Filicium decipiens is an ornamental tree with a straight, short trunk and a dense, neatly shaped rounded crown. The tree has an awesome appearance due to its winged stem that holds the leaves. It grows up to 7 meters (25 ft) in height and has a luxuriant rounded crown which gives it a compact aspect, making it perfect for urban areas. This species of Filicium is native to east Africa, Madagascar, India, Malawi, Ethiopia, the Comoro Islands, Mozambique, and Sri Lanka. You will have to be cautious as the fern tree is toxic for pets.
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|Fern Tree, Ferntree, Fern Leaf Tree, Kiora Payung
|5-10 m (15-30 feet) tall
|Full sun, partial shade
|Well-draining potting soil, rich soil
|Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
|Small white, pink
About Fern Tree
- The scientific name “Filicium” comes from the Latin “filix” which means fern. It gained this name due to the fact that the foliage resembles the fern fronds. The epithet “decipiens” means “deceptive and it refers to the deceptive nature of the foliage which is very similar to the fern fronds.
- Filicium decipiens is typically grown in tropical gardens and landscapes for its green, eye-catching foliage and for the shade that it provides due to its dense leafage.
- If the tree grows in favourable conditions and environment, they produce hard and heavy wood, averaging above 900 kgs per cubic metre (56 lbs per cubic ft). The wood has a high natural resistance to decay and termites. The heartwood is reddish-brown and its logs are used for durable beams and posts that are used in construction. The smaller branches are used to craft tool handles and if properly dried, make excellent slow-burning firewood.
- The fern tree can also be used in traditional medicine but to a lower extent. It is usually used in Indian traditional medicine where the bark helps in the treatment of fractures.
Fern Tree Features: An Overview
- Filicium decipiens is a tree that usually grows up to 7 m (25 ft) in height but it can grow up to up to 30 m tall in ideal environments.
- The fern tree has pale bark and it grows in forests that are located near river valleys that are up to 1600 m altitude.
- The foliage of the fern tree is shiny and alternately placed, with up to 10 pairs of leaflets. The leaflets have a lanceolate to linear or narrowly oblong–elliptic form, 5 to 16 cm (2 to 6 inches) long and 0.5 to 4 cm (0.2 to 1.5 inches) wide, with a curled margin. The petiole can measure about 1.5 to 11 cm (0.6 to 4 inches) long and it has a winged shape. The rachis is approximately 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches) long and winged on both sides, up to 1 cm (0.4 inches) wide.
- The interesting thing about the Filicium recipient’s foliage is that fern-like leaves are packed together so tightly that it gives the tree a thick and stunning crown that is very useful if you are looking for a good shade. As the tree fully develops, it expands outward and acquires a great rounded shape. If grown in optimal conditions will bloom with small, discreet white flowers.
- Inflorescence comprises both male and female flowers which have 5 sepals and 5 yellow petals. The flowers are small, white with a little pink and are held in hardly visible clusters. They bloom from late winter to spring and are followed by small green oval fruit that becomes purple-red when fully grown and contains one seed.
- The trunk of the fern tree is grey to brown and the bark is reddish, wrinkled and flaky while for young specimens the bark is smooth.
Growing Fern Tree
Filicium decipiens is an evergreen tree with a heavy and spherical crown that grows usually between 5-10m (15-33 ft) tall which makes it a perfect addition to any place where you want to add some shade. At the same time, you can grow it as an ornamental tree due to the fact that its foliage is one of the most luxuriant ones among tropical trees. It can be cultivated in tropical and humid subtropical climate regions, as it bears temperatures close to 0 °C (32 °Fahrenheit) for a very short time.
This tree specimen is used in parks and gardens in groups as shade trees. It is even used as windbreaks or as street trees, but since the falling fruits can be annoying, it is desirable to find an area sufficiently far from sidewalks.
The fern tree needs to be placed in an area with full sun or partial shade. It enjoys lots of direct sunlight and you will have to place it in an area where it will get at least 8 hours of sun a day. If you live in a very hot or dry climate, consider planting it somewhere partially shaded, particularly during the hotter afternoon hours. As it prefers warm and tropical temperatures be sure to not keep it to temperatures below 16 °C (61 F). It also loves humidity, so your fern tree will clearly enjoy a climate that already has above-average humidity levels.
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- Germination Method: soak the seeds in lukewarm water overnight or 24 hours.
- Jacaranda trees produce foot-long, pyramid-shaped clusters of blue or lavender flowers in spring and early summer; the tree's long bloom period may last for more than a month.
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- Its nature is warm and humid, it is not resistant to drought, and it is not suitable for planting with loose soil
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- ATTRACTIVE FLOWERING TREE: Acacia baileyana var. Purpurea is also known as the Blue-leaved Cootamundra Wattleor Purple Fernleaf Acacia. This shrub or tree in the legume family is native to Southeast Australia and grows at a fast pace with masses of tiny yellow flowers, delicate textures, and blue leaves.
- GROW TIPS: Seeds come ready to plant. Plant the seeds in good soil 1/4 inches deep after the last frost has passed. Or start them indoors earlier.
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When it comes to soil, it does not require anything in particular, it just needs appropriate draining soil and a neutral pH to a slightly alkaline one. It also needs a loam rich in organic substances. The tree develops well in salty environments too, so it can be grown near the sea, when its rooting system is fully developed it can also bear short periods of drought. This low-maintenance, symmetrical little tree does not require constant pruning. You may cut away some branches near the bottom once the tree is fully mature.
If you buy your new tree in a pot, there is no need to worry about planting it right away. It can be stored for a while if you keep it moist in a shady area. This will give you enough time to find the perfect place in your garden for your new spectacular fern tree. Another thing you have to take into consideration if you buy the tree is that at the nursery, these trees are grown under 20-40% shade cloth. If you chose to plant the tree in a bright area, the leaves will burn. So try to acclimate the plant to its environment by keeping it outside and slowly moving it into a sunny place.
When it comes to pests and diseases, the fern tree has no major problems. Some common issues can be root rot or leaf yellowing. If at some point you notice any change in the hue of the leaves, it may be due to an iron deficiency or low temperatures. So, in this case, try to change the soil if you find out this is the cause of the hue shift. Root rot problems may appear if the tree is planted in soil that does not provide appropriate drainage.
Planting Fern Tree
The best time to plant your fern tree is in early fall and because it is a slow grower, it does not need too much effort on your end. After you chose the perfect spot for your new Filicium decipiens, it will slowly expand, so be sure to place it at a distance from other trees or plants that may spread after they are fully developed or any existing structures.
As the Filicium decipiens tree is described as a slow grower, you can cultivate the young plants in pots, where they can be kept for a long time. You can keep them indoors or outdoors for decoration purposes. But be aware that if you want to keep them outdoors for a longer period of time you will have to make sure that when the temperatures at night are not below 16 °C (61 F) you move the fern trees inside.
If you decide to start your fern tree from seeds you need to know that they lose their viability quickly and you should sow them a few days after harvesting the fruit. The seeds develop very well in slow-draining clay and loam soils of a moderately acid to alkaline nature and on sites with full to partial sun exposure. The Filicium decipiens needs moisture and humus-rich soil. Most of them prefer partial shade, but there are a few that enjoy the full sun too.
Watering Fern Tree
Filicium decipiens does not need any special way of watering, it only needs to have the soil moistened. Apart from the watering tool, you should apply water directly to the soil. In doing so, you will have to water all areas equally to give all parts of the root system the needed water. Take into consideration the usage of filtered water, as tap water may contain particles that are harmful to plants. Also, use water at or slightly above room temperature in order not to shock your fern tree. However, Filicium decipiens generally enjoys and develops with any kind of water.
This tree species does not require a large volume of water. But if you let the soil dry between waterings, you can support healthy growth by giving it about 150 to 300 ml (5 to 10 ounces) of water every time you water. You can decide the water needed by your tree based on the soil volume and if the plant is grown in a pot or outside. If you want to be sure that your fern tree receives enough water just water it in abundance so that all the soil layers are well watered.
If you grow your Filicium decipiens outside in an area that gets plenty of water from rain, then you may not have to water it at all. When the tree is young, make sure it gets 2 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) of rain per week. As it develops and gets older, the fern tree can survive entirely on rainwater. In the cases when there is no rainfall for 2 or 3 weeks, then you will have to consider watering it to prevent it from suffering stress.
The fern trees also need a climate characterized by high humidity to keep the fronds and trunk from drying out. In order to prevent the trunk from drying out you will have to water the trunk as well as the soil. Be sure to keep the trunk moist, particularly during the hot months of summer.
A common problem found when watering Filicium decipiens is overwatering. Here are some signs you should look after when overwatering occurs. Generally, the plant will have yellow leaves and may even drop some leaves. In addition, overwatering can produce root rot and can cause the overall structure of the plant to shrink. On the other side, if the plant is underwatered will begin to shrivel too. In either case, if you see any of these signs you will have to be prepared to intervene and take care of the health of your Filicium decipiens.
Propagating Fern Tree
If you want to propagate your Filicium decipiens you can use the seeds, as it is the most used method. You can plant the seeds in a very short time as the germination duration is reduced. You will have to plant them in rich humus and maintain the pot at a temperature of 24-28 °C (75-82 F). One thing to be careful of is to not plant them in soggy soil, just add some compost in order to help the seeds germinate well. If you want to speed up the germination just keep the seeds in water for a day before planting them. The seeds should begin to germinate by the early spring. But be sure not to sew the seeds too deep as there is a risk of not properly sprouting.
If you are searching for a spectacular tree to enhance your garden, then the Filicium decipiens is a perfect option. Apart from its tropical appearance, it is a great source of shadow for any place that it might need it. It is quite common for this ornamental tree to grow on sidewalks and parks because it provides the much-needed shadow in the hot summer months.
Even though is a tropical plant you can easily grow this tree indoors, only have to be sure that it has enough humidity and water to develop in an appropriate environment. Otherwise, it is an easy plant to grow in your garden. You can also grow it indoors for ornamental purposes as this type of tree is known as a slow grower, so it would not overspread into your house too soon.
Are you growing Filicium decipiens a.k.a Fern Tree in your home or garden? Let us know in the comments section!