Japanese Fern Tree

Filicium decipiens

Japanese fern tree is storybook pretty with a naturally rounded crown and unusual fern-like foliage.

Japanese fern tree in a front yard

Its bushy growth creates dense shade and the globe-shaped top means no trimming required.

This is a very elegant little tree, and it's one of the best small shade trees to tuck into any size yard.

And it's ideal for the nit-picky homeowner who loves all things symmetrical.

It's neither Japanese in origin nor a fern - though the long thin leaves growing out from stems have a fern-like look.

The small size - 20 or 25 feet - makes the fern tree a good choice for a small front yard for house or mobile home.

Or it can be used in conjunction with other plantings, because the foliage has a unique tropical look.

Tree by a house

Plant specs

This small shade tree is evergreen and prefers full to part sun.

It can get 20 to 25 feet but that takes quite a while, since it's is a slow to moderate grower.

Zone 10 provides the tropical warmth this tree needs - it does especially well in warmer regions of 10A and all of 10B.

Full mature tree

Plant care

Add top soil and composted cow manure to the hole when you plant.

There's no need to trim for shape, though you'll probably want to remove lower branches as the tree matures.

Water on a regular basis but allow time for the tree to dry out a bit between waterings. Make sure the planting area is well-drained.

Fertilize 3 times a year - in spring, summer, and autumn - with a top quality granular fertilizer.

Plant spacing

Come out from the house a minimum of 10 feet to give the tree's crown room to bush out.

For planting along a walk or drive, come in about 8 feet or more so people and vehicles can get by when the tree fills out.

Landscape uses for Japanese fern tree

  • single yard specimen
  • small shade tree near the patio or deck
  • accent tree off the corner of the house
  • in pairs flanking the entrance to a driveway
  • backdrop for a flowerbed

GOOD SNOWBIRD PLANT? YES (in warmer regions)

COMPANION PLANT SUGGESTIONS: Avoid planting directly underneath a young tree and keep lawn grass from growing too close to the trunk. Nearby plantings might include burfordii holly, variegated arboricola, Knock Out rose, African iris, and vinca.

Other trees you might like: Weeping Podocarpus, Kopsia

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