Staghorn Fern Care Guide
The Staghorn Fern (Platycerium spp) is a fern non-flowering perennial with two types of leaves; heart-shaped and antler-shaped leaves. With origins from tropical Australia and New Guinea forests, they thrive in warm environments with high humidity. Studies show that the plant prefers growing in shades with filtered, indirect light. An advantage of the Staghorn fern is that it can be grown as an outdoor plant or an indoor plant.
Staghorn ferns are epiphytes, meaning they grow on other plants, but they are not parasitic. They grow in forests where it rains frequently, but since their roots are exposed, they only get moist, and the rest of water drains. This implies their water requirements are strict – they should be kept moist but never overwatered. The rule of thumb suggests they should be watered once or twice a week.
Light and temperature
Naturally, Staghorn Ferns grow in tree canopies where they receive filtered bright light. This presupposes an east exposure will give your plant enough light. However, it is advisable to keep the plant ten inches away from searing windows to protect it from scorching. For continued growth during winter, move the plant to brighter spots. Staghorn ferns are not cold hardy; they thrive in warmer environments of temperature ranging between 60°F-80°F.
The forest environment is always very humid; in contrast, the household environment is barely moist. The sterile leaves of Staghorn ferns absorb moisture from the air; hence dry air will deprive the plant supply of water. Besides, dry air promotes loosing of water through transpiration. It is upon the enthusiasts of the plant to devise strategies to raise the humidity to 70-80 percent. The easiest approach to improve humidity is misting the sterile leaves. Alternatively, you can use electric humidifiers or a tray of water and pebbles under the pot.
Soil and fertilizer
The soil medium should allow free drainage of water. For Staghorn ferns mounted on wood, sphagnum moss is the best growing medium. For plants growing in pots, never use a standard pot mix. Applying a mixture of orchid bark and cactus soil will work best. Fertilizer is an essential part of a Staghorn fern’s care. In the natural habitat, Staghorn ferns collect vital nutrients from decomposed leaves. Staghorn ferns growing indoors or in the garden should be supplied with dilute liquid feed with a ration of 1:1. The frequency can be adjusted to once a month.
Cleaning and pruning
Just like many other indoor plants, the Staghorn fern requires cleaning to extract dust particles. Cleaning can be done using a soft, damp cloth. Alternatively, a feathery instrument can be used for dusting. This plant does not require pruning. Some people remove brown lower fronds for mistaking them for dead leaves. These sterile leaves perform a vital function of absorbing water and nutrients as well as shielding the root ball. When they expire, they can be removed by simply pulling them off; when obsolete they attach to the plant loosely.
The easiest method of propagating a Staghorn fern is pulling offshoots from the plant. Mature Staghorn ferns produce offshoots with independent root systems that can be plugged off the parent plant. If you try to remove a sucker and it does not come out quickly, it is an indication it is too soon to separate it from its parent – give it more time to grow. Offshoots should be mounted or planted immediately to minimize chances of dying. This method of propagation is beneficial for thinning the parent plant.
Staghorn Ferns thrive when crowded. Growers should have nothing to worry about unless the pot is almost bursting. Repotting should be done during spring, and probably once in three years. Repot to a container that is about 2 inches in diameter wider. Fill the pot with the relevant soil mixtures as described in the soil and fertilizer section, remove the plant from its original pot, and plant it in the new pot. Cover the roots with soil but make sure the stem and leaves are exposed. Soak the potting mix and allow water to drain.
Conclusion and problems
Though rarely, staghorn fern can be infected with scale. This can be fixed by removing them by hand or a cotton swab. Underwatering the plant will cause it to wilt – just increase water. Insufficient sunlight is indicated by browning or yellowing of leaves; this can be reversed by moving the plant to a spot with bright light. The plant can also be infected with spider mites – they can be removed by applying oil insecticides. The Staghorn Fern is non-poisonous, thus suitable for rooms with pets and children.