware of, but these can easily be managed and prevented. Luckily, Maidenhair Ferns are easily propagated, so if you love them you can create your own little green corner in no time!

Miruna Secuianu

Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact

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