How to grow and care for maidenhair ferns

View the video

How to grow and care for maidenhair ferns

View the video

Maidenhair fern is a delicate plant with soft, lacy leaves and stems that will grow indoors or in a moist, shady spot in the garden. This is a plant that just loves attention.

What you need to know about a maidenhair fern

Name: maidenhair fern, Adiantum species

Height: can grow to 1m, but are more commonly much smaller, growing to 30cm

Foliage: evergreen, lacy delicate leaves with soft shiny stems.

Climate: cool climate or indoors.

Soil: slightly acid with plenty of organic matter.

Position: protected shade with good drainage.

Feeding: blood and bone or liquid fertilisers during warm months.

Watering: keep moist, but not wet.

maiden hair

Appearance and characteristics of a maidenhair fern

Maidenhair fern has light green delicate foliage on arching brown to brownish black shiny fine stems, growing from underground rhizomes. One of the common indoor varieties is Adiantum raddianum ‘Fragrens’, but for a moist shady spot in the garden, grow the relatively tough Adiantum aethiopicum.

Uses for a maidenhair fern

Maidenhair fern is commonly grown as an indoor plant in a pot or hanging basket in a bright room, away from direct sunlight and draughts. The Adiantum aethiopicum variety can also be grown in the garden, in well-drained soil rich in organic matter, in a cool, shady spot. It looks great next to a pond, or between rocks or pavers in a fernery.

How to plant and grow a maidenhair fern

  1. If you are planting in the garden, make sure you choose a very shaded spot, free of frost with rich, moist, well-drained soil.

  2. To get the best growth, avoid waterlogging or drying out.

  3. If you’re growing your maidenhair fern in a pot, choose one twice the size of your plant, and fill it with good-quality potting mix.

  4. Gently tease out the roots of the plant, then put the plant in the hole.

  5. Backfill, being careful not to plant the crown below soil level, and water in well.

How to care for a maidenhair fern

Maidenhair fern care is pretty straightforward. The most important thing is not to grow it in a room where the climate fluctuates. Maidenhair fern is happiest in places where the warmth and humidity stays the same. Sometimes this involves trial and error—you may need to move the plant around the house until you find just the right spot.  Too little light will result in poor growth and yellow leaves; too much light and it’ll be scorched. Try to find somewhere that gets indirect morning or afternoon sun. If your maidenhair fern starts to brown off, cut the brown fronds back to the base and keep the plant moist.

Caring for a maidenhair fern

Maidenhair fern is one of those plants that you can’t forget to water. If the soil dries out, the fronds will shrivel up and die, almost before your eyes. However, too much water will cause it to rot—small, regular amounts of water are best. If your maidenhair has dried out, cut all of the fronds off at ground level, put it in a shady spot, keep it moist and it may re-shoot. Make sure you back off the watering in winter, and if your fern is in a pot, always check that the pot isn’t sitting in a saucer of water. A self-watering pot could be a good idea. Feed fortnightly in spring and summer with diluted liquid fertiliser, then once in winter and once in autumn.

Diseases and pests affecting a maidenhair fern

Watch out for scale, aphids or mealy bugs. Treat with an appropriate insecticide or pest oil, following the directions on the container. Black spots on the underside of the leaves will most probably be the reproductive spores of the plant, so don’t worry about them. Lack of water or humidity can cause leaf drop, and yellow fronds could be due to overwatering.

How to propagate a maidenhair fern

  1. When re-potting in spring, use a clean knife to cut the roots into pieces with at least two healthy fronds on each.

  2. Plant each piece in a new pot filled with good-quality potting mix with water-saving crystals added, and water well.

If you like this then try

Bird’s nest fern: bright, glossy green fronds from the centre, resembling a bird’s nest.

Hen and chicken fern: a dense fern with feathery foliage, this plant is great for indoors and for cool, moist spots in the garden.

Hare’s foot fern: a great fern for ground covers and hanging baskets; its furry roots on top of the soil resemble a hare’s foot.

Grub fern: great large-leaved fern for temperate and sub-tropical climates.


Start planting today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!

How to build a garden bed 05:37

Planting & Growing How to build a garden bed Transform your outdoor area by learning how to build a garden bed. It’s easy to do, just follow our step-by-step guide.

variety of indoor plants

Planting & Growing Discover 12 plants that are the best for indoors Striking foliage and stunning colour isn’t just reserved for the garden. There’s a wide variety of indoor plants you can use to bring colour and life to your home explains Bunnings Greenlife buyer Katrina Gatt.

Person planting spinach 03:11

Planting & Growing How to grow vegetables Watch our step-by-step guide and find out everything you need to know about how to grow fresh vegetables in your garden.

Person trimming the hedge with battery shears 01:28

Planting & Growing How to trim hedges Hedges are an excellent way to add shape to your garden. Here are a couple of tips to effectively trim and maintain a hedge.

Person putting on protective edging on the raised garden bed 01:38

Planting & Growing How to build a raised garden bed Building a raised garden bed is a simple project you can do yourself. Learn how to build a raised garden bed with this guide from Bunnings Warehouse.

Person adding compost and manure to the soil 02:01

Planting & Growing How to improve sandy soil Good soil is the foundation for any healthy garden. We can show you how to improve sandy soil to retain more nutrients and water.

succulents 02:01

Planting & Growing How to plant and care for succulents Succulents come in a huge range of colours, shapes and sizes, will grow just about anywhere and don’t need much looking after, making them a plant that’s perfect for even the most novice gardener. If you’re new to succulents, here are some tips from...

Person cutting the corrugated edging 03:08

Planting & Growing How to install garden edging Garden edging can help to make your garden beds look neat and tidy. We’ll show you how to install plastic or corrugated garden edging around your garden.


Planting & Growing How to create an allergy-friendly garden If you suffer from hay fever or other allergies, then being out in the garden can, at times, be less than enjoyable. But there are some steps you can take to create an allergy-friendly garden so you can spend more time gardening and less time sneezi...


Planters How to choose the right plant pot Pots are a great way to add colour, interest or texture to your outdoor space. Tuscan Path’s Elaine Foster shares her top tips on how to choose the perfect pot.


Planting & Growing How to plant and care for sunflowers Sunflowers are a great way to add colour to your garden, and they’re easy to grow and care for. Bunnings Greenlife buyer Katie explains the basics of how to grow sunflowers and shares some tips on how to care for them.


Guides & Projects How to upcycle almost any piece of furniture with paint Rather than throwing out old household items, you can restore them with paint. It’s a quick, easy and affordable way to give anything from furniture to fences a new lease on life. Learn how to paint and prepare different surfaces to get the finish y...

DIY balcony and courtyard garden

Planters D.I.Y. balcony and courtyard garden Even if your outdoor space is limited to a balcony or courtyard, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on having a garden. The team at Tuscan Path, who have been supplying pots to the Australian marketplace for over 40 years, share some ideas on how ...

 kitchen benchtop materials

Benchtops & Cabinets A guide to kitchen benchtop materials The perfect benchtop will add style to any kitchen. It’ll also see the most action, so choosing the right benchtop for your kitchen – and budget – is an important decision explains Bunnings Kitchen Designer Ben Carey.

Top of the content