A frond of Maidenhair fern.
image by Louise Wolff:commons.wikimedia.org
Ferns are a large family of perennial plants and one of the most ancient plant forms on earth. The maidenhair fern is one of the family's most delicate and ethereal varieties. Grown as an indoor ornamental plant or outdoors in protected shade and woodland garden settings, maidenhair ferns thrive in moist soil and high humidity. They are consistently hardy in USDA zones 7 through 11 but some maidenhair ferns can safely overwinter in cooler climes if they are planted in a protected area, kept moist and mulched over.
Locate maidenhair ferns in a setting with complete shade, dappled shade or bright indirect light if grown indoors. Maintain a nutrient-rich, well drained soil around the roots. When replanting use a potting soil with a significant amount of pet moss to aid in moisture retention. When you are growing maidenhair ferns in drier climates or less than ideal soil conditions, mulch the soil with an organic material such as shredded bark, compost or cocoa hulls to enrich the soil and prevent moisture evaporation.
Maintain a consistently moist soil for your maidenhair that is not soaking wet. In the winter you can cut back on watering, but do not let the soil dry out completely. Maidenhair ferns thrive in ambient humidity in both outdoor and indoor settings. Mist the plants once a day or every few days with clean tepid water or assemble a tray under your potted fern by lining a saucer or bowl with stones and water to boost humidity.
Groom your maidenhair fern regularly. Cut away yellowing leaves, dried leaves, and damaged or diseased fronds. A pair of small hair cutting scissors or cuticle scissors are ideal for reaching into the fern and making precise cuts of the fine foliage without damaging the other leaves and areas of the fronds. Shear down your maidenhair fern to about two inches over the base of the plant when it gets leggy or foliage becomes very sparse. New fronds will come up from the center of the plant within a few weeks.
Feed your fern each month with a general purpose water-soluble fertilizer mixed to half strength with water and applied over pre-moistened soil to prevent burn. Always apply diluted fertilizer solution around the roots of the plant instead of pouring it over the head of the plant. Cease supplemental feeding during the winter rest period and resume monthly feedings in the spring.