Grow a Sculptural Fern

Damp, dark gardens in mild areas are ideal for this dramatic plant.

Arching Fern Fronds

Arching Fern Fronds

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Tree ferns make textural focal points in shady corners, where they can be underplanted with other low-growing plants, such as ferns and hostas that enjoy similar conditions.

Tree ferns have huge, arching fronds, a unique trunk and a shape reminiscent of their tropical rain-forest origins. Although expensive, they pay their way by adding drama and an exotic element to a garden, and they flourish in awkward, damp, dark corners where most other plants struggle to grow.

When to Start: Spring
At Its Best: Summer
Time to Complete: 1-1/2 hours

Materials Needed:

  • pot-grown Tasmanian tree fern
  • spade
  • all-purpose granular fertilizer
  • garden stake
  • watering can

Check Planting Depth

Dig a hole twice as wide as the trunk and as deep as the height of the container, then loosen the earth at the base. Position the fern in the hole and, with a stake, check that the final soil level will be the same as it is in the pot. Add or remove soil as necessary.

Use a Stake To Check Soil Level For Ferns

Use a Stake To Check Soil Level For Ferns

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Add Fertilizer

Lift the tree fern from its hole and add a small amount of a general fertilizer, such as bone meal, to the base. Mix this into the soil so that it does not touch the roots directly. Tree ferns rarely need feeding after this initial application.

Add Fertilizer Before Planting Tree Fern

Add Fertilizer Before Planting Tree Fern

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Firm in Around Base

Remove the tree fern from its pot and place it in the hole. Check that it's upright, then backfill with soil, using your foot to carefully press all around the edge of the plant to make sure it's held firmly in place. Take care not to compact the soil, because this may hinder drainage.

Planting Tree Fern

Planting Tree Fern

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Water Thoroughly

Tree ferns are unusual because, rather than their roots, it's their leafy crowns that need to be kept moist. However, you should water them at the base as well when first planting them, because it helps settle the soil and hold the trunk upright.

Water Crowns of Tree Ferns

Water Crowns of Tree Ferns

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Top Tip: Overwintering

The crowns of tree ferns need protection from wet and cold during winter. Make a chicken wire frame around the plant and pack it loosely with straw. Then cover with a waterproof hat made from plastic sheeting and tie it on securely. This will insulate the plant and keep it dry, but still allow essential ventilation.

Protect Tree Fern Crown from the Weather

Protect Tree Fern Crown from the Weather

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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