Southern Maidenhair Fern: Complete Care And Growing Guide

The delicate adiantum capillus-veneris, or maidenhair fern is a great addition to a woodland garden or indoor plant collection.

A potted southern maidenhair fern
(Image credit: zhuyongming / Getty Images)

Quick Southern Maidenhair Fern Facts:

  • Botanical name: Adiantum capillus-veneris
  • Height: 10 inches to 2 feet (25 cm to 0.6 m)
  • Spread: 10 inches to 2 feet (25 cm to 0.6 m)
  • Sun exposure: Part shade to deep shade
  • Soil requirements: Moist, neutral-to-alkaline, well-drained, organic rich soil
  • Hardiness zones: USDA 6-9; UK H3
  • When to plant: Spring, after frost has passed

What Is A Southern Maidenhair Fern?

Southern maidenhair fern is a delicate, sprawling fern that requires specific growing conditions to do well. Also called Venus maidenhair fern or Venus hair fern, Adiantum capillus-veneris is hardy in USDA zones 6-9. With protection, it may survive to zone 5.

Its light green, deciduous leaves are fan-shaped with lobed edges on arching, black stems, which lends itself to another common name - black maidenhair. The fern does not bloom but produces reproductive spores on the undersides of its leaves. It is native to temperate and tropical areas worldwide.

Southern maidenhair fern is suitable for container culture, woodland gardens, naturalized areas or native plantings.

How To Grow And Care For A Southern Maidenhair Fern

At home among wet limestone rocks, maidenhair fern can thrive in the following conditions:


Maidenhair fern requires part shade, such as dappled shade under a tree, to full shade. Too much sunlight will burn the fronds.


Venus maidenhair needs constant moisture but in well-draining soil. Do not let the soil completely dry out or the fern will die back quickly. Water it consistently in spring and summer, but reduce the water in winter while it is not growing.

Temperature & Humidity

Humidity is preferred with mild temperatures. Hot, dry wind can damage the fern.


The maidenhair fern’s soil can be neutral to slightly alkaline in sandy, loamy, or amended clay, and it requires soil that is well-draining. It prefers moist soil that is rich in organic matter.


Indoors, you can fertilize maidenhair fern with a diluted houseplant fertilizer every three weeks. Do not over-fertilize. Outdoor ferns can be fertilized in spring after new growth begins. Use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer to prevent over-fertilization.

Problems, Pests & Diseases

The maidenhair fern is relatively disease and pest-free. Avoid spraying the fern with insecticide, which can kill it. Too much sun may scorch the leaves. Deer generally avoid maidenhair fern.

How to Plant a Southern Maidenhair Fern

Plant maidenhair fern in well-draining soil high in organic matter in a shady to partly-shady location. Plant it as deep as it was in the container. Water well and mulch to help keep the soil moist and roots shaded.


To control the size of this plant, simply cut it back to the desired size. Cutting it back also will stimulate new growth.


You can propagate maidenhair fern by rhizome division in early spring every three to five years. (This is the preferred method for home gardeners.)

Ripe spores from the plant can be propagated on a humus-rich medium. Keep the medium moist and preferably covered with a plastic bag over the container. Spores should germinate within 6 weeks. Pot up the new plantlets as soon as they can be handled. Keep them indoors for two years.

How to Grow a Southern Maidenhair Fern Indoors

Grow maidenhair fern indoors with indirect light, a humid environment, average indoor temperatures, and constant moisture. Do not allow the fern to dry out. Mist it daily or set the pot on a tray of pebbles with about ¼ inch of water. You also can increase humidity by keeping the fern in a cache pot. Fill the space between the two containers with moist sphagnum moss.

Keep the fern away from heat and air conditioning vents. Ferns can do well in a terrarium.


Repot southern maidenhair fern when roots begin to show on the surface of the soil or roots emerge from the drainage holes.


If the maidenhair fern is not hardy in your area, it can be overwintered indoors. Bring it inside before freezing temperatures arrive in the fall and treat it as a houseplant during the winter.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Difference Between Northern and Southern Maidenhair Ferns?

Northern maidenhair ferns (Adiantum pedatum L.) are more cold hardy than southern maidenhair, typically to zone 3. The leaves resemble a foot rather than a fan. It also thrives in rich soil in a shaded situation.

Why Is My Maidenhair Fern Turning Brown?

Maidenhair fern will die back quickly if it is allowed to dry out. It may regrow from the base.

Susan Albert

After graduating from Oklahoma State University with a degree in English, Susan pursued a career in communications. In addition, she wrote garden articles for magazines and authored a newspaper gardening column for many years. She contributed South-Central regional gardening columns for four years to While living in Oklahoma, she served as a master gardener for 17 years.