Over 10,000 species of ferns exist worldwide, and one of the most familiar is the maidenhair fern (Adiantum aleuticum). The fern leaves, usually referred to as fronds, vary in shape and length and complement almost any type of décor in the home.
Maidenhair ferns are one of the most popular houseplants and often do well inside because they like the shade.
These beautifully delicate ferns do have some peculiarities in the care they require, but their bountiful appearance is well worth learning about how to take care of them.
Read on to discover six of the most common maidenhair ferns to help you create a lush, rainforest-like environment or a beautiful ground cover outside your house.
1. Maidenhair Fern
About the Maidenhair Fern
The maidenhair fern (Adiantum aleuticum) is the most familiar-looking fern to anyone who doesn’t know a lot about ferns. The maidenhair fern possesses the classic fronds that spread out like a hand from its purplish stems, and it remains green all year when it lives in a temperate area.
The classic maidenhair fern is a beautiful addition to any outside garden where you have ample shade and want lush ground cover. If you have a small pond in your backyard, your maidenhair fern will love hugging the shoreline.
Maidenhair ferns grow up to 30 inches tall, and they’re an ideal frond inside or outside the home, provided they’re given at least partial shade during the day. These ferns rarely suffer from diseases or bug infestations, making them an ideal indoor plant for your hanging basket.
Maidenhair Fern Basic Care Guide
Place your maidenhair fern in a shady spot with little to no direct sunlight. A bathroom with a diffused window is an excellent place for the humidity-loving plant. The plant enjoys well-draining soil that’s kept moist between watering. However, the soil around the fern should never remain waterlogged.
One of the reasons maidenhair ferns are considered an undemanding plant is because they don’t require fertilizer.
However, you may occasionally give the plant some liquid fertilizer in the warmest months of the year. Repot the maidenhair fern every one or two years or when the roots crowd the pot.
2. California Maidenhair
About the California Maidenhair
The California maidenhair (Adiantum jordanii) looks quite different from its cousin, the Adiantum aleuticum, with its little round fronds looking more like clover leaves than the classic tendrils of a forest floor fern.
The California maidenhair is a beautiful groundcover plant for a yard that aspires to look like the ancient redwood forests of Northern California, but it’s also a lovely plant for a hanging basket or a shelf in the home where its fronds may spill over the edge.
The California maidenhead grows up to 18 inches tall and can get up to 18 inches wide, which makes it a bountiful option for your indoor display or outdoor garden.
The California maidenhair is very common worldwide because it’s relatively easy to grow, even if you occasionally forget to water it.
California Maidenhair Basic Care Guide
Like other ferns, the California maidenhair fern loves shade but can tolerate a smidge of sunlight each day as long as the temperature doesn’t soar.
Keep your California maidenhair inside if you live in a colder or hotter zone. The bathroom or any humid area in the home is an ideal spot for the California maidenhair.
Give the plant a bright area in your home, but make sure it doesn’t get any direct sunlight.
The plant loves moist soil that isn’t too wet or too dry, and you may want to consider a plastic pot to help retain the moisture from water. Regular misting and fertilizer in the summer will keep your California maidenhair happy.
3. Delta Maidenhair
About the Delta Maidenhair
The Delta maidenhair (Adiantum raddianum) looks slightly like the California maidenhair. It is a very popular houseplant due to its longevity and the ease of growing it once you find a place in your home that doesn’t get drafty.
The plant’s fronds grow in a delicate, light green hue and get darker as the leaves age.
The fronds can grow up to 18 inches in length, and the overall plant can get up to two feet tall and wide. Giving the plant a small amount of sun each day can help the plant become more vivid.
Conversely, a Delta maidenhair grown in full shade will usually produce fronds in a lighter shade of green. Whether placed outside in the shade or inside, the Delta maidenhair needs a good level of humidity and doesn’t like living outside in hardiness zones of less than 10.
Delta Maidenhair Basic Care Guide
When grown as a houseplant, the Delta maidenhair enjoys indirect light during the summer growing season. It can tolerate direct sunlight in the winter. Like other maidenhair varieties, the Delta maidenhair doesn’t enjoy life when its soil is too dry, but it hates sitting in water, too, so well-draining soil is a must.
The Delta maidenhair doesn’t need misting, but it does like humidity. It rarely needs pruning, but you may remove dead leaves as they appear naturally over time. Fertilizer isn’t mandatory to keep the Delta maidenhair alive, but it does benefit from monthly feedings in the summer.
4. Himalayan Maidenhair
About the Himalayan Maidenhair
The Himalayan maidenhair (Adiantum venustum) is a beautiful deciduous fern that remains green all year in mild climates. The fronds are like Delta and California maidenhair ferns and grow into little fan-shaped segments on small branches.
The Himalayan maidenhair fern is one of the smaller options and only grows about six to eight inches tall or about one to three feet wide.
The plant can tolerate a little sun, but you should avoid planting it where it gets a lot of direct afternoon sun. A little bright light in the morning won’t hurt it, but it’s also appropriate to place the Himalayan fern in complete shade, inside or outside.
The Himalayan fern is an excellent option for outside ground cover and is a reasonably hardy addition to your garden.
They’re quite disease and insect-resistant, too. As the name would suggest, the Himalayan maidenhair is native to China and the Himalayas, but it’s a popular garden fern worldwide.
Himalayan Maidenhair Basic Care Guide
The best place to plant Himalayan maidenhair is in the shade, which will help it retain the moisture it loves.
The soil for this plant should remain moist, but the fern mustn’t sit in a pool of water. The plants aren’t dependent on fertilizer but will benefit from one fertilizer application before the growing season begins in the spring.
The only area where this particular fern gets a little testy is when you try to propagate it through division. They don’t respond well to the process unless each part resulting from the division is large and capable of reestablishing itself quickly.
5. Northern Maidenhair Fern
About the Northern Maidenhair Fern
The Northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) looks like the classic one on a forest floor.
The bright green fronds grow in a pleasing circular pattern from shiny black stems. Over time, the fern will naturally spread across the landscape, using creeping rhizomes to increase the size of its colony.
The Northern maidenhair fern is also a beautiful houseplant capable of surviving quite a range of temperatures from hardiness zones three through eight. When left to grow independently, the Northern maidenhair fern will grow anywhere from 12 to 30 inches tall, and each plant can get up to 18 inches wide.
The Northern maidenhair fern looks great in an outdoor container, as well as in a hanging basket inside.
You may also place this classic fern at the base of a tree or as the bottom layer of your lush outdoor landscaping. Healthy Northern maidenhair ferns only get diseases if they remain waterlogged and start to decline in health.
Northern Maidenhair Fern Basic Care Guide
Whether inside or outside, the Northern maidenhair fern doesn’t like full sun and will easily survive a complete shade existence. If the plant sees direct sunlight for a small portion of the day, keep an eye on its soil and ensure it doesn’t get too dry between each watering.
If the Northern maidenhair fern dries out, the plant will not survive for long, so owners must emphasize keeping them moist for survival. The plant doesn’t need a ton of water, but it needs to remain moist, so placing it somewhere humid is a great help.
6. Southern Maidenhair Fern
About the Southern Maidenhair Fern
The Southern maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris) is a popular groundcover and is routinely seen hanging over stone walls and fences in a cascading wall of green. The plant enjoys full shade, but a little sunlight won’t kill it, and it grows easily inside as a houseplant or outside in hardiness zones 8 through 11.
The Southern maidenhair fern is one of the most popular ferns worldwide, appearing naturally in gardens and forests on virtually every continent except Australia and Antarctica.
The Southern maidenhair fern looks similar to the California maidenhair fern and is pretty easy to grow as long as you get the lighting conditions right and don’t allow the plant to dry out.
The Southern maidenhair fern can actually survive drying out. Still, it will eventually become dormant during the growing season and may die eventually without enough water and rehydration. It can remain green all year when grown outside in a mild region.
Southern Maidenhair Fern Basic Care Guide
The Southern maidenhair fern enjoys bright light but sometimes finds it difficult to survive long stretches of direct sunlight. When grown as a houseplant, the Southern maidenhair will enjoy sitting just outside the reach of a bright window.
The fern likes a damp environment, so it’s essential to check the soil regularly to keep it moist.
The plant needs regular watering all year, even when it’s not growing actively in the winter. You don’t need to fertilize Southern maidenhair ferns as long as they get their preferred combo of indirect sunlight and moist soil.
Related: Rosy Maidenhair Fern Care