Sphaeropteris Species, Australian Tree Fern, Giant Scaly Tree Fern

Sphaeropteris cooperi

Family: Cyatheaceae
Genus: Sphaeropteris (sfay-ROP-teris) (Info)
Species: cooperi (koo-PER-ee) (Info)
Synonym:Alsophila cooperi
Synonym:Cyathea cooperi



Tropicals and Tender Perennials


Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade


Grown for foliage


Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


30-40 ft. (9-12 m)


6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)


USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

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)

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:


Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:


Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From spores

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Anthem, Arizona

Beverly Hills, California

Chowchilla, California

Chula Vista, California

Crockett, California

Fresno, California

Garden Grove, California

Gardena, California

Hayward, California

Hesperia, California

Los Angeles, California(2 reports)

Mountain View, California

Pleasanton, California

Port Hueneme, California

San Diego, California(2 reports)

San Francisco, California(2 reports)

San Jose, California

Santa Barbara, California(2 reports)

Simi Valley, California

Upland, California

Whittier, California

Apopka, Florida

Boca Raton, Florida

Bokeelia, Florida

Bonita Springs, Florida

Cape Coral, Florida

Debary, Florida

Deland, Florida

Dunnellon, Florida

Fort Myers, Florida

Gainesville, Florida

Hollywood, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida(2 reports)

Naples, Florida

New Port Richey, Florida

Ocoee, Florida

Palm Coast, Florida

Pompano Beach, Florida

Sanford, Florida

Seffner, Florida

Spring Hill, Florida(2 reports)

Stuart, Florida

Tampa, Florida

Zephyrhills, Florida

Fortson, Georgia

Charleston, South Carolina(2 reports)

Arlington, Texas

Brookshire, Texas

Deer Park, Texas

Dripping Springs, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas

Garland, Texas

Houston, Texas(2 reports)

Richmond, Texas

Spring, Texas

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Sep 27, 2017, lightyellow from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL wrote:

I am a huge fan of prehistoric plants so I'm growing this as a houseplant until I one day have my own house (also it was sprayed with neonicotinoids so I have to quarantine it 3 years anyway). I water overhead every other day and mist the days I do not and it's been growing fine.

I haven't had reactions to the hairs so I think that just varies between person to person.

Has anyone had luck growing it in a region that gets 53-56 in (132-142 cm) of rain a year? I hear people grow it in Pensacola but that region gets more than 60 in/152 cm. I was thinking of siting it one day in shade in front of a water spout's runoff.


On Mar 16, 2016, Sondale from EROWAL BAY,
Australia wrote:

I live on the east coast of Australia which is quite temperate most of the year. I have 5 Australian tree ferns down in my fern garden which is mostly semi-shady except in the hottest days of Summer. About 4 weeks ago, I was pruning off the dead fronds for the trash & it was fairly humid outside. I noticed that I became covered in the little brown hairs (mainly on my left arm). As they started to itch, I went in and washed my arms (possibly rubbing them into my skin). Went on holidays, my arm itching violently, I thought I had been sunburnt through the car window. Now I've had these plants at least 10 years and have never had a problem before. My left arm is now badly ulcerated (from scratching). I've had antibiotics, hydrocortisone & antihistamines which haven't done much. I belie... read more


On Apr 5, 2012, Aegletes from Debary, FL wrote:

Really stunning plant that adds a tropical look to the garden. It seems to tolerate poor soil and hot sun as long as it receives plenty of water. I have some planted on the NE side of the house in a ginger and fern garden. I only lost one when we had sustained sub 25F temperatures a couple of years ago. Here in zone 9 they seem to grow about 2 feet a year.


On May 29, 2010, MinxFox from Pensacola, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

I got this plant just recently. I have always loved the looks of it and wanted one. I had no idea I would be able to find one at a local plant place. I was so happy when I found it and it was cheper then I expected. It is maybe 3ft. or so. I still have it in the pot, but I am reading more about it and making sure we know how to take care of it and then we will plant it in the shade. So far it looks good and it isn't hard to water, I sort of mist it and pour water from the top of it, also I keep it in my peacock pen and the birds don't mess with it. They don't pick at the fronds. It is a great plant with a beautiful green color that I hope I can make grow big, because I want it to get a pretty trunk!


On Jan 31, 2010, olupuailyana from Chula Vista, CA (Zone 10b) wrote:

I list this as a negative only because I have one issue with it that isn't yet mentioned. I have two in the raised planter above my swimming pool and they have grown fast, I water the crown and they are stunning. Beautiful. However, in summer the spores (?) on the undersides of the fronds turn red/brown and fall into the pool by the thousands and I find them irritating to my skin. Some people aren't bothered by it and my skin is a little sensitive but when they dry onto your skin they start to irritate. I have an extra fine net to clean them out before swimming and they are so fine that they get through that and the filter and skimmer have no effect. The water surface is coated in them in the months when I really want to use the pool. I have seriously considered taking them out, net... read more


On Jun 3, 2009, TheAmazon from Norman, OK wrote:

I bought a baby Cyathea about two months ago, against my better judgment. I have always thought they were beautiful, but had never attempted one myself. Growing this one indoors has proved very difficult. I have considered putting it outside on the patio, but I'm afraid the Oklahoma summer would kill it. On the other hand, trying to keep it properly moist in an air-conditioned apartment is not working very well either. I mist it several times daily and keep it on a dish of rocks with water below for evaporation.

Any suggestions? I am afraid it won't last much longer under my care. :(


On Jun 8, 2008, sandbrook from Stockton, NJ wrote:

I also have this in New Jersey, it is kept in the orchid greenhouse, but it is getting almost too big to keep, it is over 9 feet tall (including the container) with a large frond span of approx 6'. Hope I can overwinter it elsewhere to be moved outdoors over the summer. Absolutely beautiful fern! I stick small oncidium orchids (equitant orchids?) in the cut off fronds on the "trunk" of the fern.


On Jun 6, 2008, bushkie from Atlantic Highlands, NJ wrote:

I live in NJ just bought this plant for a large container. I'm going to try to overwinter it in an unheated attached garage. Any sucess stories? Just going to enjoy it now for the summer.


On Sep 28, 2007, rjuddharrison from Houston, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

It's taken me a couple of times to get it right with the fern tree, and in fact had given up on them for a while until I found a scragly fern tree at home depot that was in the liquidation pile.
I planted the fern by the pond, building up a special section with a stone border, to ensure good drainage. The first year and a half the fern seem to be doing reasonably well, adjusting the watering amounts several times. After loosing my first fern tree from over watering I think. I over compensated on this one too much, and nearly lost this one by not watering enough. THEN, the most important care technique was revealed to me as PalmBob talked about in his comments. Watering the trunk daily, keeping it moist. This turned out to be the holy grail in terms of growth behavior I've see... read more


On Aug 31, 2007, buckar from Charleston, SC wrote:

I have been growing an Australian Tree fern in my side yard under some oak trees for about four years, I cover the fern in the winter on cool nights; here in Charleston our temps rarely fall below 23 degrees and the frost days are not many. It has had some frost damage over the years but has managed to grow to more then 14 feet and is continuing to get taller this year. I love my fern and plan to plant more in the near future.


On Aug 2, 2007, greenbike7 from Fortson, GA wrote:

I would like some helping information with my tree fern. as soon as the fronds start to uncurl and open the tip of the leaves are already brown. I am keeping it moist and watered from the top as well as bottom, and it is in the shade.What am i doing wrong?


On May 10, 2007, stoner from Arlington, TX (Zone 7b) wrote:

bought 2 in august at lowes clearance rack. planted 1 in bed under native oaks & elms. Died back over winter., Thought was dead- but new fronds sprouting. Provided no care to it. got in high teens and 20's over winter a couple of times. Other plant left in plastic container in yard without any protection. Did nothing to it, but new fronds or sprouting also.


On Mar 6, 2007, fabooj from Los Angeles, CA (Zone 10b) wrote:

Great, beautiful plant. We had one as a kid, and I missed it when we moved. The courtyard apt. I lived at in Hollywood, CA had on in a huge container and it was pretty happy as long as the landlord didn't overwater it. I just bought one for our new house and can't wait to figure out the perfect place for it.


On Feb 17, 2007, Cretaceous from El Sobrante, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

This fern is often misidentified as "Cyathea australis".

Cyathea cooperi is native to eastern Australia (Queensland and New South Wales).

Cyathea are listed on CITES Appendix II.


On Jan 19, 2006, Suze_ from (Zone 7b) wrote:

In my area, this plant only gets about 8-12 ft tall or so because it is not truly winter hardy here and has to be protected any time it gets below 28F or so. I have two that I've been carrying in 20 gal containers for a couple of years, and the containers go in on the (sheltered) back patio during the winter and on the rare occasion or so it drops into the low 20's here, I'll put the containers into the garage for the night.

Worth the effort in my opinion. One goes on my covered front porch by the door (where it only gets the morning sun), and folks comment on it every year. Does need to be kept well watered (but don't overdo it to the point of root rot), and doesn't care for the direct all day sun once temps reach the 80's, 90's, 100's.


On Mar 26, 2005, Toxicodendron from Piedmont, MO (Zone 6a) wrote:

For those of you growing this as a container plant, I wanted to echo Palmbob and Angela's comments about watering. Every winter my fronds scorched and shriveled from the lack of humidity and I had to remove all of them by the next summer. Last year, after reading Palmbob's comments, I started watering the trunk and it has been as happy as it is during our humid summers. The downside is that the tree is getting rather treelike now and by this autumn it may be too big to keep all the fronds anyway!
Thanks for the great tip, Bob!


On Mar 25, 2005, angelam from melbourne,
Australia wrote:

This is a beautiful plant. The climate here is a bit too dry for it in Summer, and I was unaware for many years that water is needed at the top, not bottom, of the plant. It has often lost its complete crown of fronds in mid-Summer and renewed it fully as soon as the Autumn rain arrived seeming non the worse for it. It is out of reach of the watering system, but the occasional bucket of water thrown into the crown during dry spells has been enough to prevent the loss of the fronds for the last few Summers. Otherwise this is a completely trouble free plant.


On Mar 10, 2005, kayakkhan from Paluma,
Australia wrote:

I live in the rainforest village of Paluma, Queensland ,Australia. Cyathea Cooperi attains heights in excess of 15 metres and grows in abundance. The ferns are misted regularly by clouds rolling through the mountains and survives in direct sunlight in temperatures of 40C, but requires high humidity for most of the year, but will tolerate several months of drought conditions and is known to experience protracted cold periods of 2C night time temperatures. Propagation by spores is recomended as it is intolerant of felling and top pruning, unlike the dicksonia sp. The larger plants may be moved successfully if a large portion of the root ball is maintained. It has an extremely rapid growth if conditions are maintained and fronds regularly achieve 2 to 3 metre lengths. easy to grow if conditi... read more


On Feb 17, 2005, Green_End_Up from Whittier, CA (Zone 8a) wrote:

Living in S. Calif. we get a lot of sun. In order to grow these beautiful trees we planted them close to the house, next to windows.
6 months and 3 specialists later, the terribly painful and blistering rash I had all over my limbs and neck was found to come from the fuzzy stuff that would blow off the tree, through the screen on the window and onto the couch just on the inside of the window where I lie to watch TV every evening.
It took a lot of sluthing and it was my son who asked me what all the barely visable, brown fuzzy stuff was on the couch when he was helping me move the couch so that we could fit our Christmas Tree in front of that window.

Now, when working on my impatiens or hostas under the Australian Fern I wear long sleeves, sweats, high socks an... read more


On Aug 22, 2004, nadabigfarm from Gardena, CA wrote:

There is an A. cooperi growing at the El Camino College campus, (Torrance, Ca.) that is over 30 feet tall. It is located within an exterior stairwell that protects it from the wind and one must walk up to the 3rd floor to view the massive 8' fronds. A beautiful and unique plant.


On Jul 10, 2003, adeleh wrote:

In my country (Runion Island in the Indian Ocean near Mauritius, but it is a french "dpartement") there's two endemic varieties of this plant : Cyathea glauca and Cythea excelsa. They are very rare and live high on the forest. There's another variety which is found in the islands of the Indian Ocean, for instance Madagascar, it is Cyathea borbonica. I've been visiting this site for a long time, it's very useful.


On Jul 8, 2003, broozersnooze from Jacksonville, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Grows approximately 20 ft tall & 15 ft wide if planted in ground. BEAUTIFUL.


On Jul 6, 2003, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

THere are several 'forms' of this fern on the market. The form most commonly found in nature in Australia is actually the harder form to find, but is often referred to as Cyathea 'brentwoodi'. It is a much faster and more robust fern than that sold in most nurseries. This plant loves full sun in its native habitat, but here in So Cal, it prefers shade or morning sun. The stem is actually made of rootlets, so it really doesn't have a true stem. To keep this tree looking nice, it is good to keep the root(stem) moist, so to make it look best, a drip system on it, preferably from the crown, works well. Also, spraying the trunk daily, especially in hot weather, helps. Otherwise the leaves tend to brown and die in the heat/sun. It is a great shade plant for other tropicals, too. IT is p... read more


On Apr 18, 2003, Bug_Girl from San Francisco, CA wrote:

This is a very easy fern to grow, but it does get huge, so give it a lot room.