Maidenhair Ferns can be easy to care for and easy to propagate too! This post will guide you through everything you need to propagate your Polka Dot Plant, including a step by step process of the different methods, the tools required, as well as how to spot and solve problems that creep up.
Why propagate a Maidenhair Fern?
Before we get into the finer details of how to propagate a Maidenhair Fern, we wanted to go over the different reasons why you might want or need to.
Firstly, propagation is the best way to create new Maidenhair Ferns and multiply your plant collection without having to spend any money! They also make great gifts for friends and family if you already have enough houseplants.
You might also want to propagate your Maidenhair Fern if your plant has become too big for your space or look too leggy. Propagating your plant through division can help cut back the growth of your plant as it would be a waste to cut back and simply throw it all away.
Lastly, you might be forced to propagate your Maidenhair Fern if it’s starting to show signs of disease or unhappiness. Accidental overwatering, over-fertilisation or the wrong environment can cause your Maidenhair Fern to start to die. We always recommend trying to change things to save your plant, but there’s no harm in propagating a healthy section of the plant in case your mother plant doesn’t make it.
What tool/equipment will I need to propagate my Maidenhair Fern?
Let’s start off with the easy part; here are all the things you’ll need to successfully propagate your Maidenhair Fern.
A healthy and mature Maidenhair Fern
Clean, sharp scissors/shears
Spare pot(s) with and without drainage holes
Fresh soil and water
Newspaper or plastic sheet if you are propagating indoors
Rooting hormone (optional)
Gardening gloves (optional)
What methods can I use to propagate a Maidenhair Fern?
There are two main methods of Maidenhair Fern propagation, with one being a lot easier than the other. The most common (and simpler) method of propagating Maidenhair Ferns is through the division of the mother plant. For this, you need quite a bushy and mature plant as it requires cutting away a chunk or two
It is also possible to propagate a Maidenhair Fern through spores. These can be found on the leaves of your mature Maidenhair Fern. This method can take a little longer though and has a lower success rate than division but it’s fun to try if you’re looking for a challenge.
How to propagate a Maidenhair Fern by division of the mother plant
Take your Maidenhair Fern out of its pot
To be able to divide your Maidenhair Fern you’ll need to cut sections of the plant and the attached root system. To do this, carefully take your plant out of its pot. Maidenhair Ferns have very delicate leaves so don’t tug too hard at the plant to remove it or you risk damaging your plant.
Shake off the potting mix around the roots. If it doesn’t fall off easily then run your fingers through the roots to loosen it up.
Separate the sections
How many sections you cut off, or how large those new Maidenhair Ferns will be is completely up to you. It depends on the size of your plant and how big you want to keep the mother plant. To cut the plant, use your shears to slice the root system. You’ll have to cut directly through some roots to do this but don’t worry as this won’t affect the health of your plant.
Place in water or fresh potting mix
Pot the main mother Maidenhair Fern plant back into its original pot (or downsize to a smaller pot if you have taken away a large amount of the Fern).
Next, you need to decide whether you want to grow your new plants in water before potting them into soil. You should be able to go straight into fresh potting mix but if you have a section with very small roots, then growing in water a bit can help the plant establish itself.
Continue normal Maidenhair Fern care
If your new Maidenhair Ferns are now in fresh potting mix then you can care for them as you would your mother Fern. If you’ve placed your new plant in water first, then you want to refresh that water every couple of days. This will help avoid the water stagnating and releasing bacteria that can harm your new plant. Once the roots have matured a little more, you can repot into potting mix and resume normal care.
How to propagate a Maidenhair Fern through spores
Locate healthy spores
Once your Maidenhair Fern matures, you should start to see spores forming on the leaves. These look like brown fuzzy spots. Make sure that when you propagate your Fern, that the spores are pump and fuzzy as this will increase the success of propagation.
Cut off the frond
Once you have located one or more leaves (fronds) that have fuzzy spores, cut one or more of them off with clean, sharp scissors. One leaf should be enough but if your fern is bushy and you don’t mind taking a few more leaves off, then use a few more to increase your chances at successful propagation.
Place the frond(s) in a paper bag
The next step is to place the fronds into a paper bag and place it somewhere dry. Over the next few days, the spores should start to fall off into the bottom of the bag for you to collect.
Add to sphagnum moss
Collect the spores and place them on top of a container filled with sphagnum moss. Make sure to mist the sphagnum moss regularly. This should keep the moss moist but not waterlogged.
Cover with a plastic bag
To create the perfect environment for the spores to germinate, cover the container with a clear plastic bag and place it in a warm, shady spot. This will lock in some of the moisture and create a mini-greenhouse.
Mist the moss regularly
Lift the plastic bag and mist the sphagnum moss regularly. You want to have some moisture in the moss, but prevent it from becoming soggy. On average, you’d look to mist every few days but adjust this depending on your spores. Lighting, temperature and the type of moss used will impact how much you need to mist.
Enjoy your new growth
Germination should happen in a few weeks and growth should soon be visible. Growth across the spores will differ, some will be quicker than others and some may not even grow at all. Continue misting but remove the plastic bag once you start to see some growth. After a few months, you should have several small Maidenhair Ferns! This process takes a while but the results are worth it.
Maidenhair Fern Propagation FAQs
Below you’ll find all the answers to your Maidenhair Fern propagation questions. Hopefully, this will help to make yours a success!
What’s the best time of year to propagate a Maidenhair Fern?
We recommend only propagating your Maidenhair Fern in spring as it gives plenty of months of warm, sunny weather to help the spores germinate. The process is a lot longer than other methods so warm weather is vital for it to be a success.
If propagating through division, you can usually do this all year round as the root system is already developed.
If you do want to propagate using spores during the cooler months, then you should buy a heat mat to help it be a success. You place this underneath the container which helps the spores germinate by creating the ideal environment.
Can I use a rooting gel or powder when propagating my Maidenhair Fern?
We don’t recommend using fertiliser when propagating through spores as they are super delicate and sensitive. If propagating through division, you can use some form of rooting hormone but we recommend waiting a month for the plants to get over the initial shock of division.
Should I use a grow light for my Maidenhair Fern spores?
Grow lights are great to use when propagating through spores as well as young seeds and cuttings. It can help stimulate growth and means you can propagate even if the weather isn’t on your side.
Grow lights can also be used more generally on your mature houseplants if they don’t get enough light in autumn and winter so are a great investment for all plant parents.
Can I propagate a Maidenhair Fern from a single leaf or stem?
Unfortunately, no. The only ways to propagate and grow new Maidenhair Ferns is through spores and division of the mother plant. If you do try to propagate your Maidenhair Fern through a stem, it will slowly wilt and die.
Common problems when propagating a Maidenhair Fern
Why aren’t the spores growing into new plants?
Propagating Maidenhair Ferns through spores is a lengthy and unpredictable process. Whilst some spores might germinate and grow roots very quickly, others may take several months or not work at all. This is why we recommend growing quite a few spores to increase your chances that some will turn into new ferns.
How long will it take for the new spores to germinate?
As we mentioned above, the rate of germination on Maidenhair Fern spores is very unpredictable. With the right care and environment, expect to see something happening around the 4-week mark. From there, it can take anywhere between 2-10 months for it to actually look like a fern. It’s a lengthy process so might not be right for everyone but it’s definitely worth it if it’s successful.
So that’s it, everything you need to know to successfully propagate a Maidenhair Fern! It’s never an exact science and sometimes it will take a while for you to see anything happening with the spores. But with the right methods, care routine, warmth and light level you should get some new Maidenhair Ferns in no time. And if you don’t fancy the spores method, remember you can still always propagate your Maidenhair Fern through division.
Check out our detailed Maidenhair Fern care guide to find all the information on how to continue to care for your new plants!