Dicksonia antarctica F.A.Q
Tree ferns grow under the forest canopy in partially shaded areas and are best suited to a sheltered, moist environment. They like protection from drying winds and mid day sun (although if well watered most can tolerate sunny situations). In the wild they are often found thriving in areas where few other plants survive.
What tree ferns like
Ferns are considered to be 'top feeders' as the plant growth area occupies approx. 12-24 inches (30-60cm) below the crown or top of the plant. The remainder of the trunk is made up of the root system and old frond bases. In its natural environment the crown is often found to be full of decaying leaf matter that has fallen from the canopy above. This helps retain moisture, protects the crown in winter from the cold and provides nutrient as the leaf matter decomposes. A large amount of moisture and nutrient exchange is through the crown, so it would be serious neglect not to water and feed ferns from the top.
On arrival, your tree fern should be anchored vertically and thoroughly soaked (remember to water the crown of the plant). At first, water every day until the fronds start to emerge. At this point the use of TREE FERN FEED will give your tree fern the food it needs to produce vigorous growth. During the growing season as the fronds start to move, feed weekly into the crown of your tree fern. Also be sure to water regularly during the Spring and Summer to ensure the crown of your tree fern is always kept moist.
The tree fern is an evergreen plant, although in many areas of Europe it is likely that in Winter frost will 'burn off' the existing fronds and potentially damage the following season's growth. Hence, unless your ferns are in a frost-free environment, protection from frost is advised. The best solution is to use horticultural fleece, straw or even fallen leaves to put into the crown. If you live in a very cold area or it is a very cold winter you may also wish to wrap the top 30cm of your tree fern as well to prevent the growing point from freezing. Do not cut off the fronds as unless it is a harsh winter the fronds will stay green. We would also recommend not cutting the fronds off even if they die and turn brown as these help to keep the crown of the fern pulled open. We have found that ferns which constantly have their fronds cut off every year tend to get smaller crowns which taper in and produce smaller fronds.
It is also important that the tree fern does not dry out especially if the fern is in a pot. If you do need to water in winter make sure it is when the temperature is not likely to go below 1°C.
If you have young or very small tree ferns they should be kept in a frost free environment just to be safe.
When the last frost is gone and before the fronds start to unfurl remove your winter protection to avoid hindering the growth of new fronds.
Finally, each fern is different and each situation may be different. The fern may be placed in a small stone courtyard in central London, a small garden in the country or in managed gardens open to the public. In each instance it is advisable to consider the local climate and, most importantly, the micro-climate surrounding the plant.
Things to remember are:
- Water regularly from the top ensuring the crown does not dry out
- Feed from the top: the life of the plant is at the top of the trunk
- Grow in a sheltered area protected from drying winds and midday sun
- Needs moisture, damp conditions and well-drained soil near water
- Protect from frost: remove protection after last frost
- No need for pesticides: generally pest and disease-free