It would be hard to imagine daintier, more graceful ferns than the maidenhairs. Most hail from the tropics, but some originate in North America. Dark, thin, wiry stems hold delicate, finely cut fronds. In most types, the individual leaflets are bright green and fan shaped. Most resist deer.
Maidenhairs typically need rich organic soil, steady moisture, and shade. Tender species are useful as houseplants. Provide bright filtered or indirect light and apply a general-purpose liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength once a month in spring and summer.
A. capillus-veneris. SOUTHERN MAIDENHAIR. Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11. Native to North America. To 112 ft. tall and 16 in. wide; fronds twice divided but not forked. Easy to grow. Best in slightly alkaline soil or shaded containers. 'Fan Dance' grows only 6 in. tall, spreading to 2 ft.
A. hispidulum. ROSY MAID-ENHAIR. Zone TS; USDA 10-11. Native to tropics of Asia, Africa. To 1 ft. tall and wide. Young fronds rosy brown, turning medium green, shaped somewhat like those of A. pedatum. Good indoor or greenhouse plant.
A. pedatum. AMERICAN MAIDENHAIR FERN, NORTHERN MAIDENHAIR. Zones US, MS. LS; USDA 6-8. Native to North America. Fronds fork to make a fingerlike pattern atop slender, 1- to 212-ft. stems; clumps grow about as wide as high. General effect is airy and fresh. Excellent in containers or shaded beds.
A. peruvianum. SILVER DOLLAR MAIDENHAIR. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. Native to Peru. To 1 ft. or more tall and about as wide. Leaflets quite large, to 2 in. wide. Good choice for indoors or in greenhouse.
A. raddianum (A. cuneatum). Zone TS; USDA 10-11. Native to Brazil. Fronds cut three or four times, 1518 in. long. There are many named types, differing in texture and compactness. Grow in pots; move outdoors to a sheltered, shaded patio in summer. Selections commonly sold are 'Fritz Lthi', 'Gracillimum' (most finely cut), and 'Pacific Maid'. Good indoors or in greenhouse.
A. tenerum. WRIGHTII MAIDENHAIR FERN. Zone TS; USDA 10-11. Native to New World tropics. Grows about 2 ft. tall, 3 ft. wide. Long, broad fronds arch gracefully, are finely divided into many deeply cut segments -34 in. wide. In cooler areas, can be grown indoors or in greenhouse.
A. venustum. HIMALAYAN MAIDENHAIR. Zones US, MS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11. Chinese native to 8 in. high. Young fronds are bright bronzy pink, maturing to medium green. Grows slowly but forms a 3-ft.-wide clump in 5 to 10 years.