With the dramatic rise in tree ferns popularity over the last decade there are more businesses than ever selling plants. Here is your guide to buying tree ferns.
The first decision you have to make is do you want to buy a mature specimen, a plant you can grow on or spore so you can germinate your own tree ferns.
Mature specimens – these tend to be more expensive as you will either be growing a plant that has been grown in a nursery for several years or a plant that has been harvested from the wild and transported to you. The advantages are that you will have a plant that will make an instant impact.
• Cyathea specimens should always be bought with a good size root ball in tact as these species very rarely survive being planted as logs. If the fronds have been removed look for plants with a firm crown and check that emerging fronds have not rotted. Where possible buy plants that have been grown on in a nursery and have re-fronded. If purchasing seed grown specimens enquire as to the conditions they are acclimatised too as a change in humidity, light levels or sunlight may shock sensitive Cyathea species.
• Dickosonia antarctica, fibrosa and sellowiana can be brought as logs without fronds or roots. Where possible buy plants which have firm crowns and check that emerging fronds have not rotted. Ensure plants are replanted in loose draining humus soil so that root growth is encouraged.
Whenever buying tree ferns ensure they are well watered before replanting. For more information on the requirements of individual species visit the Fern Files.
Young Plants – are a great way of finding rare species that you can grow on. Cyathea species make good plants to grow on as many are fairly fast growing and species such as Cyathea cooperi and medullaris can start to form a trunk with 3-4 years from spore. This is by no means instant but in tree fern terms you can have a nice specimen plant in 5-6 years.
The other advantage to raising young plants is that they are easier to protect from the frost than trunked plants. I often bring species inside the house overnight if the frost is hard. You can sink young plants into the ground in there pots so they are part of your display and then lift and over winter and pot on the next spring.
Germinating plants from Spore – many of the fern societies we have listed offer a spore swap for members. This is an excellent way of not only sharing spores from your prized plants but also collecting plants you might not be able to find in mass cultivation. Raising plants from spore is the most cost effective way of building your collection of plants but some species are very difficult to germinate and harden off!
For more information on cultivating plants from spore visit our fern propagation page.