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Maidenhair Fern

Most are of tropical origin; some are western natives. All form spreading clumps over time. Stems are thin, wiry, and dark. Fronds are finely cut; leaflets are mostly fan shaped, bright green, thin textured. Plants need steady moisture and soil rich in organic matter. Protect from snails and slugs. Most maidenhair ferns die back to some extent in winter. Kinds listed as indoor or greenhouse plants may succeed in sheltered outdoor spots in mild-winter areas.

Adiantum aleuticum (photo courtesy of Jim McCausland)
Adiantum aleuticum (photo courtesy of Jim McCausland)

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Adiantum aleuticum

Native to western North America and eastern Asia. Fronds fork to make a fingerlike pattern atop slender stems reaching 1–2 1/2 ft. tall. General effect is airy and fresh. Excellent choice for containers or shaded beds.

Adiantum capillus-veneris

Native to tropical and warm temperate regions worldwide. Plants grow to 1 1/2 ft. tall and about as wide. Fronds are twice divided but not forked; leaflets are small and fan-shaped. This dainty-looking fern is actually quite durable and easy to grow.

Adiantum hispidulum

Indoor or greenhouse plant. To 1 ft. tall. Young fronds rosy brown, turning medium green as they mature. Resembles A. aleuticum.

Adiantum pedatum (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)
Adiantum pedatum (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)

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Adiantum pedatum

From eastern North America, this is closely related to A. aleuticum, with similar fronds and shiny black stems. This delicate-looking fern often grows out of rock in the mist of waterfalls. Fronds grow 12–24 in., cluster on clumping rhizomes. It is very cold-hardy and spreads nicely beneath deciduous trees.

Adiantum raddianum

Native to Brazil. Indoor or greenhouse plant. Fronds are cut three or four times and are 15–18 in. long. There are many named sorts, differing in texture and compactness. Grow in containers; move outdoors to a sheltered, shaded patio for summer. Commonly sold are ‘Fritz Luth’, ‘Gracillimum’ (very finely cut), and ‘Pacific Maid’.

Adiantum venustum

Chinese native to 8 in. high. Young fronds are bright bronzy pink, maturing to medium green. Spreads slowly to form a 3–5-ft. clump. Shear in late winter to encourage new growth.

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