Tree Fern Care and Planting

Originating from Southeast Australia, Dicksonia Antarctica Tree Fern plants are now enhancing stylish gardens across the UK. Tree Ferns are remarkable plants, exotic-looking plants. Yet tree fern care is easy if you follow a few simple instructions.

Dicksonia Antarctica Tree Ferns for sale UK
Dicksonia Antarctica Tree Ferns for sale at Paramount Plants

The tree fern starts as a bare, soft, bristly trunk. In late spring, the fronds begin to unfurl. Within a few weeks, the plant is transformed, with bright green fronds, or ferns, reaching sometimes a metre from the centre. After the rapid spring growth, the fronded plant makes a truly wonderful feature for any garden or patio.

The fronds continue to develop through the summer and often stay in place well into the winter. But you may well have wisely chosen to “put the plant to bed” by mid-winter – which brings us neatly to how to look after your tree fern. With the right advice and a few neat tricks, tree fern care is a breeze. Read on to find out how professionals keep their plants in top shape- and how to replicate these conditions in your own garden.

Tree Fern Care: Tips from Professional Nurserymen

Although its majestic, tropical looks might suggest otherwise, tree fern care is not demanding. The otherworldly magic of the Dicksonia Antarctica might remind us of exotic landscapes, but these plants are hardy and do exceptionally well in the UK climate. As long as you plant it properly and provide good care, there is no reason why you should not have a stunning tree fern in your own garden.

Planting Tree Ferns

Plant the trunk about 15cm deep or if it has a taller and heavier trunk, then plant the trunk sufficiently deep in the soil for this to be stable and not moving once planted in the ground or in a pot. If the trunk still does not seem stable enough, you can fashion a support, by staking or tethering. Otherwise, if you want it self-stabilising, simply bury it deeper, circa 30 to 40 centimetres deep in the soil.

Watering

Water copiously, up and down the trunk, in the growing months (May to October) taking care to repeat this frequently, over the first 6 months from planting in particular. Underwatering will cause drying out and consequent narrowing of the trunk, which can result in disappointingly smaller fronds.

Feeding

Tree Ferns benefit from an occasional feed.  The best product for this is the specialist Tree Fern Fertiliser available from Paramount Plants. Otherwise, you can use any liquid plant feed/ fertiliser.

Pruning

Do not trim the fronds away until they’re brown and droopy. When you do trim them, don’t trim closer than about 15 centimetres from the trunk, as the stubs form the structure of the trunk, allowing it to get slowly taller.

Tree Fern Winter Protection

Tree Ferns can easily cope with temperatures down to -5C and are OK in short stints at -10C, but we still advise protecting them from the harshest winter conditions. The top of the trunk must not be allowed to freeze. Once the weather starts to cool around October to November, gently push the straw into the top of the trunk. This will safeguard potential new spring growth from frost damage. For a more detailed explanation, make sure to take a look at our guide on protecting tree ferns in the winter.

Common Problems

Not only is tree fern care low-maintenance, but these plants are also mostly trouble-free. For such a stunning cultivar, Dicksonia Antarctica is unusually undemanding. Even so, there are a few potential problems you should take into consideration.

Stunted growth

If the fronds are much smaller than you would expect and the tree trunk is narrowing, the culprit is inadequate watering. To counter it and make sure your plant thrives, increase the amount of watering.

Dead fronds

If the winter has been particularly cold and your Dicksonia Antarctica was not properly protected, the fronds could be lost when the spring comes. However, unless the frost got into the centre of the trunk, there is no need to worry – the tree fern will sprout new foliage.

Summary

In terms of a cost relative to visual impact, the tree fern has few peers. It’s a great value way to add style and substance to your garden for the long-term. Additionally, tree fern care is neither complex nor taxing: a few simple tricks will keep your plant in perfect shape. Once you have planted the tree fern and made sure it is stable in soil, the key is to water copiously. Additionally, you should use a quality liquid fertiliser to feed the plant and keep it sheltered in the winter months.

For any additional questions you might have, feel free to contact us. At Paramount Plant & Garden Centre, tree ferns are a speciality. In addition to the lovely Dicksonia Antarctica, we also sell other varieties of tree ferns. Whatever your requirements, we can help you select the best fern or tree fern for your situation!