Why is my Maidenhair Fern turning brown? Causes and Solutions

Last Updated: May 17, 2022

Sometimes the most beautiful houseplants are also super easy to care for, however, that’s not the case for Maidenhair Ferns whose picky care requirements can leave even the most experienced plant parent baffled.

If your Maidenhair Fern has turned brown then there is definitely something wrong and there are several factors that may have caused this. In this post, we will be going through each of the different causes of brown leaves on Maidenhair Ferns, as well as how to fix the issue and prevent it from happening again. 

Low humidity levels

If your Maidenhair Fern has brown leaves then our number 1 port of call tends to be a lack of humidity. They are a lot more sensitive to this than the majority of other houseplants as their leaves are just so delicate. Maidenhair Ferns really struggle in homes with quite dry air, and the problem is 10 times worse in winter where heating and a lack of ventilation really dries out the air in our homes.

But don’t worry, if the brown leaves on your Maidenhair Fern are caused by a lack of humidity then there are some really easy and cheap solutions that will instantly get your Maidenhair Fern looking fresher.

Mist the leaves every day

This is one of the easiest ways to increase the humidity for your Maidenhair Fern and solve the issue of brown leaves. Mist the leaves once a day to stop them from drying out. We recommend that you mist the leaves in the morning so that there’s enough time for the water to evaporate off the leaves before the temperature drop. If the leaves are still wet when in cold temperatures, it can cause the leaves to rot which is a whole other problem. 

Give your Maidenhair Fern a shower

One simple thing you can do to instantly boost the humidity for your Maidenhair Fern and stop the leaves from turning brown is showering your plant. Regularly washing your plant down with water also gets rid of dust and potential pests that might be on your plant so we recommend doing it every few months regardless of any brown eaves or other issues. 

There are a few really important rules to remember when washing your Maidenhair Fern down. Firstly, never use really hot or cold water as this will shock your plant and can very quickly burn the leaves. The second rule is to have very very low water pressure. Maidenhair Ferns have super delicate leaves and stems so this prevents them from getting damaged. 


If you have good light levels (and enough space) in your kitchen or your bathroom then we recommend moving your Maidenhair Fern in there. The humidity level in both of those rooms is often higher than in other areas of your home because of the steam released when showering and cooking. 

Buy a humidifier

If you want to take all the worries away from keeping a steady humidity level for your Maidenhair Fern and prevent any more brown leaves from developing, then buying a humidifier is the best option for you. Humidifiers can be really affordable and will raise the humidity without you really needing to do much. 

If you want to know more about how to raise the humidity for your Maidenhair Fern then check out our humidity guide.


Although slightly less common, we must mention overfertilization as a cause of brown Maidenhair Fern leaves as they are just so much more susceptible to this compared to most other houseplants. Maidenhair Fern plants really don’t need much fertiliser and you can even skip it altogether if you’d prefer. At most, you want to be fertilising a couple of times throughout the growth period of spring and summer and not at all during the dormant period (autumn and winter). If you are fertilising more than this, or not diluting the fertiliser, then it could be the cause of the brown leaves on your Maidenhair Fern.

If you have been using fertiliser dissolved in the water, then it’s an easy fix as you just stop adding it in. However, if you have been using slow-release fertiliser within the soil then remove the spikes or replace the potting mix if it is mixed in with it

Extreme temperatures

Another common cause of brown leaves on Maidenhair Ferns is hotspots. This happens when your plant is right next to a window where sunlight increases the temperature dramatically. It can also occur if your Maidenhair Fern is too close to a radiator or heating vent. To check whether the brown leaves on your Maidenhair Fern are caused by extreme temperatures, pick up a digital thermometer to keep track of temperature changes throughout the day. 

This one is quite an easy fix as you should simply move your Maidenhair Fern to a spot in your home that isn’t as hot. This will mean the plant won’t dry out as quickly and the leaves won’t turn brown. 



Another cause of brown Maidenhair Fern leaves can be consistent underwatering. Because they have such delicate stems and leaves, Maidenhair Ferns need some level of moisture in the soil and will struggle as soon as the potting mix dries out. This requires you to be quite on top of their watering schedule as brown leaves can occur quite quickly with Maidenhair Ferns.

It’s important to ensure that your Maidenhair Fern is actually being underwatered before you change anything about your care routine. You don’t want to start watering it more if it doesn’t need it as too much water will damage your Maidenhair Fern. To check that underwatering is the cause of the brown leaves, take your plant out of its pot to inspect the root system and potting mix or use a moisture meter. 

If your Maidenhair Fern is suffering from a lack of water, slowly reintroduce water to your plant rather than drowning it. Water them once a day for a week and this should help your Maidenhair Fern get back to its normal self. 


Natural ageing

If you notice your Maidenhair Fern developing a few brown leaves here and there that is nothing to worry about. It’s simply your plant shedding some older leaves so it can focus its efforts on new healthy and bigger growth. 

If you have quite a mature Maidenhair Fern and you have spotted brown spots on the leaves, these are most likely spores. Double-check that these aren’t scale insects as they can look similar. However, it is most likely that the brown spots are spores that are used to propagate your Maidenhair Fern. These are nothing to worry about and even mean that you can experiment a little with growing new ferns which is pretty cool.

Those are the most common reasons why Maidenhair Ferns develop brown leaves. We recommend inspecting your plant carefully, as well as the care routine and environment that it’s in to determine what’s causing the brown leaves. After making any changes, keep a close eye on your Maidenhair Fern to see if the problem is improving. 

To find out more about how to care for your plant, as well as other common issues and propagation methods, check out our Maidenhair Fern care guide. 

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