Big fern tree next to wood wall in a garden.

How to Grow a Sculptural Fern in Your Garden

Tree ferns have huge, arching fronds, a unique trunk, and a shape reminiscent of their tropical rain forest origins. Although expensive, they pay their way by adding drama and an exotic element to a garden, and they flourish in awkward, damp, dark corners where most other plants struggle to grow.

When to plant: Spring.

At their best: Summer.

Time to complete: 1 ½ hours.

You will need: Pot-grown tree fern – Dicksonia Antarctica, spade, all-purpose granular fertilizer, garden stake, watering can.

Check planting depth

Dig a hole twice as wide as the trunk and as deep as the height of the container, then loosen the earth at the base. Position the fern in the hole and, with a stake, check that the final soil level will be the same as it is in the pot. Add or remove soil as necessary.

Add fertilizer

Lift the tree fern from its hole and add a small amount of a general fertilizer, such as blood, fish, and bone meal, to the base. Mix this into the soil so that it does not touch the roots directly. Tree ferns rarely need feeding after this initial application.

Firm in around base

Remove the tree fern from its pot and place it in the hole. Check that it is upright, then backfill with soil, using your foot to carefully press all around the edge of the plant to make sure it is held firmly in place. Take care not to compact the soil, because this may hinder drainage.

Water thoroughly

Tree ferns are unusual because, rather than their roots, it is their leafy crowns that need to be kept moist. However, you should water them at the base as well when first planting them, because it helps settle the soil and hold the trunk upright.

Tips: Overwintering

The crowns of tree ferns need protecting from the wet and cold during winter. Make a chicken wire frame around the plant and pack it loosely with straw. Then cover with a waterproof hat made from plastic sheeting and tie it on securely. This will insulate the plant and keep it dry, but still allow essential ventilation.