How to grow a tree fern

Updated November 21, 2016

Tree ferns are an old group of ferns that comprise the Cyatheales order. Found in Australia and New Zealand, tree ferns can grow over 10 feet tall and are popular specimen plants for home gardens, according to the University of Florida. Cold-hardy ferns such as the rough tree fern (Cyathea australis), soft tree fern (Dicksonia Antarctica) and the Australian tree fern (Cyathea cooperi) grow outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 12. Like other ferns, tree ferns, when properly located and cared for, will readily grow from spores or small plants in home gardens.

Locate a shady location in your home garden that receives periodic direct sunlight. Tree ferns will not survive in complete shade and should be planted in areas where they will receive some direct sunlight. The locations should also have plenty of space for the tree fern to develop. Mature ferns, depending on the species, may have a spread of 15 feet or more.

Till compost into the soil of the planting site to improve drainage and provide nutrients for developing tree ferns. Ensure that the compost is thoroughly mixed into the soil to a depth of at least 2 feet. Tilling the soil also makes it easier for young tree fern roots to develop and expand underground.

Sow tree fern spores into the soil and cover with a thin layer of soil. If planting a small tree fern from a nursery, loosen the roots of young tree ferns before planting. If the roots are tangled and stunted, carefully cut with scissors to spur new root development. Place the plant gently into the soil and ensure that the roots are evenly spread.

Place mulch around the tree fern once the plant is established to prevent weed development and help maintain soil moisture.

Fertilise tree ferns lightly several times throughout the growing season with a wettable fertiliser.

Apply fresh compost to the soil around the tree fern annually to maintain drainage and provide extra nutrients.

Water tree ferns regularly during periods without rain as well as after applying fertiliser and compost.

Cover tree fern fronds with newspapers to protect tree ferns from frost damage as needed.

Prune brown fronds as needed during the development of the tree fern and monitor closely for diseases. Tree ferns are most commonly infested by mites, mealy bugs and termites.

Things You'll Need

  • General fertiliser
  • Shovel
  • Compost
  • Mulch
  • Water hose
  • Newspapers
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