The beautiful Maidenhair fern I dug-up from my tiny courtyard garden to give to my newly-settled friend is struggling.

I took to the internet to find out why. Maidenhairs (Adiantum capillus-veneris L.) are notoriously finicky to grow. I’ve had my share of disasters when I aspired to have them as indoor specimens. I’ve learned by brutal experience Maidenhair ferns love humidity, they tolerate sun but hate wind and wet feet.

When I relocated to my current residence and imported buckets of good soil and humus to build up my garden, an unexpected bonus was this delicate fern popping up everywhere. I can only surmise the spores were in the humus I was spreading. No complaints from me!

Even more surprising was how successful these little opportunists were, blowing away all assumptions I had of Maidenhair ferns being difficult to grow. And, what’s more, they flourished in full sun.

I pondered on the reasons for the fragile health of my friend’s ‘trans-plant’. I know that any plant suffers a set-back when it’s moved, sometimes the set-back is temporary, sometimes it’s fatal. Whether that’s because of change of location – different degrees of light and shade, wind, moisture levels, soil composition, direction, or all of these things – the plant must adjust to the new conditions or die.

I thought of my friend in this light. You may remember I wrote about her leaving a professional post in Singapore after five years away, to return to her family and friends in Australia. She is setting up a terrace garden with plant donations from her friends. Hence the transplanted fern from me.

I think, like any other kind of transplant, transplanted people need to have the right conditions to flourish in a new place. Yes, location is important, but more crucial is support – emotional and physical. The winds of change can blow ill without the protection of people who care about us. Hope burning bright for our future, is as essential to us as the sun is for a plant’s photosynthesis.

I’m happy to report I hold great hopes for my friend’s Maidenhair ‘trans-plant’ – as I do indeed, for hers.

Happiness comes from … some curious adjustment to life.

Hugh Walpole

54 responses to “Trans-Plant

  1. I have never been able to keep one alive either, but they are the most gorgeous delicate looking ferns. I wonder if they would be happy in my garden, though if they dislike wind and wet feet then I will have to choose a suitable spot. And perhaps, like my own transplantation to this new county, they will flourish. I wish your friend and her transplants all the best.

    Liked by 3 people

      • I am well thanks Neil. I read how pervasive loneliness is and not just among older folk. We are so connected and yet in other ways more disconnected than ever before. I’m grateful for my network of friends and family both on and offline. Hope all is well with you.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Jude. I agree – position for any plant is crucial. But you can create the right conditions as well even if the position isn’t optimal. . Maybe with your new ‘position’ in a new country, you can create the right one for a Maidenhair?

      Liked by 2 people

      • It’s interesting changing locations. What I can grow here my friend around the corner struggles with. Each garden I have stewardship of, is different. Gives me the opportunity to try new things. Good luck with the Maidenhair Jude.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Hubby says that even a single neighborhood may have several mini-climates! Higher ground vs lower ground makes a tremendous difference, too. For example, early spring arrives for my friends living up the hill a few weeks before it arrives here. Cold settles, you see, although I may receive the same amount of sunshine as they.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Have you tried Maidenhair ferns as house plants? That’s the only way they’ll grow here in Central Washington state because of hot, arid summers and harsh winters. Even then, they can be finicky. My maternal grandmother grew a “huge” Maidenhair for decades, on her front porch, in an urn-sized clay pot on an oak plant stand on her front porch — in two different houses, two different towns — in the Deep South. I’m sure climate had a great deal to do with her success, as well as her daily tender loving care.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I have tried them as house plants but generally have killed them with kindness. Your green-thumbed grandma had the secret I think. I can only imagine how lovely her super size fern was. It makes me wonder again, if a larger plant creates its own humidity. Yes, climate would help. The Deep South climate would be similar to ours .

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ahhh… that’s what does mine in, the central heating. And, yes, they definitely require a humid environment. Did you see Robyn’s suggestion of using wet sphagnum moss between the walls of TWO pots? One pot inside a larger one. I’ll try that with my next Maidenhair.

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  2. Sadly, I’ve always experienced difficulty with my Maidenhair ferns. Here, in Central Washington state, the air simply is too arid for outdoor ferns, so I place the pot on a bed of fine pebbles in a plant saucer of water. Shouldn’t that work? Perhaps not. For almost a year, a small Maidenhair I kept in the bathroom, where it could absorb the steam from baths and showers, was quite happy until last summer’s heat wilted it too much. Even kept one on the kitchen window sill. Nevertheless, I keep trying. Maybe if I bought a much larger plant? or combined three or so smaller plants in an urn? There is always hope, isn’t there?

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right Jo. Maidenhair ferns must have humidity. I do think the larger the plant, the more chance of keeping it humidified. One suggestion I read was to put your pot inside a larger one and pack wet sphagnum moss down the sides. Your idea of pebbles in a saucer of water works for mine. And yes, grouping them together creates a micro atmosphere of humidity. I live in the sub tropics so no problem achieving humidity. My Maidenhair loves it while I wilt 😦
      Don’t give up!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s too dry for maidenhair ferns here – how lucky you are to have them popping up around your garden! I would find it hard to keep one alive indoors, but maybe I’ll give it a try again sometime.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I like the way you link your plant stories with people you know or with familiar situations, Robyn. Moving to a new place is a challenge both for plants and for people.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m pleased my stories engage you Jane. I’m always delighted by the magnanimity of my blogging friends. I guess none of us writes with high expectations of feedback, or at least I don’t. It’s always a bonus to hear someone appreciated the effort I made,

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Robyn ~ Hubby and I have been discussing our time zones — yours and ours — because I said we were about the same, but he thinks you all are well ahead of us. We are in the Pacific Standard Time, and right now it’s ten minutes before 7:00 p.m. What time is it where you are in (I presume) the east side of Australia. ~ Jo


  6. Feels like change is happening everywhere as I have a friend also struggling with a trans-planting. :0) Remembering to get back to our roots helps ease the struggle, I think, and renders something new and magnificent. Thanks, Robyn.

    Liked by 2 people

    • As an observer I see that frame of mind has a huge impact on how well or how poorly a transplant can be executed. My friend is an adventurous and positive soul, despite the crap that’s been dumped on her. She has made the transition better than other friends (and me!). An inspiration to us all. I see by your remarks that attitude is a big part for you too, Pam.

      My sister says while you’re holding so tight to the past, you can’t embrace the future. Truth in that I think.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I think she could be just as well off with the soil of friendship you have supplied, Robyn. As I remember your saying before, sensitive spirits flourish in the right environments. Anyway that fern might reappear, as yours did. Life encourages life.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Although Adiantum’s grow here everywhere I’ve never had any luck with them as a potted plant. Lovely to see yours are doing so well. Interesting point of view as you compared people with plants. They are so similar.

    Liked by 1 person

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