How to Grow Maidenhair Fern from Spores: Expert Guide

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Maidenhair ferns are delicate, beautiful plants that can add a touch of elegance to any indoor or outdoor space. However, if you have ever tried to propagate them from divisions, you might have experienced some difficulty. An alternative, lesser-known method for propagating these graceful plants is by using their spores. This approach may seem intimidating at first, but with some patience and the right techniques, you can successfully grow your own maidenhair fern from spores.

Ferns reproduce differently from other plants, as they do not produce seeds but rather release spores to generate new ferns. These spores, which appear as brown-black bumps called sori on the underside of the leaves, are typically produced during the summer months. Look for fronds with plump, fuzzy spores, as this indicates a higher success rate for propagation.

Now that you are familiar with identifying spores, the next step is learning how to cultivate them properly to grow your own maidenhair fern. This process involves creating a suitable environment, selecting the right medium, and maintaining the proper conditions to ensure the spores thrive. With attention to detail and some patience, you’ll be able to grow and enjoy your very own maidenhair fern from spores.

Maidenhair Fern Basics


Maidenhair ferns are known for their delicate, light green compound leaves made up of small leaflets. Some species and varieties showcase new growth in pink or red, which eventually turns green as they mature. A notable feature of these ferns is their striking, shiny black leaf stalks (petioles) that contrast with the green foliage Better Homes & Gardens.

Growing Requirements

To successfully grow a maidenhair fern from spores, keep in mind the following requirements:

  • Medium: Choose a well-draining, organic soil mix – this is important for maintaining the necessary moisture levels.
  • Light: Ensure your maidenhair fern receives indirect, filtered light, as direct sunlight can scorch the delicate fronds.
  • Temperature: These ferns thrive in temperatures between 60 and 80°F (15 and 27°C), so avoid exposing them to extreme temperatures.
  • Humidity: Maidenhair ferns prefer high humidity, so use a humidifier or place your plant on a tray filled with pebbles and water to maintain a high moisture level around the plant.
  • Water: Keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy – allow the top inch of soil to dry out slightly between waterings.

When it’s time to propagate, look for fronds that have fuzzy spores on their undersides. The spores should be plump to increase the success of the propagation Fiddle & Thorn.

After identifying the appropriate fronds, use clean, sharp scissors to cut them off. Place the fronds on a surface where the spores can fall onto the soil mix. Keep the soil moist during germination, and maintain the growing requirements mentioned above. Gradually, you’ll notice the development of new ferns Instructables.

Collecting Spores

Ideal Time

The best time to collect spores from maidenhair ferns is during the summer months. During this period, the ferns are most likely to produce spores, which will appear as little brown-black bumps called sori on the underside of the leaves.


When collecting spores, it’s essential to follow some simple steps to ensure success:

  1. Locate the sori: Examine the maidenhair fern’s fronds for brown or cinnamon-brown colored spots on the underside. These spots are the sori, where the spores are produced.
  2. Choose mature fronds: Select fronds with well-developed sori, as they are more likely to contain ripe spores. Mature sori will have a rich cinnamon-brown color.
  3. Prepare a collection surface: Find a smooth, clean surface or piece of paper to catch the spores as they fall from the sori. Ensure the surface is dry, so the spores don’t stick and clump together.
  4. Collect the spores: Gently tap the frond’s underside against the collection surface, allowing the spores to fall. Make sure to cover the surface evenly with the spores.

By following these steps, you’ll successfully collect maidenhair fern spores, enabling you to grow new ferns from these tiny reproductive units. Remember to handle the fronds carefully to avoid damaging them, and maintain a clean and dry workspace to ensure the spores’ viability.

Preparing the Growing Medium


To grow maidenhair fern from spores, it’s essential to prepare a suitable growing medium. A successful mixture should contain the components that make up the ideal soil mixture include garden soil, sifted and well-rotted compost, milled sphagnum moss, peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, and micronutrients ^. Start by combining the following ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of garden soil
  • 1/4 cup of well-rotted and sifted compost
  • 1/4 cup of milled sphagnum moss
  • 1/4 cup of peat moss
  • 1/4 cup of vermiculite
  • 1/4 cup of perlite
  • 1/4 cup of micronutrients

Lightly moisten the mix while thoroughly blending the components. The final product should have a consistent and airy texture that ensures proper drainage and aeration for the fern spores to grow.


Before planting the fern spores, it’s crucial to use a sterile soil to minimize the risk of contamination and disease during the germination process ^. Follow these steps to sterilize the prepared growing medium:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°F (93°C).
  2. Spread the prepared growing medium evenly on a baking sheet or a heat-proof dish.
  3. Insert the baking sheet into the oven and heat the medium for 30-60 minutes.
  4. Carefully remove the tray from the oven and let the sterilized mixture cool down completely before planting.

Sterilizing the growing medium ensures a clean, disease-free environment for the maidenhair fern spores to germinate and develop. This careful preparation will increase their chances of thriving and becoming healthy, beautiful fern plants.

Sowing the Spores


When propagating maidenhair ferns from spores, ensure the spores are plump and fuzzy, as this increases the chance of successful propagation. First, locate leaves (fronds) with fuzzy spores and cut one or more of them with clean, sharp scissors Fiddle & Thorn.

Next, find a clean, draft-free spot to sow the spores Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Prepare a container with sterile soil, and use pots that do not have any openings for water flow if possible. Before sowing, spray the soil surface Using water that has been sterilized, ensuring that the plant is not overwatered.

Gently scatter the spores across the surface of the container. The key is to evenly distribute the spores without overcrowding them. Once the spores are sowed, cover the container with a clear lid or plastic wrap to maintain humidity.

Optimal Conditions

Maidenhair fern spores require specific conditions to germinate and grow successfully. These conditions include:

  • Light: A well-lit area with indirect sunlight is ideal. Avoid direct sun, as it may cause the spores to dry out.
  • Temperature: Maintain a consistent temperature between 65-75°F (18-24°C). Avoid exposure to drafts or sudden temperature fluctuations.
  • Humidity: High humidity is crucial for fern spores to germinate. Covering the container helps maintain the moisture levels inside.

Monitor the spores’ growth regularly, and look for small green specks (prothalli), which are the first signs of germination. This process may take several weeks or even months, so patience is key. Once the prothalli develop into young ferns, you can transplant them to individual containers and continue nurturing their growth.

Germination and Care

Tending to the Prothalli

When growing maidenhair ferns from spores, begin by placing the spores in a peat mixture inside an unglazed pot. To keep the mixture evenly moist, set the pot in a saucer of water, allowing the moisture to be absorbed upwards. To maintain humidity, place the moistened pot inside a plastic bag and keep it in a warm, well-lit area with temperatures of at least 65°F (18°C).

In a few weeks, the germinating spores will develop a mossy appearance. This stage is when the prothalli, or fern embryos, are formed. They need proper care to grow into healthy ferns:

  • Keep the prothalli evenly moist but avoid over-watering them.
  • Provide indirect sunlight, as direct sunlight may harm the developing prothalli.
  • Ensure good air circulation by poking small holes in the plastic bag covering the pot.

Spray Method

An alternative technique is the spray method, which is suitable for growing maidenhair ferns from spores as well. In this method, use a combination of soil, compost, sphagnum moss, peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite to create the growing medium. Mix and moisten the medium and place it in a shallow container.

To follow the spray method:

  1. Sprinkle the spores evenly onto the moistened medium.
  2. Cover the container with glass or plastic to maintain humidity.
  3. Place the container in an area with indirect sunlight and warm temperatures.

Monitor the developing prothalli and keep the medium moist but not saturated. Once they are well developed, prick the prothalli off carefully and transfer them into a new container containing a finely sifted soil mixture. Keep this container covered with glass or plastic until the fern fronds begin to appear.

Remember to maintain a well-ventilated environment and protect the growing ferns from direct sunlight. As the maidenhair ferns mature, they can eventually be grown outdoors or indoors as desired.

Transplanting Gametophytes


Transplanting maidenhair fern gametophytes is a crucial step in growing them from spores. Typically, it is best to transplant the gametophytes when they have reached a height of about 3 inches. This growth can take some time, so it’s essential to have patience and regularly check on the progress of your fern starts.

Preparing the Final Pot

Before transplanting the maidenhair fern gametophytes, it’s essential to prepare the final pot properly. This includes choosing the right size and ensuring proper drainage. For maidenhair ferns, a 3-inch pot is usually sufficient for individual starts. Here are steps to prepare the pot for your ferns:

  1. Place an inch of gravel at the bottom of the pot to improve drainage.
  2. Use a well-draining potting mix, such as a combination of garden soil, compost, and perlite.
  3. Lightly moisten the mix while thoroughly combining the ingredients.
  4. Gently remove the gametophyte from the starting container, taking care not to damage the roots.
  5. Place the gametophyte into the prepared pot and cover the roots with the potting mix.
  6. Water the newly transplanted maidenhair fern, ensuring it stays in a shady location.

Once the gametophytes are carefully transplanted, it’s crucial to maintain proper care, including keeping them in a humid environment and providing diffused light.

Ongoing Care and Maintenance


Maidenhair ferns require a delicate balance when it comes to watering. The soil should be consistently moist but never soggy. To help maintain the right level of moisture, it’s best to water with room temperature rainwater or spring water. Make sure your pot has drainage holes to prevent waterlogging, and place a tray underneath to catch excess water. It’s also helpful to mist the fern regularly to maintain humidity, especially during dry months.


To support healthy growth, feed your maidenhair fern with a water-soluble fertilizer designed for houseplants, diluting it to half the recommended rate. Fertilize monthly during the growing season and avoid over-fertilizing, as this can damage the delicate roots. Using a fertilizer high in nitrogen can promote lush, green frond growth. Remember to water your fern before and after fertilizing to prevent root burn.

Managing Pests

Maidenhair ferns can occasionally attract pests like aphids, scale insects, and spider mites. To control and prevent these pests:

  • Inspect your fern regularly for signs of infestation, such as sticky residue, small insects, or webbing on leaves.
  • Avoid overwatering, as standing water can lead to root rot and attract fungus gnats.
  • Isolate affected plants to prevent the spread of pests to other houseplants.
  • If you find pests, gently wash the fern with a diluted mixture of mild soap and water to dislodge them.
  • In more severe cases, consider using a horticultural oil or insecticidal soap, but always follow label instructions carefully to avoid damaging the plant.

By maintaining a suitable watering schedule, providing appropriate fertilizing, and keeping a keen eye for pests, you’ll help your maidenhair fern thrive and produce gorgeous, delicate foliage.


Growing maidenhair ferns from spores can be a rewarding and fascinating process. With patience and attention to detail, you will be able to propagate these delicate plants successfully.

To start, ensure you collect spores when they are plump and fuzzy. This increases the likelihood of successful propagation. Ferns tend to produce spores during the summer, so be sure to check the underside of the fronds for little brown-black bumps, known as sori.

When you have collected the spores, prepare a sterilized, moist growing medium. You can use various media, such as well-rotted and sifted compost, milled sphagnum moss, peat moss, or perlite. Keep a close watch on the germinating spores, as they will develop into a moss-like growth after a few weeks.

At that point, when the prothalli are formed and well developed, you can carefully transfer them into a pot containing finely sifted soil. Cover the container with glass or plastic to maintain humidity, taking care not to expose the young plants to direct light.

It’s important to pay attention to temperature and humidity throughout the entire process. Maidenhair ferns thrive in temperatures around 70°F but struggle at temperatures below 60°F. Additionally, these plants require a high level of humidity, so be sure to keep the environment consistently moist.

As your maidenhair fern grows from spores, remember to be patient and provide the ideal conditions this delicate plant requires. In the end, your diligent efforts will be rewarded with a beautiful, lush fern.

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