Maidenhair Fern
Adiantum capillus-veneris

Genus Adiantum

Species capillus-veneris

Common Names

  • Black maidenhair
  • Common maidenhair
  • Maidenhair fern
  • Southern maidenhair
  • Venus' hair fern

Plant Characteristics

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Non-Woody, Clumping

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Fern/Fern-like, Medium, 1 to 3
  • Fern/Fern-like, Tall, Greater than 3

Mature Size, Width

spread from 1 to 2 feet or more.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Ground Cover
  • Hanging Basket
  • Indoor
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

This graceful fern is excellent for shady, moist situations where many other plants may not thrive. If conditions are continually moist, new ferns will appear.

Maidenhair fern can be used as a beautiful indoor plant in either a standard pot or a hanging basket with semi-shady to indirect sunlight locations and good moisture.

In moist conditions under cultivation, they can be found as a volunteer coming up in other plant pots, in the soil beneath a nursery bench, on moss covered concrete bricks, or debris filled crotches of trees. 

This fern appears to have a high tolerance for limestone (calcium carbonate) soils and may explain why it does so well on wet, mossy concrete bricks.

Source of Fragrance

  • No Fragrance

Plant Produces Flowers


 Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green
  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

New fronds or fiddles are pinkish-salmon to reddish. Some fronds will turn fall foiliage colors with hues of pink, salmon, red...enhancing to the beauty of this graceful fern. The stems are jet back and stiff.

 Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Scale and mealybugs.

 Growth Requirements


Occasional oragnic fertilizers, about once or twice a month, can be used as a foliar or drench.

Limestone (pH 8.0) may be added to enrich the soil and increase alkalinity.

Pruning Information

Cut off dead frond material for a clean appearance.

Water Requirements

  • Moist
  • Wet

Additional Water Information

Does best from moist to wet conditions and should be watered daily or monitored for constant moisture.

If it is deprived of water for short periods of time, the fronds will go limp and eventually die back. If this happens, trim off dead plant material and resume watering. Do not cut off the center growth or any emerging fronds (fiddles) as this can cause irreversable damage. New shoots will form and your plant will usually return to its former glory. However, if the plants have not been watered over long a period of time, chances are that it may not recover.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Partial sun
  • Shade

Spacing Information

If used as a groundcover, space them at a foot or more. With sufficent moisture this fern will produce many keiki.


  • Waterlogged Soil


  • Cinder
  • Organic
  • Coral


While maidenhair fern will tolerate waterlogged soil for short periods of time, it should still have a well-drained potting media and sufficient drain holes in the pot.

Special Growing Needs

As previously mentioned, maidenhair fern has a rather high tolerance for alkaline soils. Additonal limestone should be added to acidic soils.

Requires constant moisture to thrive well.

 Environmental Information

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • Less than 150, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 150 to 1000, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 150 to 1000, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 1000 to 1999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 1000 to 1999, Greater than 100 (Wet)


  • Epiphyte
  • Lithophyte
  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

In some parts of the U.S.A. such as Kentucky, it is threatened, and in North Carolina it is endangered.


The Greek genus name, adiantos, means unwetted, and ancient name alluding to the water-repellent fronds.

The Latin species name comes from capillus, hair, and venereus, of Venus.

Background Information

Early Uses :

Maidenhair fern has been used to some extent by diverse cultures around the world such as Brazil, China, Egypt, England, Haiti, India, Iraq, Lesotho, Mexico, Native Americans (Navajo, Skokomish, Cherokee, Iriquois), Peru, Spain, Turkey, Venezuela, and the U.S.

The ancient Greeks made tea from the this fern as an expectorant for coughs. European medieval herbalists used it for treating severe respiratory such as for pleurisy, but it was not very effective since the fern is not a potent herb for this medical use.

The 18th-century herbalist K'Eogh stated: "It helps cure asthma, coughs, and shortness of breath. It is good against jaundice, diarrhea, spitting of blood and the biting of mad dogs. It also provokes urination and menstruation and breaks up stone in the bladder, spleen and kidneys."

Modern Use

This fern is still used and prescribed by herbalists worldwide for treating coughs, bronchitis, reducing excess mucus, chronic nasal congestion, and to ease sore throats.

They also make very attractive hanging basket plants.


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Maidenhair Fern

Rebecca Jordi
Horticulture Agent IV
County Extension Director
Contributing Editor