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Help with ailing tree fern please

Posted by imrainey zone 9; SoCal (My Page) on
Sat, May 10, 08 at 11:41

I have what I believe is an Australian tree fern growing in a shade garden at my house. It's been there for 10 years that we know of -- came with the house when we moved in.

For years it did just fine with no particular attention. Now it's doing very poorly and has but a handful of bracts (is that the word?) left.

We recently discovered a serious break in the irrigation system. I suspect it's been broken for a long time. Is it possible returning moisture to the area will solve the problem or should I do more for this plant?

I will appreciate any recommendations. It would be exceedingly difficult to replace because that's adobe clay soil interwoven with a mesh of tree and large shrub roots.


Thanks in advance.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Help with ailing tree fern please

I wish I had a dollar for every Australian tree fern that I have killed over the years. They can be temperamental to say the least. The first thing I could think of when I saw your fern pic was how small the little guy is. These are really normally quite fast growing ferns. Your plant must have been underwatered for years. That, or the soil is not appropriate for growth. This is one plant that simply does NOT tolerate any degree of drought. On the positive side, your fern looks quite healthy and should recuperate. I would increase watering and check into improving the soil. Also, mulching would not hurt. Most important, never let it
dry out.

RE: Help with ailing tree fern please

Clay soil may not be the best planting medium for it. They are temperate rain forest plants and like a humusy soil with lots of organics.

If you could get it out of the ground without damage, it might do better in a pot with plenty of organic material. I grow mine this way - don't believe what anyone says about these plants not needing roots, they will develop a big root ball given time and need a nice big pot.

If you can't get it out of the ground then as njoasis says, mulch well and feed with something like fish, blood and bone, or chicken manure pellets. The fronds look very small to me, which suggests it is underfed.

RE: Help with ailing tree fern please

I couldn't get it out if my life depended on it. And I can't do much about the clay -- that's just how it is here. But I've got a compost pile and I can certainly mulch it well with compost. Thanks for the tip.

So, it should be taller and growing faster? It's actually a good size for the rest of the plantings in that shade garden. I don't want it much taller. Just a little more lush would be nice.

RE: Help with ailing tree fern please

Hi there, wonder if you could possibly help me. I have a large 6ft D.A. which I purchased a couple of years ago. Over the last two years the crown has reduced quite significantly. After the worst winter the UK has had in 30 years I thought it had died, but to my astonishment it has recovered with an even smaller crown. A couple of months ago I moved it to a shadier spot in the garden. I have clay soil and so mulch well with leaf mould and feed with pelleted chicken manure. Can anyone please tell me if it is likely the crown will regrow to its original size or am i stuck with a tiny crown. Also, am i taking care of it properly or is there anything else I could do. Its too big to put in a pot. Thanks loads

Can I save my tree fern?

I too have a very poorly tree fern. We've had it about 10 years. It's 5-6ft tall and in a large pot. Shady position. Not windy. However, year after year the fronds have been getting shorter and shorter...and now the poor thing seems to have given up completely. We normally water it on the crown and around the base. We try and give the trunk a wetting now and then but it's a bit tricky. Does anyone have any ideas? Is it worth taking it out of the pot and trying it in the soil? All advice much appreciated...we're very fond of it and would hate to see it die completely. (We are in the south of the UK, so a temperate climate)

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