Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 1271 Adiantum capillus-veneris

Common Names: southern maidenhair fern,maidenhair fern,Venus maidenhair Family: Pteridaceae (maidenhair fern Family)

southern maidenhair fern
Southern maidenhair fern in the Steve's North Florida (Zone 8) woodland garden.


There are around 200 species of maidenhair ferns, genus Adiantum. The southern maidenhair fern, A. capillus-veneris, is one of the better known species and one of just a handful that are frequently found in cultivation. Southern maidenhair fern has lacy, delicate looking fronds that arch up and out from slender, creeping, much branched rhizomes. The fronds are roughly triangular in outline and usually around 1-2 ft (30-60 cm) in length and around 10 in (25 cm) in width. They are pale green with shiny dark brown to black wirelike petioles and they arch handsomely over the shallow rhizomes. Maidenhair fronds are two to three pinnate and the individual pinnae are fan shaped.

Several cultivars are available. ‘Fimbriatum’ has deeply cut, fingerlike segments. ‘Imbricatum’ has cascading fronds.


Adiantum capillus-veneris is a cosmopolitan species, occurring naturally in Austral-Asia, Polynesia, and in warm-temperate to subtropical and tropical regions on every continent except Antarctica. This is the only species of Adiantum that occurs in Europe. Maidenhair ferns grow in partial shade, often on rock outcrops or along the edges of streams or in woodland margins.


Maidenhair ferns likes a moist, alkaline soil, and you should add some dolomite, limestone chips or powdered lime to the growing medium. Light: Whereas many fern species like a shady environment, the maidenhair ferns like bright, indirect or filtered light in an airy position. In nature they usually are found growing in brightly lit spots within otherwise shady forests. In the home they do best near a north facing window. Moisture: : Maidenhair ferns like high humidity, but also need good air circulation. They don’t like to have their tops stay wet for long and quickly develop fungus problems if they stay wet. Water abundantly during the growing season, and less when dormant. Container-grown plants are best watered from below. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 11. Maidenhair fern remains evergreen if temperatures stay above freezing, but is deciduous when it gets cooler. Propagation: The rhizomes can be divided to make new plants. Be sure there are some rootlets on the rhizome piece. Growing ferns from spores is a relatively complex endeavor, but not beyond the capability of the amateur gardener. Maidenhair fern is one of the easiest of ferns to propagate from spores.

southern maidenhair fern
Maidenhair fern thrives next to the water cooler in a brightly lite corner of a retail office.


The delicate maidenhair fern is among the prettiest of the cultivated ferns. The lacy foliage works well as a backdrop for other semi-shade loving plants. They do well in hanging baskets, rock gardens, shady borders and woodland margins. Maidenhairs are not easy to grow indoors. They don’t like dry air. They are, however, well suited to a hanging pot in the bathroom so long as there is bright light (but not direct sun) from a nearby window. Good results sometimes can be had by growing maidenhairs in a terrarium, but there is still the possibility of too much moisture on the foliage, which can result in fungus problems and a quick death. It is amazing how fast a maidenhair fern will die if it finds something it doesn't like!

The fronds of maidenhair ferns are often used in arrangements, and are popular among florists. Native Americans used an infusion of maidenhair fern as a lotion on spider bites and insect stings. It was also taken internally as a treatment for rheumatism.


Southern maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris) is a protected species in some American states where it is at the periphery of its natural distribution.

Northern maidenhair fern (A. pedatum), native to North America from Nova Scotia and British Columbia, south to Georgia to Arkansas, differs in having the fronds held erect and branching into two parts. It is more cold hardy and not so dependent on alkaline soil either. Other important maidenhair ferns commonly found in cultivation are two tropical American species: Adiantum raddiantum (delta maidenhair fern) and A. tenerum (brittle maidenhair fern). They both do better in indoor containers than does the southern maidenhair.

Steve Christman9/12/16

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Adiantum species profiled on Floridata:

Adiantum capillus-veneris

( southern maidenhair fern,maidenhair fern,Venus maidenhair )

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