Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Fern tree
Filicium decipiens

Family: Sapindaceae (sap-in-DAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Filicium (fy-LIKS-ee-um) (Info)
Species: decipiens (de-SIP-ee-enz) (Info)

4 members have or want this plant for trade.

Tropicals and Tender Perennials

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

Unknown - Tell us

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
8.6 to 9.0 (strongly alkaline)

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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By einaudi
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By palmbob
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Thumbnail #7 of Filicium decipiens by Metrosideros

There are a total of 8 photos.
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8 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral PeteyPlant On Oct 31, 2014, PeteyPlant from Delray Beach, FL wrote:

I am looking for seed to grow for this tree. Please email me if anyone has seed or knows of anyone that does. Thank you!

Positive Roburgos On Aug 18, 2012, Roburgos from Kendall, FL wrote:

Comment and question.

I live in south Miami (Pinecrest) and have a nice line of 9 Japanese fern trees. They are bright green and thick leaved, providing shade and fencing the view to the house from the outside.

I want to keep them at 9 ft tall and have them grow branches from four ft and up, to become a nice natural fence... Your advice is appreciated ( how to timm, when to do it, how to maintain it)


Positive beginner168 On Mar 27, 2012, beginner168 from jakarta
Indonesia wrote:

Actually I have a question. I planted this tree one year ago on the sidewalk in front of my house. Somehow, the middle trunk of the tree was broken and it is gone now. Will this tree grow into a round tree ever again? I had chosen to plant this tree after reading some plant research due to its ability to absorb high amount of CO2 and lead.

Positive thailarry On Feb 21, 2009, thailarry from Stuart, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

The Filicium decipiens is easy to grow and hardy. I bought a flat of sprouts and got about 70% to grow. Seeds are also easy to grow. After 2 1/2 years in the ground, in Stuart Fl., my first two, of five, are 8' tall and 10' wide. They can be shaped in multiple ways to enhance the garden.

Positive grouper On Dec 19, 2008, grouper from Odessa, FL wrote:

There are 3-4 beautiful specimens growing at the Grand Hyatt on the Causeway in Tampa that are very lush and green.

Positive dianeL On Nov 7, 2004, dianeL from Marathon, FL wrote:

I live in Marathon, in the Florida Keys. I have 3 Filicium decipiens. I have had them for over 6 years and they have grown from 6 feet to over 12 feet with a spread of about 12 feet or more. So far I have had no seedlings sprout up. They have bloomed and have a lovely sweet fragrance but don't seem to attract many bees down here. Our soil is very alkaline with little nutrients. Their roots were under 3 feet of saltwater when Hurricane Georges flooded our property. I live right on the Atlantic side of the Keys with the ocean about 80 feet from all 3 trees. The salt water didn't phase them and neither does bthe salt driven wind. They were the least damaged trees on our property after the hurricane other than the Coconut Palms which can only be killed here by Lethal Yellow or the crown getting blown off. Drought will cause Filicium decipiens to drop a few leaves about once a year in the late spring. I feed them DynaGro 3 times a year along with a time release fertilizer. I also foliage feed them once every 2-3 months but they never seem to be begging for it, I just do it. These are beautiful trees and my orchids love being attached to them. Tropical, dark green, lacy shade tree. Fabulous. Very hardy. Very salt tolerant. Easy to care for and beautiful.

Positive einaudi On Sep 24, 2004, einaudi from Hana, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

I agree with punaheledp that this a good-looking, symmetrical tree. I have several on my land, some up to 45 feet high, and they self-seed readily, forming a forest of seedlings around individual older trees. The leaves are pinnate, with 4 to 10 toothed leaflets, each leaflet 2 cm long (leaflets are longer on young plants). Small white flowers are born on leaf-axil pannicles (you would not plant this tree for its flowers). Fruit is ovoid, purple, and 0.5 inches in diameter.

Positive foodiesleuth On Jun 26, 2004, foodiesleuth from Honomu, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

There are three growing on our property. They do quite well....The keikis (babies) are kept in check when the yard is mowed.

Orchids love to grow nestled in the trunks.

Positive punaheledp On Jun 25, 2004, punaheledp from Kailua, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

This tree has a reputation for having a naturally nice shape, and this bears out with mine and others I've seen. It has an attractive fern-like foliage, hence the name (most commonly called "Japanese fern tree", though why Japanese I don't know, when, according to the research I've done, it comes from either India or tropical NE Africa). It grew wild in my yard. I moved it and have given in minimal care, and it has done very well. My only concern is that it seeded this year and I have seedlings sprouting up all around it. If I have to pull bunches of seedlings every year, I may reconsider my rating. Seeds seem to germinate easily. Here in Hawaii it is cosidered somewhat invasive.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Boca Raton, Florida (2 reports)
Cape Coral, Florida
Delray Beach, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Hollywood, Florida
Jupiter, Florida
Lake Worth, Florida
Marathon, Florida
Miami, Florida (4 reports)
Pompano Beach, Florida
Stuart, Florida (2 reports)
Tampa, Florida
Ahuimanu, Hawaii
Hana, Hawaii
Hawaiian Paradise Park, Hawaii
Honomu, Hawaii
Kailua, Hawaii
Humble, Texas

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