A frond of maidenhair fern
image by Louise Wolff:commons.wikimedia.org
One of the more delicate species of ferns the maidenhair produces ethereal small almost papery green leaves in clusters on tensile thin woody stems. Maidenhair ferns prefer full shade to dappled sunlight and thrive in nutrient rich moist soil, humidity and in environments protected from winds and wide temperature fluctuations. Consistently hardy in USDA zones 5 through 10, maidenhair ferns can successfully be grown and overwintered indoors under ideal conditions.
Select a growing location for your maidenhair that provides shade, dappled sunlight or bright indirect light for indoor settings. Excessive direct sunlight absent high humidity will quickly dry out and scorch maidenhair ferns. Understory plantings and woodland gardens are ideal outdoor conditions. Also choose a location that protects the fern from winds as this can also quickly desiccate the paper-thin foliage.
Water a maidenhair fern regularly to maintain consistently moist soil around the roots of the plant, never allowing it to dry out between waterings. Maidenhair ferns thrive in humid settings. If growing indoors, mist daily with clean tepid water or consider assembling a humidity tray that the plant pot can rest upon. Make a humidity tray with a wide saucer or pie plate at least an inch or two larger than the diameter of the pot. Fill it with enough stones to cover the container in an even layer and fill it with water to the lip. Set the fern pot on top of the stones and replenish the water as needed.
Groom and prune your maidenhair regularly to remove any brown dying leaves or fronds that mar the beauty of the plant. Use small hair cutting scissors or cuticle scissors as the are small and can easily be maneuvered in the floaty canopy of the plant to make precise cuts without damaging the tender foliage of nearby leaves and fronds.
Feed your maidenhair fern with a high quality water soluble plant fertilizer once a month for potted ferns and several times a year for those grown in the ground soil. Follow the manufacturers directions on dosing and always apply to pre-watered soil to prevent damage to the plant.
Mulch around the base of your fern to enrich the soil as the organic matter breaks down as well as to preserve soil moisture. Consider shredded bark, cocoa hulls or compost as mulching options.