The Soft Tree Fern
Known as the soft tree fern or brown tree fern, Dicksonia antarctica is found from Tasmania through to South eastern Queensland.
This is really a rainforest fern and it grows well in the cooler mountainous areas and particularly well along damp creek beds and shaded gullies.
These are an ancient fern, wonderful in the wild and excellent as a landscaping feature in the right location.
Growth rate is dependant on conditions, in a good year they can put on 10cms +, in other years as little as 1 – 2 cm.
They can reach an eventual height of 10 – 15 m (sometimes more in cool protected positions) and have a spread of 4-6 m.
How to Grow Dicksonia antarctica
In actual fact care of Dicksonia antarctica is very simple if you have chosen the right conditions. Cool to temperate climate, dappled shade or ‘filtered light’, humus rich loose moist soil and moisture.
Contrary to popular belief the soft tree fern does not need to watered every week, yes in dry hot conditions this may be the case, however in a reasonable position with natural rainfall they survive well through dry spells.
These wonderful plants can be grown in containers, however the containers need to be large due to the extensive root systems. They will survive indoors, however they do need good air circulation and in areas that are centrally heated they may be problematical.
The removal or pruning of dead fronds is common for aesthetic purposes, however in the natural environment these fronds tend to hang down over the trunk and provide protection from both the cold of winter and the heat of summer. It good conditions cleaning up dead fronds present few if any problems.
How to Water Dicksonia antarctica
This tree fern gets its water from the root system as well as rain, so in cultivation this needs to be mimicked.
- Mulch lightly around the plant to help maintain a moist and cool root run.
- Water using a soft spray, a watering wand is ideal as the soft spray will not damage the fronds.
- Avoid using high pressure hoses of even garden hoses with ‘jet type’ sprays.
- You can use a spray type irrigation system. BUT avoid drip type irrigation as this will drop water in the same spot every time and can cause damage to the crown.
Transplanting Dicksonia antarctica
Unlike Cyathea cooperi the hard tree fern, Dicksonia antarctica is one tree fern that can be grown from cut trunks, in areas of development they are saved by being cut at the base and having the foliage trimmed back, being careful not to remove or damage the new growing tips.
A licence is required to harvest and sell these ferns. At this stage the whole trunk and growing tip need to be get moist until replanted and re established. Other tree ferns treated in this manner will die.
Although they can be a large fern they are relatively easy to transplant, they do require dappled shade, lots of mulch to keep in moisture and provide nutrients although in nature they seem to handle dry conditions, prolonged dry spells can be a problem especially in sunnier aspects
Problems and diseases
In terms of problems and diseases Dicksonia antarctica has few, lack of water or to much sun are major problems. In Australian conditions winter presents no problems in the natural environment.
Dicksonia antarctica is available for sale from the following nurseries
1052 Whittlesea-Kinglake Road Kinglake West 3757
Offering a specialist variety of Australian native Ferns plus Dendrobium/Dockrillia & Sarcochilus species & hybrids in pots, loose, or mounted. Species Cymbidium sauve and maddidum.
- Botanical Name : Dicksonia antarctica
- Common Name : Soft Tree Fern
- Climate : Cool to Mild
- Flower : N/A
- Flowering Time : N/A
- Fragrance: N/A
- Foliage : Mid to deep green fronds
- Height : To around 15 metres
- Spread : Will form a canopy of up too 6 metres
- Position :
- Frost Tolerant : Mild frosts only
- Drought Tolerant : No
- Pruning Time : Removal of old dead fronds as needed
- Propagation : From spores