Tree ferns have been around since prehistoric times when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. Originally popularized by the Victorians, the tree fern has undergone something of a revival in recent years, helped no doubt by it frequent appearances in many of the television garden makeover programmes.
Tree ferns can roughly be divided in hardy and non hardy when growing in the UK. It is likely there are up to a thousand species of tree fern, with most of them growing in the Southern Hemisphere and the tropics. Many of these are not a all cold hardy and it would be very difficult to grow them successfully outside in the UK. The two main cold hardy types for our climate are called: Cyathea and Dicksonia.
Where to Buy Tree Ferns
Tree fern are available as plants that have been propagated from spores and complete trunks that have been harvested from rain forests or tropical areas of the world, often as a by-product of other activities. You can usually buy them at garden centres or specialist nurseries. The trunks are often sold without fronds straight from the container and the fronds will start to appear after a few weeks. Expect to pay more if you want to buy a tree fern with fronds.
Choosing a Position for a Tree Fern
Tree ferns prefer to grow with some shade. They will adapt to a sunny position but will need very regular watering and may suffer from sunburn to the fronds. So ideally you need to pick a spot in the garden with some shade during at least part of the day. Ferns also like a moist surrounding and tree ferns really need watering every day during the warmer months especially inside and down the trunk. They will grow equally happy in containers but again will prefer a shady spot.
How to Plant Tree Ferns
Tree ferns don't need a rich or deep soil. They will survive happily even in very poor or stony soil. Ideally a slightly acid soil (adding ericaceous compost will help) is preferable and a light dressing with blood and bone meal will give the plants plenty of food to start them off. If you've purchased a smaller plant just dig a hole big enough for the root ball.
Feeding your Tree Fern
The tree fern will need feeding from time to time. If you have planted it in the shade under a canopy of larger tree your tree fern will extract some nutrients from the decaying leaf-fall. They will still need some extra feed and one of the best around is one called Maxi Crop. Maxi Crop is made from seaweed; it is easily available and contains a good range of nutrients and minerals. Follow the manufactures instructions for the dilution and feed well at least every two months.