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Post new topic   Reply to topic    Irish Gardeners Forum Home -> Perennials, Ferns and Ornamental grasses

Guide to Growing Tree Ferns

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James Kilkelly
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2007 11:18 pm    Post subject: Guide to Growing Tree Ferns Reply with quote

Guide to Growing Tree Ferns
by David Howlett

Tree ferns have been around since prehistoric times when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. Originally popularised by the Victorians, the tree fern has undergone something of a revival in recent years, helped no doubt by its frequent appearances in many of the television garden makeover programmes.

Varieties of tree ferns to grow in the Ireland
Tree ferns can roughly be divided in hardy and non hardy when growing in the Ireland. 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 Ireland. The two main cold hardy types for our climate are called: Cyathea and Dicksonia. The most commonly available of these are: Cyathea spinulosa, Cyathea australis, Cyathea dealbeta, Dicksonia Antarctica, Dicksonia fibrosa and Dicksonia squarrosa.

Different sizes of tree fern and where to buy them
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. Tree fern trunks will need a hole slightly bigger than the trunk and 4 to 6 inches deep depending on the length of the trunk. Plant them and firm them in, but make sure they are upright then the weight of the trunk will keep it stable. After a few weeks it will make its own roots to secure itself.

Feeding the plant

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.

Surviving the winter
Generally Cyathea and Dicksonia are the hardiest of the most commonly available tree ferns. They are naturally evergreen and should survive quite happily through a normal winter. Before the worst of the winter starts you will need to place a wedge of straw down the centre of the plant (where the fronds grow from) to keep the worst of the frost out.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 08, 2009 12:14 pm    Post subject: Diksonia Antartica Reply with quote

Hi there. I recently planted a Diksonia Antartica (around August time) and it is doing very well with some lovely new fronds.. However, I now wish to move it to a different site as I have changed some features of the bed (my garden is a work in progress). Can I successfully re-locate it, and what would be the best time of the year to do this? Also, will I need to protect it from frost during the winter? The plant is rather small (couldn't afford a fully grown one)! Looking forward to your reply.
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