Staghorn Fern: All about Origin, Growth and Care
Staghorn Fern: Platycerium bifurcatum
Native to Australia.
The staghorn fern gets its name from its leaves (called fronds) because they resemble that of a deer. These plants can be a bit intimidating, they can grow to be 3 feet wide, but they are truly a beautiful living work of art.
The staghorn fern is an epiphytic plant; meaning they grow on other plants or trees in their natural environments. Young plants can be grown in pots but mature plants need to be mounted to a wooden board, bark slabs, or in a hanging basket that promote drainage. The root system is strong enough to hold them to where they are mounted but is also rather shallow so the staghorn additionally absorbs water and nutrients through its fronds.
The staghorn has two types of fronds. The most prominent frond is the ‘antler’ frond. These are the large leaves that grown from the center of the plant and give the plant its antler-like appearance of a deer. The antler fronds are green and have a fuzzy touch. At the base and underside of the antler fronds, a brown fuzz may grow. Do not remove the brown fuzz! This brown fuzz is spores which means the plant is trying to reproduce. This means you have a happy plant so leave the brown fuzz alone.
The second type of frond is the shield frond. These are hard, round plate-like fronds that grow around the base of the plant. Their function is to protect the root system and absorb nutrients and water. Young shield fronds are green but change to brown and dry out as they mature. This is a natural part of the plant’s life cycle and does not mean the plant is dying. Do not remove the dry, brown fronds as you could damage the root system.
Unlike other ferns that thrive in darker, damper spaces, the staghorn is a tropical plant and requires bright, indirect or filtered light to thrive. The plant is best placed in the brightest space of your home that doesn’t get direct sun.
Water and Humidity go hand-in-hand with the staghorn. Remember, the staghorn fern is an epiphyte which means it absorbs water through its fronds and prefers a more humid environment. The plant should not be misted as water left sitting on the leaves can block the pores and damage the plant. A humidifier is best in increase the humidity but a pebble tray can be used if the staghorn is unmounted. When it comes to watering, fully saturate the root system and allow to drip-dry before re-hanging. The plant should fully dry out between waterings. Too much water can cause root rot in the shallow root system. How often you water the plant depends on the amount of light, humidity, and heat they get in your home. Start with watering once a week during the summer months and every other week in the colder months. Adjust the schedule depending on the space the plant is in. A space with more humidity, heat, and light means less watering. A space with less humidity, heat, and light means more watering. If the antler fronds begin to brown at the base, it means the plant has been overwatered. If the tips of the antler fronds begin to brown or wilt it is a sign of under watering.
Compared to other tropical plants, the staghorn can tolerate colder temperatures. For optimal growth, the space should always be above 55°F.
Fertilize the fern monthly during it’s grow period (spring and summer). During its dormant period (fall and winter), reduce fertilizing to every other month.
The plant does not need to be pruned. Brown fronds may develop but this is a natural part of their growth cycle and should not be mistaken for dead fronds. These fronds should not be removed.
Non-toxic to people and pets