Why is Your Maidenhair Fern Turning Brown

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Hi Judy!

I received a maiden hair fern as a gift and it seems to be struggling. I constantly keep the soil moist and try and keep it out of direct sunlight but it seems to be browning in sections. I am not sure if this is due to lack of sunlight, insufficient watering or excess watering. Also, should I trim back the brown leaves or let them grow out? Any advice would be welcome, thank you!


Hi Maddy,

A Maidenhair Fern is a very picky and demanding plant. It likes bright, indirect light, but afternoon sun burns the fronds. These plants like barely moist soil and never want to totally dry out, but too much water causes root rot and fungal diseases. Feed every 2 weeks during the late fall and early spring (Sept-March) with a liquid plant food diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength. Too much plant food burns the leaves. Never feed in the winter, late spring, or summer.

A Maidenhair Fern has delicate fronds covered in tiny, triangular, green leaflets.

Consistent humidity is very important. Maidenhair ferns prefer high humidity but do not like to be misted. Placing them on a pebble tray filled with water is the best solution. Be sure the plant is sitting on the pebbles and not in the water. Dry air causes the leaflets on the fronds to shrivel. Maidenhair ferns need consistent temperatures. They can handle warmth or cold, but prefer warm areas. Never place a maidenhair fern where the temperature fluctuates constantly.

You can read all my care tips for a Maidenhair Fern in the Popular Houseplant section of the website.