How to Transplant Tree Ferns


Tree ferns are the giants of the fern family, with one variety, the Australian tree fern, capable of reaching a maximum height of 20 feet. But that takes years, and most common varieties, such as New Zealand or Tasmanian, generally top out at about six or eight feet. Transplanting tree ferns, all of which are known for their fibrous trunks and plumes of fine-leafed fronds, is remarkably easy, although the smaller and younger the tree, the better.

Step 1

Pick a suitable location for your tree. Tree ferns do best in shade, so plant them near other trees. Also make sure you pick a wind-protected spot.

Step 2

Dig a hole in the ground about twice the size of the root ball. Dump a small quantity of topsoil into the bottom, about three inches deep.

Step 3

If transplanting a tree from the nursery, remove the tree from the pot and with your fingers lightly separate the roots. To transplant an established tree fern, cut off all the fronds and dig out a root ball about a foot deep and 18 inches wide.

Step 4

Place the tree in the hole, with the root ball resting on the new layer of topsoil, and then fill in the rest of the hole with more topsoil. Make sure you get plenty of soil inside the root tangle. Pat the top down to create an indentation fanning out from the trunk, to allow water to collect.

Step 5

Water thoroughly. It's best to water every two or three days, filling the indentation around the trunk two or tree times and waiting for it to saturate into the soil.

Step 6

Fertilize only after the transplanted tree fern has become established. Use any branded fern fertlizer or use any other fertlizer high in nitrogen, such as fish emulsion.

Tips and Warnings

  • If transplanting an established tree, replant immediately or wrap the root ball in a wet burlap sack. Do not let the roots dry out.

Things You'll Need

  • Tree ferns
  • Top soil
  • Clippers
  • Shovel
  • Fertilizer high in nitrogen, such as fish emulsion


  • Garden Guide
  • "The Two-Story Ferns," Sunset Magazine, September 1984
Keywords: transplanting tree ferns, tree fern care, Australian tree ferns

About this Author

Thomas K. Arnold is the publisher and editorial director of Home Media Magazine and a regular contributor on entertainment to "USA Today", "The Hollywood Reporter," "San Diego Magazine" and other publications. An alumnus of San Diego State University, Arnold has appeared on such TV shows as "CNN", "E! Entertainment" and "G4's Attack of the Show" to discuss home entertainment and technology issues.