How to Care for a Fern Tree


The Australian tree fern, an evergreen shade-loving plant, creates a tall tropical canopy effect around ponds and pools. This fern tree variety features a single trunk and reaches heights of 15 to 30 feet with foot-long leaves. Hardy only in USDA Zones 10 to 11, the fern will not tolerate cold temperatures. Care for a fern tree by keeping the soil moist and fertilized.

Step 1

Select a planting location for the Australian tree fern that offers a fertile, sandy or loamy soil. Ferns prefer full sun to partial shade conditions for best results.

Step 2

Plant the tree fern in a hole twice the width and the same depth as the container it came in. Mix an equal amount of organic compost with the removed soil. Place the plant into the hole and gently pack the soil mix around the root ball. Space the plants 36 to 60 inches apart.

Step 3

Water the tree fern generously after planting and for the first two weeks after planting. Continue to water the tree fern during the growing season to keep the soil evenly moist. Tree ferns are drought tolerant, moist soil prevents the plant from shriveling.

Step 4

Fertilize the tree fern with a balanced fertilizer twice during the summer growing season. Apply the fertilizer when watering the plant to assist with absorption. Do not fertilize the tree fern more often as they do not tolerate heavy fertilizer applications.

Step 5

Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch around the tree fern to assist with moisture retention and provide nutrients to the soil. Leave a 3-inch gap between the mulch and trunk of the tree fern.

Step 6

Propagate the tree fern by removing the spores found on the underside of mature fern leaves. Sow the spores just under the soil surface and lightly water. Keep the soil moist, but not wet, during the germination period.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Organic compost
  • Balanced fertilizer
  • Mulch


  • University of Florida Extension: Australian Tree Fern
  • Australian National Botanic Garden: The Soft Tree Fern
  • Do It Yourself: Taking Care of Your Australian Tree Fern
Keywords: grow tree fern, care of tree fern, plant Australian fern

About this Author

Jennifer Loucks has over 10 years of experience as a former technical writer for a software development company in Wisconsin. Her writing experience includes creating software documentation and help documents for clients and staff along with training curriculum. Loucks holds a Bachelor of Science major from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls specializing in animal science and business.