Staghorn Ferns, botanical name Platycerium bifurcatum, are tropical epiphytes native to Australia, Africa, and Southeast Asia. The term “Staghorn” came about because they look like deer antlers formed from green-grey leaves, so it’s no surprise that people sometimes call them “Elkhorn Ferns” or “Common Staghorn Fern.”
Staghorn Ferns are epiphytes (plants that live on other plants) that grow on trees or rocks, attaching themselves with small root-like structures called rhizomes. Staghorn Ferns typically attach themselves to tree bark, but they will also attach themselves to trunks, branches, and even sidewalks if enough moisture is present. They aren’t parasitic; the roots take up the nutrients from the air and rainwater.
The plant’s fronds are large and antler-like, growing from rhizomatous roots that attach themselves to other plants in the wild. The leaves are arranged in two tiers, with the larger ones being the fertile ones growing to about 3 or 4 inches forming the “Stag Antlers.” The smaller ones cover the roots and shield them from view.
- Platycerium bifurcatum Main Characteristics
- Staghorn Fern Care
- Propagating Staghorn Fern
- Common Pests
- Common Problems
- Staghorn Fern (Platycerium Bifurcatum) Growing Tips (Video)
Platycerium bifurcatum Main Characteristics
|Common Name||Staghorn Fern, Common Staghorn Fern, Elkhorn Fern|
|Botanical Name||Platycerium bifurcatum|
|Native Range||Africa, Australia, Southeast Asia|
|USDA Hardiness Zones||9 to 13|
|Mature Size||Height: 2-3 feet; Spread: 2-3 feet|
|Propagation methods||by spores, by offsets|
Staghorn Fern Care
Platycerium bifurcatum is a popular houseplant native to the tropics. So it’s best to remember that these plants require a specific range of temperature and humidity levels to thrive. If the temperature and humidity requirements are not met, it might be better to try your hand on something else because trying to grow a staghorn where those parameters don’t exist is a sure recipe for failure. But, if you have the necessary warm and humid temperatures, then caring for the Staghorn Fern is easy. Here’s how you get started.
To showcase the unique beauty of Staghorn Ferns, these plants are usually mounted on wooden slabs or wire baskets. The support you mount your plant on isn’t hugely important; it just needs to be secured to the wall and have enough strength to hold the fern in place without falling apart. Aesthetically, large pieces of wood are the most pleasing, but for convenience’s sake, wire baskets are the way to go.
Either way, you need to secure a handful of rich organic matter to the support to begin the mounting process. Use rich peat-based compost for the best results. With wire baskets, fill them up with the compost, it may look ugly initially, but once the fern starts growing, the unsightly wires will become hidden behind the growth. Next, use thin strips of cloth or wire to attach the plant to the support. Once secured, hang the support on a wall, and you’re good to go.
You should place the plant in an area where it will receive bright, indirect light. Avoid harsh sunlight, which can cause the leaves to turn brown, but dappled sunlight is perfectly fine.
When mounted, allow the compost to dry out between watering. Don’t overwater as these plants can get root rot quickly. Older, established plants are drought-tolerant and need less water. In hot summer months, water weekly, and in colder months, water less often.
These ferns are tropical and subtropical, usually living in locations where the temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (10-38 Celsius). Unlike most other species in the Platycerium genus, these ferns can tolerate temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. But don’t let temperature stay this low if you want to keep your plant happy and healthy.
The humidity should also be about 80% or more if you want your staghorn to survive. Since they are epiphytes, they require high humidity, which can be hard to provide in some areas. Depending on your location, you’ll want to mist the fronds daily or use a humidifier to keep ambient moisture levels high.
The fertilizer requirements for the Platycerium bifurcatum are relatively low. A simple 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer will work well. Apply the fertilizer at least once a month in the growing season and bi-monthly in the winter season. Mature plants need less fertilizer than younger ferns.
Propagating Staghorn Fern
Platycerium bifurcatum can be propagated via spores, but this is an arduous and time-consuming process with little chance for success. Therefore, it is not recommended to try out this method unless you’ve got a lot of time on your hands and don’t mind failed attempts.
For amateur gardeners, propagating Staghorn Ferns by division is usually the way to go. To do this, remove the plant from the mount and divide it into two or three sections using a sharp knife. Each section should have at least two or three leaves attached (both sterile and non-sterile). Remount each section in moist compost and place them in a shaded area. New growth will take some time to appear, so be patient.
Platycerium bifurcatum are non-toxic. It’s completely safe for children and pets. And if you’re mounting your fern up on the wall, there’s little chance of it coming in contact with anyone either way.
Staghorn Ferns can become infested by mealybugs and scale insects. Both mealybugs and scale insects are small suck the sap from the plant. To deal with an infestation, use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to wipe them away carefully.
Frond tips browning or wilting?
Your plant is in dire need of more water. Water the soil thoroughly and mist the leaves regularly. The fern should recover soon afterward.
Plant watered but still wilting?
If you’ve been watering your wilting fern and it hasn’t recovered even after getting more water, then this could be a bit more serious. Chances are, your plant’s roots have suffered from root rot. First, remove the plant from the mount and clean off the roots. Check for any black or mushy roots and remove them. Remount, after you’ve cleaned off everything and the plant, should recover.
Antler fronds browning or blackening at the base?
Overwatering can cause browning or blackening of the showy fronds. Stop watering altogether for a few days, and the plant should return to normal. Afterward, return to the usual watering routine.
Brown shield fronds?
Brown shield fronds are a sign of age. Most, if not all, mature Staghorn Ferns have brown shield fronds. Don’t try to remove them; these protect the delicate roots, and removing them exposes the roots to the elements; you don’t want that.
Staghorn Fern (Platycerium Bifurcatum) Growing Tips (Video)
How to mount a Staghorn Fern?
To mount a Staghorn Fern, you will need a piece of cork bark or wood, wire, and a place to mount.
1. Cut a piece of bark or wood to the size you want your mount to be.
2. Drill a hole in the center of the cork bark or wood.
3. Cut a piece of wire long enough to go around the back of the cork bark or wood three or four times
4. Attach the rich organic compost to the mount in a circular mound.
5. Secure the fern to the piece of wood; the roots need to be in contact with the compost.
How to care for Staghorn Fern?
Staghorn Ferns need high humidity levels to thrive. In winter, when the air is dry, you can place the plant in the bathroom. You can also mist the plant with water daily. Finally, place it in bright, indirect light for the best results. Average room temperatures are acceptable in most cases.
How to water a Staghorn Fern?
Water your Staghorn Fern regularly, but be sure not to overwater it. The compost should feel moist but not wet. Wait for the top layer of soil to dry out beforehand.