‘Hardy Tree Fern, Soft Tree Fern, Australian Tree Fern, Tasmanian Tree Fern’
The botanical name Dicksonia antarctica derives from:
Dicksonia – named in honour of James Dickson, 1738-1822, a British nurseryman.
antarctica – ‘southern’, or from the Antarctic regions.
Common names for the species include ‘Hardy Tree Fern’, ‘Soft Tree Fern’, ‘Australian Tree Fern’, and ‘Tasmanian Tree Fern’.
Dicksonia antarctica is endemic to Australia, growing from South-Eastern Queensland, through the NSW and Victoria coastal areas and in Tasmania. In the wild this species prefers to live in moist areas with high water content in wet forests, along creek beds, in gullies and occasionally at high altitudes in cloud forests.
In its native habitat Dicksonia antarctica experiences temperatures as low as -13°C (8°F). For this reason some growers feel that Dicksonia antarctica is fully hardy in Britain. However do not be lulled into a false sense of security. Only Mature plants (4ft+) can be left completely unprotected in milder sheltered positions and these may still lose their fronds although they should re-grow healthily in spring.
(See over wintering)
Dicksonia antarctica is an attractive fern whose trunk can grow up to 6m x 75cm (20ft x 30in) in height; it has large dark green roughly textured fronds growing to 1.2 – 2.5m in a spreading canopy of up to 6m (20ft) in diameter. Dicksonia antarctica is a very slow growing specimen, in cultivation the trunk rarely reaches the maximum figure given. The trunk itself is made up of a central core of very hard woody vascular tissue. This is surrounded by old leaf bases through which root fibers grow.
The condition in which Dicksonia antarctica thrives is in filtered sunlight, loose well drained soils with lots of organic matter and plenty of water. However, this species can still withstand some drying out and can survive in drier conditions. The older the plant the more tolerant it will be to drought. An exposed site will dry plants out more quickly so semi-shade is preferable. Plants in full sun or watered less frequently often result in the development of shorter fronds.
Before planting the trunk, it is recommended that it should be soaked in water for a few minutes. Dig a hole slightly larger than the diameter of the trunk and infill with organic mulch. Plant the log in such a way that as little trunk as possible is buried, while ensuring that it is stable and will not easily topple over easily. Once the trunk is firmly in place, water the trunk copiously.
If preferred Dicksonia antarctica can be grown as a pot specimen. Again, plant as shallow as possible, but remember when picking up the pot that the log will fall out if not held upright. After about 1 year, roots should appear from the bottom of the pot. The plant can then be re-potted into a larger container.
The most important maintenance of your Dicksonia antarctica is regular watering. At sizes less than 1ft this should be several times a week and daily for the first summer to establish a good root system. Do not spray directly in the ferns crown (top) as in colder weather this may encourage rot. Instead soak the whole trunk, angling the hose from below, the wetter the better.
For plants in containers feeding is necessary after the first year, a small dose of a general purpose fertilizer such a growmore, or fish blood and bone will be adequate. This is less important for plants growing in the ground.
For aesthetic reasons it may be necessary to remove old fronds in the spring, this does not necessarily benefit the plant which subsequently becomes more exposed and susceptible to drying out.
There are three main strategies for providing winter protection to tree ferns: keeping them in a conservatory all year round; overwintering small plants in a protected environment; and protecting larger plants outdoors in situ.
Overwintering smaller plants carefully is important as they are more prone to die if frosts are heavy. Where possible it is advisable where possible to bring any plants 2ft or less into a cool conservatory, greenhouse, or even a shed, where temperatures will be higher. It is also desirable to cover the plant with fleece on those nights with hard frosts for added protection, but remember to continue water the trunks once or twice a month.
Larger plants, although more hardy, still need some protection. The easiest way to provide this is to is to compact a good amount of straw in the crowns of the ferns to stop ice from freezing the crown. In plants less than 4ft added protection may be necessary by insulating the trunk with polystyrene plants trays belted around the trunk. Click here for more information on overwintering tree ferns.
The easiest way to propagate new plants is spore cultivation. This may sound very scientific but is in fact a fairly simple but lengthy process. Taking approximately 2-3 years for small plantlets to be produced. Click here for our simple 5 step process to cultivating ferns from spore.
With the dramatic rise in tree ferns popularity over the last decade there are more businesses than ever selling plants. We have two pages designed to help you get the right plant from a nursery in your area.
Firstly you need to decide whether you are going to invest in a mature trunked specimen or nurture a young plant. Visit our guide to buying tree ferns for information on selecting the right fern.
Once you have decided what size of plant you want visit our where to buy page for information on ferns stockists in near you.
Please also visit our sponsors below, they help us keep the site running!
Family Name: Cyatheaceae.
Common Names: Hardy Tree Fern, Soft Tree Fern, Australian Tree Fern, Tasmanian Tree Fern
Position: Partial to full shade.
Soil: Humus-rich, neutral to acid soil.
Growth Rate: Slow.
Eventual spread: 6m.
Max Height: 10m (6m Cultivated).
Hardiness: Half Hardy – they are hardy down to -10°C and the foliage is hardy to -2°C.
Winter tips: Protect crown from frost by insulating with straw bound chicken wire.
Summer tips: Keep plants moist, water daily during the hotter periods.