The Q&A Archives: Troubled Australian Tree Fern

Question: I'm having a crisis with my two new Australian tree ferns. We put them in the ground in a shady spot a month ago and it rained for a few weeks -- and they were very happy. All of sudden, one has brown leaves hanging on the ground and the other one is beginning to do the same although not as dramatically. I've gotten contradictory feedback from the nursery where I bought them. One person told me they aren't getting enough water; another too much. Do you have any idea as to what might be going on and how I can save these plants?

Answer: Without actually seeing your fern and the site, I can't say for sure what the problem is, but I would err on the side of "too dry." These ferns need a woodsy, humusy soil that drains well but can retain moisture (like a well-wrung sponge). They should be watered if the soil is dry to 3" deep and benefit from high humidity around the trunk and under the canopy. It is normal for them to drop their oldest fronds every few months.

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