Adiantum spp.

maidenhair ferns


Adiantum spp.

L. 1753

pronounced: ADD-ee-an-tum species

(Pteridaceae — the maidenhair fern family)

common name: maidenhair fern

Adiantum is derived from the Greek αδιαντος (adiantos), unwetted – the fronds repel water. There are some 200 species and many cultivars, a small selection of which is described in other pages of this website. These ferns are attractive soft and lacy plants, and very rewarding to grow. They have one major drawback: if they are allowed to dry out, the foliage quickly browns and the plant appears to die. They will recover, however, given the right care.

They are finely foliaged, and most species can grow to about a metre in height, but are normally smaller. They grow from underground rhizomes and, when mature, have black or brownish leaf stalks from which the fronds unfold to show their apple-green leaflets. New leaflets are a light green, and darken as they age. The range of leaf shapes and growth habits is large. Various species and cultivars are much used as filler foliage in flower arrangements and bouquets.

Maidenhair ferns like:

  • to be kept moist;
  • to be brightly lit when indoors, but to be in a very shady spot if outdoors;
  • to be sheltered and away from draughts.

Maidenhair ferns hate:

  • to dry out, even for a few hours;
  • frost;
  • dark positions when inside – but don't put them in direct sunlight, which can burn them;
  • draughts.

If a fern dries out and turns brown, it should be cut off a ground level while still in the pot, and then put outside in a shady spot, where it will usually regenerate after a few months. If it has only just begun to dry out, plunge the pot into a bucket of water, keeping it submerged until air bubbles stop rising to the surface. Problems with drying out can usually be avoided by keeping the ferns in self-watering pots.

Reproduction is from spores, produced and contained in sporangia, which are grouped into clusters known as sori, on the outer edges of the leaf’s lower surface. The edges of the leaves fold over to form a false indusium.

Photographs taken 2014, Picnic Bay

Page last updated 26th September 2018