How to Look After a Tree Fern


Tree ferns are staples of tropical gardens, favoring warm, humid conditions where they can thrive alongside such other tropical garden plants as fuchsias, orchids and hibiscus. The two most popular tree ferns are the majestic Australian tree fern, which can grow up to 20 feet in height, and the New Zealand tree fern, a smaller, bushier type. They are remarkably hardy and require just a little care.

Step 1

Plant your tree fern in well-drained, fertile soil in a shady, protected location, such as near a fence or alongside a building. Prepare the soil by mixing in a low-nutrient compost to encourage root growth.

Step 2

Water thoroughly, turning the hose toward the top of the tree fern and letting the water run down the woodsy trunk. This lets the plant absorb water through its trunk as well as through its root system. Keep the soil moist to a depth of about 1 inch.

Step 3

Fertilize periodically (every other month is fine) with organic fish bone and blood fertilizer. Sprinkle a handful around the trunk and canopy and water thoroughly immediately afterward so the fertilizer will be promptly absorbed by the roots.

Step 4

Regularly trim fronds once they start to droop or turn brown. This will result in a better-looking fern and also stimulate new growth.

Tips and Warnings

  • Ferns evolved millions of years ago when the earth was warm and damp. Cold weather slows their growth and frost can kill them. In areas that do receive occasional frost, whenever frost is forecast cover the fronds with newspapers to offer them overnight protection.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Watering hose
  • Low-nutrient compost such as steer manure or a mixture of green and brown clippings
  • Fish bone and blood fertilizer
  • Pruning shears


  • Master Gardener: Australian Tree Fern
  • Dicksonia Direct: Planting and Care Information for Your Tree Fern
  • Garden Advice: Caring for Tree Ferns
Keywords: tree ferns, Australian tree ferns, tree fern care

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.