How to grow and care for Staghorn Fern Indoors

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Houseplant, Staghorn Fern

Botanical name: Platycerium bifurcatum
Synonmy: Platycerium alcicorne
Family: Polypodiaceae

Staghorn Fern also called Antelope Ears or Elkhorn Fern bears large and spectacular fronds which are usually divided at their ends into antler-like lobes. The fronds are of two types; those at the base are heart-shaped and sterile while those above are long, arching, forked and strap-shaped, grey-green and spore-forming. The fern grows to a height of about 3 ft with a spread of about 2.5 ft. The heart-shaped sterile fronds are about 5-18 in. long while the strap-shaped fertile fronds grow to about 2.5 ft long. Staghorn Fern is fun to grow while mounted on a suitable surface or in a basket. Staghorn is native to Java, New Guinea and eastern Australia where it grows as an epiphyte in the rainforests. The genus name is derived from the Greek word platys meaning flat and ceras meaning horn. The species name bifurcatum means bifurcated or forked. Both names refer to the fertile fronds.

How to Grow Staghorn Fern Indoors

Staghorn Ferns are epiphytes which grow mounted on trees. The best way to grow Staghorn Ferns is by mounting on them wood, log or any suitable material or in a basket. Remove the fern from the pot, cover the rootball with moist sphagnum moss and attach to wood, log, cork or in a basket with plastic covered wire. However, they can also be grown in loose, free-draining medium like shredded bark in an ordinary pot.

Light

Staghorn Fern grows best in bright indirect light. Keep it away from direct sunlight as it can scorch the fronds. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

Water

For optimum growth of Staghorn Fern, maintain the sphagnum moss moderately moist; water when the fronds begin to wilt and the medium feels dry to the touch. Reduce watering during cold months. Avoid waterlogging as it can lead to rotting.

Temperature

Average warmth between 16-240C is ideal for Staghorn Fern. Protect the fern from draughts; it requires consistent warmth. Find out more on temperature for houseplants.

Humidity

Staghorn Fern requires a humid environment. Mist around the fern regularly especially if the air is too dry.

Feeding

Feed Staghorn Fern with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer once a month during the growing period. Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is reduced. Find out more on how to feed houseplants.

Repotting

If growing Staghorn Fern in an ordinary pot, repot the fern at the beginning of the growing season when it becomes overcrowded. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole and the soil is free-draining to avoid waterlogging.

How to Propagate Staghorn Fern

Staghorn Fern can be propagated at the beginning of the growing season from pups growing around the mother plant or from spores.

Propagating Staghorn Fern from Pups
Carefully seperate the pup from the mother by cutting with a sharp sterile knife. Wrap the pup in moist sphagnum moss and tie it to a piece of wood or log with plastic-covered wire. Continue with routine care for Staghorn Fern.

Propagating Staghorn Fern from Spores
Spores are brown dots on the underside of the antler-like fronds. When the ripen, the cases open and tiny dust-like spores fall out. Cut the frond and place it on a piece of paper with spores side down. Allow time for the spores to fall out of the cases onto the piece of paper. The spores can also be obtained by shaking the frond occasionally. Thinly spread the spores on moist soil and cover the set up with clear polythene to maintain humidity and warmth. Maintain the soil moist thorough out; water from the bottom. Place the set up in a brightly lit area. The spores should sprout in 3-6 months. Allow at least 3-4 true leaves to develop before transplanting.

Common problems in growing Staghorn Fern

  • Brown dots or lines on the underside of fronds
  • These are spores which can be used for propagation. They indicate that the frond is mature and healthy.

  • Culred leaves, brown leaf tips, leaf drop
  • The cause of curled leaves, brown leaf tips and leaf drop in Staghorn Fern is dry air. Employ these techniques to raise humidity for this fern.

  • Yellowing leaves
  • Soggy soil is the reason for yellowing leaves in Staghorn Fern. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole and the soil is free-draining.

  • Wilting leaves
  • Wilting leaves in Staghorn Fern is an indication of underwatering of the fern. Water thoroughly and the fern should recover immediately.

  • Brown shells scattered on fronds
  • Brown shells scattered on fronds in Staghorn Fern is an indication of an infestation by Scales. Isolate the affected plant to avoid spread to other houseplants.

  • Pests
  • Common pests in Staghorn Fern are Scales and Mealy Bugs. Isolate the affected plant to avoid spread to other houseplants.

Toxicity

Staghorn Ferns are non-toxic to humans and pets. The plants are safe to grow indoors.

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