The Q&A Archives: Brown Fern Fronds

Question: We have some tree ferns in our yard and shortly after a new growth matures the entire frond turns brown and dies. There are however, a few healthy branches. We have a watering schedule of 15 minutes 3 days a week. The ferns are in partial shade, with moist soil. We fertilize every couple of months with a general garden fertilizer. We are about 4 miles from the pacific ocean, and our soil clay like and slightly alkaline. Any suggestions or ideas why the branches turn brown so quickly?

Answer: Cyathea cooperi, the tree fern, is a relatively hardy plant and will eventually grow to about 20' in height. The fronds are sensitive to dry air and to winds, which dessicate them. They grow to huge proportions in humid places such as Hawaii. Since you're near the ocean I suspect the humidity is adequate for your trees, but you may be overwatering them. While they like to be watered regularly, one 15 minute session per week is probably adequate for them. Try reducing the frequency of watering this growing season and see if that doesn't improve the situation. Best wishes!

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