The Q&A Archives: Brown Tips On My Dicksonia Antarctica

Question: My Tree Fern is starting to get brown tips. I've just brought it in from outside and I would like it to remain healthy for the winter months. I water it on a regular schedule. The water runs out the bottom of the pot so I know its draining. Normally I would say it's to little, to late (water) with these symtoms but here I just keep the water flowing. The fronds are also yellowing (losing the darker green color.) Help!! Should I be watering the center of the plant or the soil? More light? It will have to be indoors until May or, so we're zone 6. Kindest regards for all your help. Valerie

Answer: Probably the most common reason for yellowing and drying in ferns is low humidity. This fern in particular requires extremely humid conditions, so the indoor air in a centrally heated home will be too dry for it.

You will need to try to increase the humidity around the plant. One method is to use a humidifier, another is to set the container on an evaporation tray filled with pebbles and water. (Keep the water level to just below the top of the pebbles, the pot should not actually touch the water.) Grouping it together with other plants can also help. You could also mist the plant occasionally. (If you have hard water, use rain water for this.) Lowering the room temperature to about 60 degrees also helps keep the humidity up.

Take care that your watering is not causing the soil to be too moist, it should not be sopping wet although the soil should also not dry out. You need to feel it with your finger and see if and when you need to water.

Also check the light level. This plant does best in filtered brightlight, meaning no direct sun should be hitting it.

The plant may also be going through a rather abrupt adjustment period. Ideally it would be brought indoors gradually and earlier in the season so that the indoor and outdoor temperatures are not so drastically different. By waiting until November, it may be showing signs of cold damage that occurred before you brought it inside.

At this point, I would suggest upping the humidity and allowing it time to recover. Do not fertilize in an attempt to revive it -- it should not be fertilized in winter when its growth is naturally slower -- just let it be and be patient. Good luck with your fern!

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