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Publication #FPS13

Adiantum spp. Maidenhair Fern1

Edward F. Gilman2


This extremely fine-textured, delicate, airy fern is a graceful addition to shady, moist outdoor landscapes or bright, indirect light locations indoors. Its light grey-green, soft foliage adds a quieting feeling to any landscape, particularly around a water feature in the garden. It is best planted in mass on two- to three-foot centers, but can be used as an edging or specimen in a small garden area. A North American native, maidenhair fern also makes an excellent groundcover, spreading easily on creeping stems.

General Information

Scientific name: Adiantum spp.
Pronunciation: ad-ee-AN-tum species
Common name(s): maidenhair fern
Family: Adiantaceae
Plant type: perennial; herbaceous
USDA hardiness zones: 9 through 11 (Figure 1)
Planting month for zone 9: year round
Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round
Origin: native to Florida
Uses: mass planting; container or above-ground planter; ground cover; edging
Availablity: grown in small quantities by a small number of nurseries

Figure 1. 

Shaded area represents potential planting range.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Height: 2 to 3 feet
Spread: 2 to 3 feet
Plant habit: weeping; round
Plant density: moderate
Growth rate: slow
Texture: fine


Leaf arrangement: most emerge from the soil, usually without a stem
Leaf type: odd-pinnately compound
Leaf margin: serrate
Leaf shape: orbiculate; ovate
Leaf venation: parallel
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: less than 2 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no fall color change
Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: no flowers
Flower characteristic: no flowers


Fruit shape: no fruit
Fruit length: no fruit
Fruit cover: no fruit
Fruit color: no fruit
Fruit characteristic: no fruit

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: not applicable
Current year stem/twig color: not applicable
Current year stem/twig thickness: not applicable


Light requirement: plant grows in the shade
Soil tolerances: occasionally wet; clay; sand; acidic; loam
Drought tolerance:
Soil salt tolerances: poor
Plant spacing: 18 to 24 inches


Roots: not applicable
Winter interest: no special winter interest
Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests

Use and Management

Needing above-average humidity, maidenhair fern grows in partial to full shade on well-drained soils with high organic matter but does not tolerate dry soil. The southern maidenhair and brittle maidenhair grow best in alkaline soils while others grow best in acid soils. It will cascade over the side of a container in a shady garden spot.

Some of the available species include: Adiantum capillusveneris, southern maidenhair, 1.5 feet tall; A. hispidulum, rosy maidenhair, one-foot-tall, young fronds rosy brown; A. pedatum, western maidenhair, 1 to 2.5 feet tall, most popular one grown; and A. peruvianum, silver dollar maidenhair, 1.5 feet or more tall, leaf segments quite large, up to 2 inches wide.

Propagation is by division or spores.

Pests and Diseases

Problems include scale, mites, mealy bugs, snails, and slugs, but are usually not serious.

Maidenhair fern is susceptible to root rot in soil that is kept too wet.



This document is FPS13, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at


Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.