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How to care for a maidenhair fern?

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Maidenhair fern

Care for a maidenhair fern plant is easy if you understand its water, light, and soil requirements. They naturally grow in bright and humid conditions and prefer the same conditions.

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Maidenhair fern care:

Though many gardeners say maidenhair fern is very hard to grow, if you follow the below preferences and recommendations, it won’t be so difficult to grow maidenhair fern.

  • It prefers bright indirect light
  • The soil must be evenly moist all the times
  • Do not overwater
  • Do not allow the roots to dry out
  • It likes to be in humid conditions
  • Provide organic nutrient-rich soil 
  • Prune as needed
  • Cut the dead fronds (leaves)

Let us get into complete details and understand their requirements in depth.

Light for maidenhair fern

Maidenhair fern prefers bright indirect light. As the leaves of this plant are delicate, direct sunlight can burn its leaves very easily.

2-3 hours of sunlight passed through a window is fine. 

If your room has no window or if there is low light, you can opt for grow lights. You need to provide 200-300 foot candles for about 12 hours.

Watering maidenhair fern

Water maidenhair fern only when the soil is slightly dry. Keep the soil moist at all times. Do not allow the roots to dry out.

They hate drying out and do not like to be left without water even for one day. 

If the whole maidenhair fern is dried, you can cut the plant from the base (few centimeters from the plant) and give them good soaking. It will grow back beautifully again.

The maidenhair fern is susceptible to root rot when the soil is too wet. They don’t like to be soggy either. 

You can use a moisture meter to get the exact moisture levels in case you are not sure about the moisture content in the soil.

Soil for maidenhair fern

Maidenhair fern prefers evenly moist soil well-draining soil. They like moisture-retentive soils. If the soil is dried out, its fronds will die.

You need to provide organic nutrient-rich soil.

Maidenhair fern temperature and humidity

65-75 degrees Fahrenheit is of temperature is good for maidenhair fern. If the temperature is more, you bring the plant inside and water more frequently.

Maidenhair fern likes to be in humid conditions. It does not like dry air. It needs plenty of humidity otherwise, its leaves will dry and shrivel. These plants are ideal for the bathroom where humidity is higher.

You can raise the humidity to some extent by using a pebble tray filled with water. Also, maidenhair fern does not like to be misted.

 A humidifier is the better option if you have one.

Fertilizer for maidenhair fern

Apply liquid fertilizer bi-weekly or monthly. You can use fertilizer when new fronds (leaves) are popping up.

You can use 3-1-2 fertilizer as directed on the package. But, when applying for the first time, we suggest you dilute your fertilizer by half the recommended amount on the package (this is to avoid plant burn).

Irrespective of the fertilizer you use, you need to have good organic nutrient-rich soil.

Too much fertilizer burns the leaves. Never feed maidenhair fern in the winter, late spring, or summer.

Propagating maidenhair fern

You can propagate maidenhair fern through division or spores.

Propagate maidenhair fern through division:

  • Carefully pull the plant from the pot by tapping on the sides.
  • You can divide the root cluster into three or four pieces using a knife.
  • Cut the dead or old-growth (if any).
  • If you are re-using the same pot, wash the pot with warm soapy water 
  • You can add potting mix, a handful of fertilizer.  
  • Plant each piece in the pot.
  • Do not fill the soil till the top edge of the plant, leave about 1 inch of space from the brim so that when you water, water does not slide off the edge.
  • Always have a plate underneath the maidenhair fern pot so that in summer they can get the extra moisture.
  • Water well.

Propagate maidenhair fern from spores:

Maidenhair fern spore collection: 

  • Ferns are reproduced from spores that are gathered in clusters called Sori, which are usually on the underside of the fronds (little brown dots/bumps on the edges of the plant leaves).  
  • Find a frond with Sori, remove the whole frond and place it into a paper envelope, and store it for a couple of days in a dry location.
  • After a few days, there should be a fine dusting of brownish-colored spores in your paper envelope.
  • Please note that these spores do not give rise to new plants.

Sowing spores: 

  • The collected spores should be dusted onto a growing medium (like example sand or compost mix) in a tray or a container.
  • Water the soil and put the lid on the container and keep it indoors where you receive indirect light.
  • Make sure the soil does not dry out.
  • After few weeks this will grow into a carpet of Prothallia, which are small, green, a heart-shaped structure that produces both male and female sex cells (gametes).
  • When Prothallia are approximately ¼ inch, move these clumps into a container containing soil mixture (preferably a mix of peat, vermiculite, and compost soil). Cover the container with glass or plastic until the fronds appear.
  • Take off the lid after the frond grows about one inch tall.
  • You can plant them outside once they reach about 4-6 inches.           
  • The entire process can take about 8-10 months.     

Maidenhair fern leaves turning brown

It is natural for maidenhair fern to turn brown and die. You can cut the dead leaves from the base of the plant and the plant will regrow. But, if new leaves are turning brown, probably you are making one of the following mistakes.

  • The plant is under direct sunlight
  • The soil is dry
  • Overwatering/soggy soil.
  • Humidity is insufficient
  • Application of too much fertilizer
  • No Pruning
  • Misting – It does not like to be misted
  • Meddling with the plant – Touching the leaves or re-potting unnecessary

Maidenhair fern leaves turning brown

Maidenhair fern exhibited to possess anti-diabetic, anticonvulsant, analgesic, hypocholesterolemic, goitrogenic, anti-thyroidal, antibacterial, antifungal, wound healing, antiobesity, anti-hair loss, anti-asthmatic, anti-inflammatory, antidiarrheal and antispasmodic, antioxidant as well as diuretic, anti-urolithiasis and detoxifying effects in modern medicine. Ancient physicians declared some of the confirmed pharmacological effects.

Reference: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5810381/


How to re-pot maidenhair fern

The maidenhair fern does not like to be repotted. You do not have to repot frequently.

If you observe any of the following, then you can think of repotting.

  • Roots are coming out on the surface
  • Roots are coming out of the bottom of the pot
  • If there is decay/rot in the middle of the fronds
  • Water is drying out instantly after watering

The new pot should be 1-2 inches bigger in outer diameter than the older one. You should remember that the more soil area is exposed to the air, the more evaporation. So, avoid a bigger pot.

  • Remove the dead leaves by cutting till the base of the plant.
  • You can also keep only new shoots and cut all the old leaves. 
  • First, add some potting mix/organic nutrient-rich soil to the new pot.
  • Add a handful of fertilizer.
  • Remove the old plant from the existing pot carefully and move it to the new pot.
  • Fill the remaining space with potting mix.
  • Place a saucer under the pot so that the moisture is maintained.
  • Give it good water soaking.

Maidenhair fern in a closed terrarium

Maidenhair fern is an ideal plant for a closed terrarium. As the humidity is more in a closed terrarium, maidenhair fern thrives inside the closed terrarium.

Since these plants are slow growers, their maintenance is easy inside the terrarium. You don’t have to open the lid and trim the plant.

This plant with small leaves looks beautiful inside the terrarium.

Is maidenhair fern safe for dogs?

Maidenhair ferns are non-toxic for dogs.

Are maidenhair ferns safe for cats?

Maidenhair ferns are non-toxic for cats.

Is maidenhair fern a perennial?

This is a perennial fern that is winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-11.