Updated for 2016
DICKSONIA ANTARCTICA – TREE FERNS
Probably the most popular and best-selling exotic looking plant of recent years has been the Tree Fern – Dicksonia Antarctica. Also known as the “Manfern”, “Soft” or “Tasmanian” Tree Fern.
A few decades ago it was only to be seen in Cornish gardens but with the popularity of exotic gardening it must now be sold in its thousands annually. This is understandable as it is a plant of great grace and beauty and should be in every garden. A grouping of Dicksonia Antarctica is recommended as they look stunning planted together.
Dicksonia Antarctica are the hardiest of all the tree ferns providing the precaution is taken of pushing a handful of straw into the crown before winter sets in (around November) and then covering the top of the crown with a small rock, chickenwire or tile (to hold the straw in place). Alternatively when the leaves die off in November break these back over the crown of the tree fern and secure in place (as before). This will prevent the frost from hitting the new delicate fronds which form in the crown and appear in late Spring.
The trunks of the tree fern grow incredibly slowly so you must buy them at the height you want them to be, also remembering that you have to bury up to 30-40cm of the trunk for stability.
Never let the tree fern dry out – water the trunk copiously in the Summer months and feed when the new set of fronds are being produced which will be every late Spring or Summer (around April-May). The trunk is watered because the Dicksonia Antarctica’s strong fibruous trunk is made up of thousands of fine roots. So the root system is in the trunk of the tree fern (rather than the base of the plant as with normal plants). Eventually the tree fern will send off non-invasive stabilising shoots – which will form into a fibrous root ball.
In frosty winters the last summer fronds will turn brown and will have to be cut off but will be replaced by at least a dozen new fronds the following year. Usually these dead fronds would not be cut back until late Spring.
Tree Ferns can take partial sun, shade or full shade but produce larger fronds in the dappled shade. In sunny positions they must be watered a lot otherwise they will dry out very quickly.
One of the very best of the architectural plants the Dicksonia Antarctica Tree Fern is a must for any garden – large or small.