According to plant coach and urban farmer Nick Cutsumpas, fine-leaved ferns like the Maidenhair can be hard to keep happy. “Their leaves are so delicate that any dry conditions (be it too much direct sun, or a missed watering) can lead to intense leaf shedding,” Cutsumpas tells mbg.
Alessia Resta of Apartment Botanist goes so far as to say that the Maidenhair fern is the one plant she’ll never purchase again. “I really love other ferns like the Bird’s nest and Boston fern,” she adds, “but the Maidenhair is one I would say to avoid–especially if you’re starting out and wanting to strengthen your ‘plant confidence.'”
With that being said, if you are up to the challenge of caring for these delicate beauties, placing them in the right spot is key. “Make sure to keep the fern in indirect light and high humidity,” says Cutsumpas. Since ferns are understory plants that love moisture, they typically do well in bathrooms that get natural light. In addition to consistent humidity, thirsty Maidenhairs also need a good soak every few days. Whenever the top of their soil feels slightly dry to the touch, it’s time to water.
If your fern’s foliage does eventually end up falling off or shriveling up into a crispy brown or yellow mess, don’t be discouraged! It happens to nearly everybody, and yogi and plant lover Roos Kocken adds that not all hope is lost. Houseplants can be surprisingly resilient, so once you diagnose the problem–be it too little water or not enough humidity–she says you may be able to nurse your finicky fern back to life.