Tree Ferns – Dicksonia Antarctica

Tree ferns, primarily Dicksonia Antarctica were my first ‘big’ buy for my garden a few years ago, having longed for those luscious fronds for a while previously.

I jumped into the deep end and bought 2x 6ft tree ferns that were for sale at an online nursery, planted them in the ground, changed my mind on position and re-sited them a few months later.

A few years on I can still say they are one of my favourite plants in the garden, and endlessly impressive, and together with the Musa Basjoo always are a talking point when friends and family come and visit the garden.

BUY: Tree Ferns here from UK Sellers

There are at least twelve thousand species of fern, many of which can be found in tropical and subtropical regions of the world on virtually every continent, hence there are a large number that can be grown to perfection in our temperate gardens

Tree Fern (Dicksonia antarctica) log - 3 foot

Tree Fern (Dicksonia antarctica) l- 3 foot

Ferns in general, are luxuriant and predominantly green making them perfect plants for shady corners of the exotic garden underneath the canopy of larger trees shrubs and tree ferns. MORE: About Ground Ferns / Types

Dicksonia Antarctica for Structural Backbone

A must buy staple for the UK tropical garden. These giants of the fern world add a truly exotic feel to the garden with their superficially palm like fronds, giving strong shape and stately form to tranquil areas of the garden. READ: What to grow with tree ferns?

They also have a very alluring primitive appearance, as these giants of the fern world were around at the time of the dinosaurs long before flowering plants existed.

Buy Dicksonia antartica tree ferns online.

Dicksonia antartica tree fern

They are native to the tropics and subtropical parts of the Southern Hemisphere, though several grow well in our cool maritime climate if sited well

A suitable hardy Tree fern for UK gardens?

It is an exotic ever green tree fern. It is considered as one of the oldest plants in the world, native to Australia and New Zealand. Its erect trunk consists of thick mass of fibrous roots from which thick long (up to 3m/10ft.) fronds originate. The pinnation of fronds at the top adds to the beauty of tree as it presents an attractive and symmetrical arrangement. This tree gives a very fancy and dramatic look to the whole garden or whichever space it is placed in. I love to underplant tree ferns with lower growing ferns

The rate at which Dicksonia antarctica grows is very slow. Therefore, the trunk can take up to ten years to grow 30cm only. The lush green fronds, however, grow at a much faster pace. The deciduous nature of this plant is a concern of fern growers. The soft fern can bear a temperature of -10 degrees Celsius for a short period. The foliage dies at -2 degrees C, but quickly grows back as soon as the weather becomes less adverse, so it’s not a concern. It’s the top part which is vulnerable to have irreparable damage because of prolonged winter freezing. Because of the half-hardy or tender hardiness of the crown, it needs extra care in winter. Crown can be preserved by wrapping it with straw, horticultural fleece or dead fallen fronds, or placing it in a greenhouse. In mild winter, fern may not need any protection at all.

Dicksonia antarctica thrives well in dappled partial, partial or full shade. It should be planted in humus rich, neutral to acid soil. Experts say that it should ideally be planted somewhere where it can access continuous water supply, we use auto drippers here! It should never be planted in dry soil under full sun. Fronds may not grow in their full capacity if fern is not watered properly.

It can be used a standalone piece of ornament or can be combined with ferns or other plants. Fatsia japonica, Asplenium scolopendrium and Matteuccia struthiopteris grow well with Dicksonia Antarctica.

Do not worry if the trunk you receive from suppliers does not has fronds, as these grow back quickly.

I’m sure you are familiar with green, large, opulent looking fronds on long forest roads and bush walks. Those fronds that you see are from Tree Ferns such as Dicksonia Antarctica. Tree ferns are exotic fern plants native to the coastal regions of Eastern Australia. They are regarded as one of the oldest plants on Earth, dating back millions of years, even before the era of dinosaurs. These beautiful tree ferns create a dramatic tropical environment in the gentle forests of Australia and any other landscape or garden they are grown in.

Although these trees have single tree-trunk like stems, they are not scientifically regarded as trees because they do not possess the woody plant stem and do not undergo secondary plant growth. Rather, the single stem is an over enlarged rhizome.

Tree ferns for sale UK

What are Tree Ferns?

Tree ferns feature a single erect tree trunk that is thick and soft, of a wool-like fibre. At the top of this trunk sits a series of beautiful, green, and wide fern fronds that creates a luxurious canopy in the landscape. Just like other plants in the fern family, tree ferns are not flowering plants and do not produce seeds. Rather they reproduce from offsets of the plant or from the spores that grow on the underside of the fern fronds.

They are generally regarded as a slow-growing plant, achieving annual growth of only 25-50 millimetres in height. Although, they are likely to grow faster in the right environment and their natural forest habitat. Hence, it is difficult to tell the age of a Dicksonia Antarctica tree by just sighting it. Trees that you spot in an old and developed forest might be several centuries old.

Tree ferns are assumed to attain a total lifetime height of 15 feet when cultivated and 20 feet in their natural habitat. However, because of the lifespan and age of these trees, they may grow even taller than this. The dark green fronds of tree ferns have a rough texture and are usually 6 feet to 19 feet in diameter, but this ranges depending on the size of a tree and how it is cultivated.

Tree ferns are evergreen plants. That is, they stay green all year round as long as they get proper care during the harsh winter season.

Species of Tree Ferns – Types and Varieties of Tree ferns

The two most common tree ferns are native to southeastern Australia and have a wide distribution across that area. They look alike and those who are not learned about tree ferns are unaware that they are a different species. Plus, they grow close together in the same regions along coastal lines.

The most noticeable differences between the two species are the structure of their fronds and the texture of their stems.

The two species are Cyathea australis and Dicksonia antarctica.

Cyathea australis tree fern

This is commonly called rough tree fern because of the presence of masses of hair-like scale, knobbly bits, and the adventitious roots found on its trunk. Apart from its beautiful fern fronds, another great feature of this species is its hardy nature. It can survive in the harshest of weather and easily adapts to different weather conditions and soil types that is why it can thrive on dry slopes unlike some other species of ferns.

Dicksonia antarctica

As mentioned above, these are terrestrial ferns with a singular enlarged rhizome that acts as the trunk. Dicksonia antarctica thrives in areas with high water content and lots of moisture that is why it is usually seen in wet forests, in gullies, and around creek beds. Its dark green ferns grow in a wide-spreading canopy style. It is relatively easy to grow and can be grown from spores or plantlets that spring out at the base of the rhizome. Another alternative to growing the plant is by the cutting method, although this is not recommended except in a situation where the fern will die in its present position if it is not relocated.

Dicksonia antarctica is a beautiful indoor and outdoor plant that is relatively easy to grow. When cultivating it, plant it in loose soil, keep the base moist, and supply it with lots of nutrients.

How To Plant Dicksonia antarctica

Dicksonia antarctica is easily adaptable and can grow in any type of soil. It is easy to grow once it has lots of water and sufficient organic nutrients.

Regardless of whether you’re planting directly into the ground or a container, dig a hole larger than the trunk width and mix in lots of nutrient rich soil and compost.

  • Make sure you are using soil that is well-draining and mix in 5-10 gallons of compost to the soil.
  • Place the trunk into the hole (generally we stake ours and place trunk on surface, or a couple of inches into the ground, and  eventually the roots will grow down into the ground.
  • Fill the hole up with the soil and compost mixture to completely cover it. Gently stamp on it and water thoroughly.

Tree Fern Maintenance

Just like other species of ferns, the Dicksonia Antarctica is low-maintenance and doesn’t require an extensive amount of attention. During harsh weather, the fronds dry up and fall off but experts recommend leaving the dry and brown fronds to fall off on their own because when they fall, they protect the base and trunk of the tree from cold and chilly temperatures and dehydration. We use auto drippers on ours so the trunk always stays damp.

Symbiotic Relationship With Other Plants

The canopy that the fronds of Dicksonia Antarctica produce serve as a shade for other smaller ferns plants and specimen to germinate. In essence, their rhizome stems serve as a mini-ecosystem with mosses, lichens and seedlings growing on it.

Eventually, the tree fern might be totally engulfed by the ecosystem of plants growing on its stem but this usually takes hundreds of years and even after, you will still be able to see the tree stem in the midst of it.

The Dicksonia Antarctica tree fern is an exotic plant and although its natural habitat in Australia, it is now readily available for purchase in horticultural stores. The population has been greatly affected by sellers of these plants so if you want to add this luxurious plant to add to the aesthetics of your garden, make sure you obtain it from a reputable source.

Large tree ferns for sale UK

There should be links to both small and large tree ferns for sale in the UK, so hopefully there will be something the perfect size for your own garden. As expensive as they are, don’t skimp as you won’t get much growth as they are super slow, so get as big as you can afford!

Mature tree ferns for sale uk

To be honest pretty much all the tree ferns you’ll see listed on any site are mature tree ferns, as they are so slow growing even a 1ft tree fern will be a mature ten years old already!

Tree fern FAQ

What are the types of tree ferns?

The two types of tree ferns in the Dicksoniaceae family are Dicksonia antarctica and Dicksonia fibrosa

How do I feed a tree fern?

It is recommended that you used a liquid feed.

Do I need to wrap my tree fern in the UK?

It is okay to leave them, but if you must wrap them up then straw in the crown.

Do tree ferns prefer sun or shade?

Tree ferns like light, but they can burn in direct sunlight. They are happiest under a light canopy of other trees. If you have a sheltered spot in a courtyard that gets some filtered light, that’s perfect. They’ll also handle shade well.

Are tree ferns Hardy?

They are not fully hardy so make sure to give them a warm, sheltered spot. Since tree ferns need to be kept frost-free during winter, they are best planted in containers that can be moved indoors.

Which is the hardiest tree fern?

Dicksonia antarctica – one of the hardier tree ferns.

Can tree ferns grow in full sun?

In general, ferns prefer to grow in part shade, under the canopy of trees

How fast does a tree fern grow?

They are a very slow-growing plant and grow only about 1″ a year.

Do ferns come back every year?

Ferns are perennial plants, those that live for many years. Annual plants are the ones you have to replant every year.

Further Reading & Common Tree Fern Questions

FAQ Tree Ferns – Learn, Buy & Grow with us.

Buy Ferns online – Our selection of Tree ferns for sale

All other Ferns

Growing Tree Ferns in the UK

We bring you another video from our late friend and Exotic gardening expert Will Giles. Here we look into growing one of the most popular exotic plants, the tree fern. A fast growing and beautiful addition to your exotic garden, but requires it’s own special care and attention. Will Giles explores growing these amazing tree ferns in his wonderful garden in Norwich, Norfolk, on the East coast of England.


Further reading

Are tree ferns hardy?
Do you cut back tree fern fronds when they are brown?
How to take care of tree ferns?
Do Tree Ferns Prefer Sun Or Shade?