Keeping your Maidenhair Fern happy and healthy

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Maidenhair ferns are undoubtedly one of the favourites for indoor house plants, but can also be one of the harder indoor plants to keep happy and healthy throughout the seasons. Like most high maintenance plants, indoor or outdoor, maidenhair ferns both prefer indirect sunlight and a moist environment. Both of which can be very hard to keep constant throughout each season, particularly if your region has hot summers and/or very cold summers.

Popularity and placement

Maidenhair ferns are popular for their small, numerous leaves that dangle from the centre of the plant on long, bright green fronds. The leaves are delicate, move in the breeze and can soften up any area of the home they are placed in. Ideally not placed in front of a window, near a heating source (these can cause larger temperature fluctuations) or in the middle of the room they can still do really well in a bathroom, or atop a bookcase. While I would love to have a maidenhair fern in our en suite, we do not quite have enough shelving or space among the toothbrushes, makeup and hair straightener.

Sunlight and draughts

Having one of these ferns atop a bookcase, or table that is against a wall (especially if it is in the corner of a room) allows you to develop a relatively humid environment, while still protecting the fern on a few sides. Of course this makes the plant a tad harder to water, or mist, which of course you need to do regularly.

Watering

I am a firm believer that plants, like people do well with routine. Particularly where watering is involved. Maidenhair ferns can do well in pots with draining holes, and placed in a dish that can hold a bit of additional water. They do not like wet feet however, so it is best to water the plant and let it drain through completely before returning it to its ‘home’. I have chosen a 15cm pot with no draining holes as do not mind the daily care for this fern. With watering, you need to remember this is a fern! It is used to being a ground-cover plant in a forest. So think dark, damp and relatively warm under leaf cover. If you keep this in mind it will help with your care of the plant. For my 15cm, about 3-4L pot I give the maidenhair fern about 200mls of water every second day, and do a 3-4 spray misting on alternate days. As we have hot summers some years, I do a bit of extra misting in the summer.

Re-potting and propagation

Due to their delicate, yet graceful foliage, they do not do well with re-potting. Try and pick a pot that is slightly larger than the plant when you purchase so it has some room to grow. This will give you more time, hopefully months to years before it needs re-potting. If your pot has drainage holes, once you see roots growing out the bottom that are 2cm in length then you will need to re-pot as it is getting too large for the pot, and will struggle to get the nutrients that it needs. At this point, you can also separate the plant into sections of roots for smaller plants, this process is called ‘dividing’. With 3-4 fronds and root systems per bunch, you can establish a number of new plants.

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