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Staghorn Fern

Platycerium spp.

  • ​​​Common Name: Staghorn Fern
  • Scientific Name: Platycerium spp.
  • Family Name: Polypodiaceae
  • Origin: Australia, Asia, and Africa
  • Height: The growth depends on the species and the culture. (Platycerium bifurcatum, is said to be easiest to grow and its fronds can, over time, get to 6 feet long.)
  • Width: The growth depends on the species and the culture.
  • Growth: slow
  • Zone: 10A - 11
  • Light Needs: Sun to Partial Shade
  • Salt Tolerance:  none
  • Soil/PH/Texture: This plant is an epiphyte, meaning it gets moisture and nutrients from the air. Staghorn is found growing harmlessly on tree trunks, branches, or even rocks.
  • Soil Moisture: Although and epiphyte, it has average water needs, but, be sure not to overwater your plant because whereas a wilting fern will where quickly recover with water, an overwatered fern will rot and die. Since it can be hard to tell how moist or dry the planting medium is, it is best to wait until your fern wilts slightly before watering.
  • Drought Tolerance: moderately - can withstand fairly long periods without water. Love humidity though.
  • Pests/Diseases: conditions with exceptionally low light are likely to encourage disease and pest development.
  • Growing Conditions: easy to care for, low maintenance.
  • Characteristics: Grown for its foliage, the Staghorn fern produces two distinctly different fronds which are either basal or foliar. Basal fronds are also called shields; they are small, flat leaves that cover the root structure. These fronds are sterile and help with nutrient uptake by collecting water and fallen plant debris. Foliar fronds are the more eye-catching upright fronds produced by the plant. The underside of foliar fronds is where you will find brownish reproductive structures, called sporangia. Gardeners will sometimes see what looks like brown felt on the tips of the fronds and wonder if it is a cause for concern—it's just the normal sporangia they're are seeing.
  • Propagation: by dividing rhizomes, bulbs, corms, or tubers and from herbaceous stem cuttings.
  • Wildlife: unknown
  • Facts: Staghorn Ferns are not parasitic, because although they fix themselves onto trees, they do not take any nutrients from the trees or harm them in any way. Sometimes, the lower fronds will turn brown and can be mistaken for dead leaves and you think they should be removed, but this is a mistake. Although they resemble dead leaves, these sterile leaves perform vital functions that the Staghorn Fern needs and should not be pruned. They are for absorbing moisture and nutrients to feed the plant, as well as protecting the root ball. These leaves will eventually expire and can be removed; you will know when because they will only be held onto the plant loosely and can be pulled off very easily.
  • Designer Considerations: As an epiphyte, the ideal planting spot for staghorn fern is mounted: on a slab of wood, some tree fern fiber, or even a rock. To mount your fern, shape several handfuls of sphagnum moss (or other well-drained growing medium) into a circular mound and "plant" your fern so that its basal fronds are in contact with the medium. To secure the fern to its planting surface, use plastic strips, nylon hose, or wire (do not use copper). Another planting method is hanging a wire basket sideways and pack it with organic medium. When grown in a basket, small plants called pups will grow out of the back and sides of the basket to eventually cover the whole surface. 

Stag Horn Fern