Maidenhair Fern Rescue

The maidenhair fern is a delicate fern which thrives in high humidity and relatively low light. They thrive in shade, and also partly shady spots where they get some sun throughout the day.

This is a plant which many people struggle with, as it can be very high maintenance and difficult to grow if the environment isn’t quite right. I had struggled with a number of maidenhair ferns before, after following the guidance on the internet. The guidance is to either mist with water every day or so, or to keep on a pebbled tray with water, to increase humidity. I found these difficult to maintain and always ended up with the plant dying. I have had a lot of success with other delicate plants using a self watering pot, so wanted to give it a try for this plant.

This Maidenhair fern was a small struggling plant and in just one month it has flourished into a beautiful plant and continues to grow new shoots every couple of days.

I have tried to grow plants in candle jars in the past but always struggled without proper drainage, so was trying to think of how I could come up with a solution to turn a candle jar into a self watering pot, and came up with a remarkably effective solution. I have included here the full details on what I did

1. Get your candle jar and plant

I used a Diptyque 190g candle jar, which had been fully cleaned and had all of the wax removed, using boiling water. Once the candle jar is ready, you need to choose your plant. For this I chose a small struggling maidenhair fern. You can buy a small maidenhair fern here. If you are looking for more plant inspiration, you might be interested in my ‘where to buy’ posts, with updated links – buying rare plants online, and common houseplants.

2. Prepare the insert

I looked everywhere online, and couldn’t find what I was looking for, so I decided to make the insert myself. After a lot of testing, I perfected the measurements and design, choosing a clear insert so that it is almost invisible and does not take away from the candle jar. If you would like to buy your own, I am selling a few here. You can get a discount for buying three using the code 3FOR12.

Why is the self watering insert necessary? Because without it, the plant would either sit in water at the bottom of the jar, or be too dry. The self watering insert lifts the plant and soil above the water, to keep a layer of air in between the water and the soil. This means that the plant can have the humidity from the moisture without drowning, aka the best of both worlds. The string ensures a steady source of water is delivered to the plant, as it soaks the water up to deliver to the roots of the plant.

I chose to do it with a clear glass diptyque candle jar because I wanted to be able to keep an eye on the water levels. The glass lets you see how much water is sitting in the bottom of the jar so you know when you need to top up! When the time comes, simply drizzle some water into the plant until there is a collection of water at the bottom of the jar. Make sure you don’t fill the entire way up, because you want to have a layer of air between the bottom of the plant and the water.

The insert comes with the string, which hooks through the insert to sit in the water at the bottom. This string soaks up the water, delivering the plant a steady supply of water.
Thread the string through the holes so that both ends hang down in the same way

With the insert ready, I placed it into the reused candle jar planter. I have found that while the insert is perfectly round, sometimes the glass jars aren’t exactly perfectly round and it can be difficult to keep the insert flat. If this happens, you can simply use a small amount of blu tack to keep it in place. Once the plant is in the candle jar, it will stay in place. As mentioned before, the important part of the self watering insert is the gap of air between the water and the plant. So if even if the insert isn’t perfectly flat, it won’t affect the plant’s success.

The insert in the reused candle jar is ready for the plant to be included

3. Add the plant

This needs to be done carefully so that the insert stays in place. I carefully rinsed the root ball of the plant in water to gently remove as much soil as possible, leaving only the roots and a small amount of soil. This meant that I could gently place the plant into the candle jar, and then add soil back in around the edges and gently pat it down.

The plant and root ball added to the reused candle jar, waiting for additional soil to be added around the edges
The plant placed in the candle jar, showing the area at the bottom where the water will sit
Once the plant was watered, the excess water collected in the bottom of the candle jar to gradually be soaked up by the string into the plant for a continuous water supply

4. Care for the plant

For ongoing care of the plant, it was placed in a glass dome cloche – this acts as a mini greenhouse and keeps the plant warm and humid.

I have found a similar glass dome for sale here

I continued to monitor the plant to check to see when I would need to add water. I think I watered every two weeks or so, and in general it seems the plant was happiest when just left alone.

Growth Progress

6th July: Reused candle jar self watering pot
12th July: To add to the humidity even more, the plant was kept under a large glass dome cloche
9th August: In just over a month, this plant has bounced back and is growing new shoots each day.
26th January 2021: The plant is continuing to grow and thrive!

It’s incredible how quickly this plant bounced back! It is continuing to grow more shoots. I used to believe that the maidenhair fern was an incredibly high maintenance plant, but now I know that with the right conditions, they THRIVE. I must admit, once this was setup in the self watering candle jar, I basically did nothing, other than refill the water when it looked low.

I’m so happy to share these tips for anyone else out there who loves maidenhair ferns but struggles to keep them alive, or anyone who has empty candle jars ready to use! To get your own insert, they are for sale here.

If you liked this plant rescue story, you might like these other posts:

Spider Plant Rescue

Fiddle Leaf Fig Rescue

Variegated Monstera Propagation

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