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Adiantum spp. (a-dee-AN-tum)
Maidenhair fern, Maidenhair
Most maidenhair ferns are distinguished by their billowy fronds
of delicate, green leaves shaped like miniature fans on thin
black, hairlike stalks that connect to smooth, black main
stalks. Some species lack individual stalks and have larger,
more oblong or triangular leaves.
As potted plants, maidenhair ferns can live for years with the
proper care. Maidenhair ferns also are used as landscape plants
in mild, humid climates. The delicate fronds are popular as a
cut foliage in floral design, in which case the average vase
life is three to seven days.
These ferns are available year-round.
IN-STORE AND CONSUMER CARE
WATER The soil should not be
allowed to dry out. Water thoroughly from spring through fall
and less during the winter.
LIGHT Bright, indirect light
TEMPERATURE Average room
temperature, from 60 F to 75 F, is best. Avoid temperatures
below 55 F.
HUMIDITY High humidity,
rarely dropping below 50 percent, is ideal for maidenhair ferns.
Frequent misting is suggested. Bathrooms can provide a suitably
moist environment, and terrariums are another good option.
Other ways to increase humidity are to use a pebble tray or to
display plants in pot groups, where the plants stand close
together and the air trapped between them will hold more
FERTILIZER Feed maidenhair
ferns from midspring through summer with houseplant fertilizer,
at half strength.
PROPOGATION Maidenhair ferns
can be propagated by dividing the plants after they have
produced rhizomes (typically in early spring).
PESTS AND PROBLEMS Scale
insects, mealybugs and spider mites are potential pests.
Pesticides are not recommended because they can damage fern
leaves. Clip off badly infested fronds, and, for mites or
mealybugs, clean the plant thoroughly with a cotton swab or in
the shower twice a week for two weeks. For scale, after clipping
off major infestations, use tweezers to remove individual
PRUNING Prune away any dead
or yellowing fronds to encourage new growth.
LEAF PROBLEMS Overwatering
will cause leaves to turn yellow; underwatering will cause
fronds to droop and wilt. Brown leaves are a sign that the
humidity is too low although fronds also naturally turn brown as
they age and should be clipped from the plant. Brown patches on
fern leaves mean the plant is too cold and wet.
FAMILY Adiantums are members
of the Adiantaceae family. Common relatives include staghorn (Platycerium),
brake (Pteris) and sword (Nephrolepis) ferns as well as
HOME SWEET HOME The genus
Adiantum comprises more than 200 species, which are found in all
but very cold regions of the world. Most Adiantums are native to
the American tropics.
WHAT'S IN A NAME The genus
Adiantum is from the Greek word “adiantos,” which means unwetted.
These ferns are aptly named because the leaflets repel water;
when their fronds are plunged into water, they emerge dry.
GIVE THEM A BREAK Tobacco
smoke and other chemical air pollutants can harm ferns, so keep
their air clean.
MEDICINAL FAME Herbalists
have long regarded maidenhair ferns as having medicinal
qualities, including the incorrect belief, perhaps from the
name, that they would prevent hair loss. Today teas or syrups
made from the plants are used to treat ailments including
bronchitis, congestion and sore throats.
Some information provided by:
Botanica, by R.G. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
The Chain of Life Network,
The Complete Guide to Conservatory Plants by Ann Bonar
The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual by Barbara Pleasant
Dictionary of Plant Names, by Allen J. Coombes
The House Plant Expert by Dr. D.G. Hessayon
Stearn’s Dictionary of Plant Names, by William T. Stearn
You may reach Foliage Plant of the Month writer Amy Bauer by
email@example.com or by phone at (800)
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