Tree ferns are quite common trees in our trendy backyard garden designs in recent years. They are easily recognized because they don’t flower or produce seeds. Instead of flowers, they reproduce from spores that grow on the undersides of the fronds. Besides that, they also grow from offsets. They also have wide trunks, which are said to consist of a thin stem that is surrounded by thick, fibrous roots. Unlike the rest of the plant, fronds on many tree ferns remain green throughout the year, though they turn brown and hang around the top of the trunk in other ferns. Ferns have a unique appearance, and they can pretty much stand out from the rest. As a slow-growth type of plant, anyone planning on having fern plants need to know how long it takes for tree ferns to grow fronds.
As a general rule, expect to see Tree fern fronds growing anywhere from a few months to more than a year to develop fully. Fern trees are naturally slow-growing plants and the Fronds particularly begin to develop in the late spring season. After a few weeks, the fronds become bright green and can reach heights of up to a meter from the center. Ferns tend to grow rapidly during the first year and must not be fed during that first year in order to encourage root growth.
After the spring’s rapid growth, the fronded plant develops a fully bright and beautiful color that would make any garden shine. In the summer, the fronds continue to develop and often stay in place well into the winter. Fronds do not tolerate very cold weather.
For the most part, tree ferns thrive in a sheltered, humid and shaded position and have to be placed at an area that has plenty of room so that the top of the plant can spread without crowding over other plants. Mature fronds can reach 2m (6ft) or more in length. These trees should be planted in soil that is neutral to slightly acid. Use your soil testing kit to determine the level of acidity in the soil before you can make decisions on planting your ferns.
The fact that remains about fronds is that they grow at an extremely slow rate. According to statistics, fronds or ferns only increase by about 2.5cm (1in) a year. That said, you might want to choose a fern with a length of trunk that suits your planting scheme, especially if you want a plant for an immediate effect that will work in your favor.
Planting Tree Ferns
As mentioned earlier, best conditions to plant ferns include moist, humus-rich soil. While most prefer a little amount of shade, they can handle the full sun. There are so many different species, and they vary on their climate requirements. Some of these species need to be grown in a frost-free environment and others can tolerate anything from light to medium frost. But they all have one thing in common: They need a climate with high humidity in order to prevent the fronds and trunk from completely drying out.
Besides knowing the right conditions for planting ferns, we also have to know the type of ferns that we will be planting. Tree ferns are available in two ways. Some come as containerized plants and others as lengths of the trunk.
The containerized plants should be transplanted at the same depth as they were in the original container. On the other hand, the trunk’s plant lengths should be planted just deep enough to keep them stable and upright, and they have to be watered on a daily basis until fronds emerge. Don’t be tempted to feed them at all, at least not in the first year. This will allow them to develop deep roots, keeping them stable and strong.
Watering Fern plants
As mentioned, your ferns should be watered frequently, especially in the growing season, which is a 6 months period (typically from May to October). They have to be watered frequently to avoid under-watering conditions.
When a fern is under-watered, it can very easily dry out. This is also associated with narrowing of the trunk, which can result in disappointingly smaller fronds. Other conditions that affect ferns are container cultivation and stunted growth. We will talk about these in a moment.
Feeding is the most important part of taking care of your ferns and almost any other plant. But, you have to remember that ferns should not be fed in their first year.
When you do start feeding them, though, I suggest that you go for the specialist Tree Fern Fertilizer, which is available from Paramount Plants.
Another suitable option for ferns is any liquid plant feed/ fertilizer.
Pruning is another important factor when it comes to caring for ferns. But, make sure not to trim the fronds away until they’re brown and droopy.
And it does come the time when you have to trim them, don’t trim closer than about 15 centimeters from the trunk. This is because the stubs form the structure of the trunk and allow it to get taller. Therefore, cutting than down could slow the growth of the tree.
Tree Fern Winter Protection
Tree Ferns do not cope with very harsh winter conditions, and therefore should not be left unattended to (during those times). The top of the trunk must not be allowed to freeze.
Once the weather starts to cool, which is somewhere between October and November, you should gently push the straw into the top of the trunk. This ought to protect new spring growth from frost damage.
Alternatively, you can also pot up the offsets, particularly the ones that grow at the base. These should be removed and planted in a large pot, after which you should bury the base just deep enough to hold the plant upright.
However, they can easily cope with temperatures down to -5C. Also, any short stints at -10 degrees will be bearable.
Common Problems Associated with ferns.
For anything, you always have to look at the positive and negative sides. First of all, we know that the ferns are astonishing, low maintenance, and trouble-free. But on the other side, are a few potential problems you should take into consideration before you buy these plants.
Stunted growth is a very common occurrence in ferns, but it usually occurs when the plants are not properly cared for.
If the fronds are much smaller and the tree trunk is narrowing, you are probably not watering the plant enough. This is the plant’s way of saying “I need more water”.
So treating this is easy. Simply increase the amount of watering. After a while, your plant will start to look healthy and happy again.
If you have faced severe winters and the plant wasn’t properly protected against it, the fronds could be dead by the time spring comes, especially if the cold got to the center
But if the frost didn’t get to the center of the trunk, your plant is safe till the next season. That tree fern will then sprout new foliage when spring gets here.
Most people consider growing tree ferns grown in containers either outdoors or in a large greenhouse- depending on the resources you can access.
Tree ferns need bright, filtered light along with moderate humidity. Therefore, they must be planted in loam-based ericaceous compost. Also, consider adding about 20 percent peat-free potting media for additional humus.
On top of that, you should apply about a half-strength liquid fertilizer (which should be diluted as directed by the manufacturer).
This should be given to your plant once a week during the growing season, or add a granular fertilizer at the base of the plant in spring.
Having looked at the planting methods and how to care for your plants, let’s dive into the propagation system.
Tree ferns can be propagated from spores that are found on the underside of their leaves. Though, cold temperatures may constrain spore production, so propagate the ferns during the summer or the spring.
The easiest way to propagate tree fronds is from the offsets, which are young plants that grow from the roots or trunk.
As we said before, the offsets develop at a very slow rate. As such, the best way to do that is to wait until they mature.
After that, follow these steps:
- Separate the offsets from the parent trunk or roots. This should be done very carefully to avoid damaging the trunk or the offsets.
- The offsets should be placed in a pot, which should contain loam-based ericaceous compost. Put them deep enough to allow them to sit upright.
- Water the planted offsets and place the pot in a propagator at 15-20°C (59-68°F)
- Once you see signs of growth, they should be taken outside.
Tree fern fronds are not as popular as succulent plants but they are very beautiful when you look after them correctly. In the right setting, they can turn your garden into your very own wonderland. However, knowing how long it takes for growth to appear is key. These plants can take about six months to grow, particularly in the spring. After a few weeks, the fronds can reach up to a meter in height. However, their great nemesis is the harsh winter.