Ferns date back over 300 million years. The leaves of ferns are called "fronds." Fronds are composed of two parts: the stipe or leaf stalk and the blade or leafy portion of the frond. The common maidenhair fern is a delicate fern that is native to North America. Its scientific name is Adiantum spp.
Maidenhair fern is a fine-textured herbaceous (herbaceous means soft stemmed) perennial. It is hardy in zones 9 through 11. Maidenhair fern grows to a height of 2 to 3 feet and a spread of 2 to 3 feet. The foliage is light gray-green; it is a non-flowering fern.
There are several species of maidenhair fern: southern maidenhair (1 ½ feet tall), rosy maidenhair growing a foot tall with rosy brown fronds, western maidenhair and silver dollar maidenhair--large leaf segments 2 inches wide (as stated by the University of Florida).
Maidenhair fern grows in shady, moist, well-drained soil. Plants should be spaced from 18 to 24 inches apart. They will tolerate most soils such as clay, sand, acidic and loamy. They require above average humidity, and they do not tolerate dry conditions. You should add 3 to 4 inches of mulch around your ferns. Mulch helps to retain moisture in the soil and it also keeps the weeds down.
Established maidenhair ferns should be fertilized once during the growing season. The application should be done early in the season--do not fertilize your fern late in the growing season. Use a 10-20-10 garden fertilizer, following the manufacturer's directions.
Pests and Diseases
Pests that can be a problem to the maidenhair fern are scales, mites, mealy bugs, snails and slugs. Infestations of these pests are generally not serious, and they are usually controlled by their natural enemies. Natural predators of scales and mites are ladybugs, lacewings and parasitic wasps. Snails and slugs can be controlled with slug traps. Maidenhair fern is also susceptible to root rot. The main cause of root rot is soil that is constantly wet. To avoid root rot, ferns should be planted in a well-drained site. Healthy plants are less susceptible to pests and disease, so it is important to keep your ferns healthy through adequate watering and fertilization.
Maidenhair ferns are often seen growing around a water feature/small pond in the garden. They are used as a specimen planting in shade gardens, and can also be used as a border plant or ground cover under a large shade tree. Maidenhair ferns add a delicate touch to patio containers and window boxes as long as they are in the shade, and as long as they are watered frequently.