Maidenhair Fern: A Hard to Kill Houseplant

One of my favorite plants is the maidenhair fern. Though there are many species of maidenhairs, I particularly like Adiantum capillus-veneris for it’s arching delicate fronds and the contrasting dark, almost black wiry stems. Many say that this plant is only hardy to zone 7a, but I do grow it in my 6a garden. It’s somewhat sheltered and near the house, so maybe there is a small microclimate which allows it to thrive.  Maidenhair Ferns also make wonderful houseplants, and they are pretty hard to kill.

Maidenhair Fern

This delicate beauty is easy to grow indoors and out.

Many plants can be brought inside for the winter. Here are 5 basic tips to consider when bringing them indoors.

I also grow it in a pot on my shady front porch every year and bring it in for the winter. Inside, it sits in my office near a sunny curtained window. At first it will brown up a little as it gets used to the transition, but all I do is cut back the dying foliage and it bounces right back with new growth.

The maidenhair fern is a great choice for indoor gardening. The most interesting fact is its ability to bounce back from the dead.

Brown foliage can easily be cut back and new growth will form

The maidenhair fern is a great choice for indoor gardening. The most interesting fact is its ability to bounce back from the dead.

Maidenhair Fern New Growth

The name Adiantum capillus-veneris comes from the Greek “Adiantum” which means “not-wetting,” the Latin capillus for “hair,” and veneris for Venus, the goddess of love. This came about due to two characteristics of the plant. One is the fact that the surface of the leaves has a waxy layer which allows water to bead up, and the second refers to the shiny black stems that resemble a maiden’s hair. So Adiantum capillus-veneris become commonly known as Venus Maidenhair, and also Southern Maidenhair, as the plant is native to the southern parts of the U.S.

 The maidenhair fern is a great choice for indoor gardening. The most interesting fact is its ability to bounce back from the dead.

One important fact: This plant hates to dry out. I water it every 2-3 days. If you forget to water it and it looks bad, try cutting it back and watering well. It has an amazing Lazarus effect of returning from the dead. How great is that? I have also read that this fern has been used to treat a variety of ailments, like so many plants, but I’m just happy to enjoy its beauty.
Makers Mix Planters - Maiden Hair Fern in pot

The maidenhair fern is a great choice for indoor gardening. The most interesting fact is its ability to bounce back from the dead., making it a hard to kill houseplant.

About Patti Estep

Patti is the creator of Hearth and Vine, a home and garden blog filled with projects to inspire your creative side. She loves crafting, gardening, decorating and entertaining at her home in Pennsylvania. When she is not working on a project at home or searching for treasures at nurseries and thrift stores with her girlfriends, you’ll probably find her with family and friends, at a restaurant, or home party enjoying new and different food adventures.

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Comments

  1. This fern is a favorite of mine. I love how delicate it is. Great information, house plants that is an area where I fail. I guess it’s because our warm weather out numbers the cold. Great post.

    Carole @ Garden Up green

    • Thank you Carole. Don’t give up on the Maidenhair. Just cut it back and give it lots of water. Houseplants can be difficult but it is so nice to have some fresh greens in the house during the frigid winter we have here in PA.

  2. Gorgeous! Me and plants are enemies. I could actually kill a plastic plant. lol! Whether it’s out on my balcony which gets nice warm sunny days in the summer or inside near a window in the winter. I kill it. But I vowel not to give up and each year I purchase a plant that is sworn not to die even in my deadly hands. Then family and friends all take bets on how long it will take me to kill it. The longest was just shy of 2 weeks. I am in awe and a tad jealous of people with green thumbs. But a home needs plants so I just buy artificial ones that look really real or create beautiful ones from card stock. Maybe I will give one of these ferns a try.

    I miss the frigid Pa., winters and snow.

    • Hi Sandra,

      You should definitely give this guy a try. It likes a fair amount of water but as I said, if you find it’s browning out just cut it back and it will spring back to life. I also think it like humidity. I think I’ve read where it makes a good bathroom plant. Also, most people kill a plant or two. I certainly have and most have been houseplants. I forget if I watered them and often water too much which will certainly kill them. 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by,
      Patti

  3. This is so encouraging, Patti. I bought a Maidenhair fern at a garden show a couple of years ago. I was smitten by it’s gorgeous, delicate-looking foliage. Sadly, it didn’t survive my haphazard care. I was so disappointed, but you’ve encouraged me to try again. I probably failed to water it enough. My research afterwards pointed to that.
    I’m kind of yearning for some green in the house about now, anyway. Thanks for sharing your beautiful fern.

    • Hi Karen,

      Yes, the maidenhair does seems to love water but it really seems to back bounce well even when it looks like you’ve kill it. Last year when we went on vacation my daughter was supposed to water mine but forgot so it looked really bad but then I cut back all of the browning branches and it started producing new fronds. I’d definitely recommend trying it again.

      Happy New Year!
      Patti

  4. I love maidenhair ferns – probably my favorite plant, HOWEVER I have killed too many to count. I think it has to be an indoor plant here in CT, I since we get below freezing temperatures in winter. The first time I saw this plant was in CA, and the woman who had it told me it was hard to grow. She had it indoors. Since I normally have a green thumb, I couldn’t wait to get home & buy one. But, as I say, I have killed far too many to count. Now I am encouraged to give it yet another try. i didn’t realize that if I cut back the dead ferns it would come back to life! Thank you!

    • Hi Martha,

      Yes, this has worked for me. It does seem to like water or a humid environment but when I’ve had times where the fronds turned brown I just cut them back to an inch from the soil and new fronds grew. This happened to me a couple of times. Especially when I was moving it from outside to the indoors for winter. The one in the garden is in a protected spot and it does get very lush. I should probably dig it up next year and plant it in a pot.
      Good luck and thanks for stopping by,
      Patti

  5. Hi Patti I just bought a maiden hair fern but it is almost all brown! It has new growth in the bottom but should I cut all of it? Thanks!

    • Hi Sofy,

      Yes, cut back the brown and keep an eye on the watering and it should bounce back. They like it a little on the wet side but make sure they do not sit in water. I usually water mine 2x a week as opposed to once a week or less for all of my other plants. This may vary depend on the humidity and light in your home.
      Hope this helps,
      Patti

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