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)



Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


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:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

8.6 to 9.0 (strongly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Seed Collecting:

Unknown - Tell us


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

Boca Raton, Florida (2 reports)

Boynton Beach, Florida

Cape Coral, Florida

Delray Beach, Florida

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Hollywood, Florida

Jupiter, Florida

Lake Worth, Florida

Marathon, Florida

Miami, Florida (5 reports)

Pompano Beach, Florida

Stuart, Florida (2 reports)

Summerland Key, Florida

Tampa, Florida

West Palm Beach, Florida

Ahuimanu, Hawaii

Hana, Hawaii

Hawaiian Paradise Park, Hawaii

Honomu, Hawaii

Kailua, Hawaii

Humble, Texas

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Oct 9, 2017, buzzywuzzbums from Pompano Beach, FL wrote:

I love the unique look of this tree and it's ability to self-shape. Unfortunately Hurricane Irma took her down and stripped her foliage. She is "resting" in/on a stand of areca palms, and I have been slowly sawing away branches due to the location - I couldn't reach her through my downed Bridal Veil tree until someone with a chainsaw came to help. Now, Miss J.F. is sprouting at the top of her very high tips and I feel I am committing herbicide. Her root ball is almost all exposed. I'm assuming she's not salvageable, but do you have a gut reaction to how much she can be cut, righted and still sprout some more?


On Sep 23, 2017, dschwiep from Miami, FL wrote:

I have(had) a beautiful, large Fern Tree which sustained a lot of damage in Hurricane Irma. It still has branches, but has a split down the middle of the trunk to within 1 foot of the ground. I'm wondering if it can be saved or if I should replace it.


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!


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)



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.


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.


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.


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 gettin... read more


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.


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.


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.