The Q&A Archives: Australian Tree Fern

Question: I live in the sunny side of San Francisco in Potrero Hill. I planted a Monrovia Australian Tree Fern about 2 months ago in an area of the yard with partial sun/partial shade. It may get direct sun for less than 1 hour in the late morning. The problem is that the fine leaves are drying out, then turning brown, one frond at a time. I water the soil a little every 2 days when the topsoil is dry. I am afraid that I am going to lose the whole plant. Please advise.

Answer: Your Australian Tree Fern prefers full sun exposure in your cool-summer growing region. The browning fronds might indicate that conditions are too shady for it. The trees require moist but well-draining soil, and it's always important to water thoroughly each time you apply water so the entire root mass gets wet. Sprinkling a little every few days will not supply enough water to the roots of your plant. Build a basin around the base of your tree fern and flood the basin when you water. This will encourage the moisture to trickle down slowly and wet the entire root zone. You can do this once or twice a week, depending on weather. It isn't unusual for the lower, older fronds to die off, so if the browning is concentrated on the older fronds, it might be just a natural aging process. You can cut away the older fronds and new fronds will develop at the crown of the plant. Best wishes with your plant!

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