Scientific name: Platycerium bifurcatum
Synonyms: Staghorn Fern, Rainforest Fern, Antelope Ears, Vegan Antlers!
The best way to consider the care needs of your Staghorn Fern is to think about how it grows in its natural habitat. In the rainforests, it would receive a good amount of humidity and filtered light through the canopy foliage. So at home, a bright, humid spot would be ideal - it doesn’t do very well in darker environments so bear this in mind.
Platyceriums have a slightly waxy texture which you must not remove (it’s a protective coating) and at the base of the plant you will find flat round basal fronds, or shield fronds, which go brown with age - this is an integral part of the plant so don’t remove or damage these.
Note: Please be aware that whilst the plant is non-toxic and pet friendly, it’s best to keep out of reach of children and pets (hanging it would be a great way of doing this!)
- Scorched foliage/ pale leaves: Your plant is getting too much direct light; move to somewhere more shaded.
- Spots/patches on leaves: There are potentially a few reasons here; if the spots are brown and soft the likely cause is over-watering. Lighter coloured patches can signal shock from cold water; tepid (room temperature) water is always best.
- Brown edges on fronds: A number of issues can manifest themselves in this way on your staghorn fern. The most common issue is dry air; if your houseplant is near a heat source, air conditioner or draught. Inconsistent watering is another potential problem.
- New fronds are small: If the fern fronds are continuously small, your plant might not be getting enough light/humidity. Move to a brighter spot.
- Pests: Platycerium bifurcatum are not often prone to pests, but incorrect care and lack of humidity are the main cause of them appearing. Scale is the most common here, or mealy bugs, both of which can sometimes appear on the underside of the fronds. Wipe away using rubbing alcohol and a small brush.
- Plant collapse: This is often caused by root rot as a result of prolonged overwatering, especially in winter.
- Origin: Staghorn Ferns are sometimes called ‘rainforest ferns’ and are native to the tropical and temperate areas of Australia, South America, Africa, South East Asia and New Guinea.
- Height: In its native environment, around 1.8 metres height / 1 metre spread. Indoors (over a number of years) approx 1 metre height / 0.5 metre spread.
- Light: Bright filtered light is best. Protect from harsh sun which can make the fronds turn light in colour and mark the foliage.
- Water: During the growing season (Spring and Summer) thoroughly soak the potting mixture, then allow to almost completely dry out before watering again. The plant will often show you when it needs watering by starting to droop and at this point the pot will also feel very light. An effective watering method is to submerge the plant pot in a bucket of water for a few minutes. You can also leave your staghorn fern outside in the rain for a shower! Reduce watering in the rest period.
- Humidity: Moderate-high humidity and fine misting is ideal, a good level of humidity contributes to healthy growth of your platycerium.
- Temperature: The staghorn will grow happily in temperatures of 16-25°C. Try to avoid draughts and sudden drops in temperature, especially below 12°C.
- Soil: These ferns have small fibrous roots which grow well in an equal mixture of peat moss, sphagnum moss and bark. They are often mounted on a board with their root system ‘wrapped’ in this potting mix.
- Fertilizer: As an epiphyte, your houseplant absorbs the moisture and nutrients it needs from their environment through its fronds so regular feeding isn’t necessary. If desired, more mature platycerium can be fed once every six weeks during the growing season into the root ball. If you want to try something unconventional, you can place a banana peel between the stag and the potting medium (or board if you have mounted it)… the potassium is good for them!
- Repotting: These plants are fairly slow growers so will rarely need to be repotted. The best time to re-pot is early Spring when the plant had a period of active growth ahead. Roots ‘circling’ around the bottom of the nursery pot is an indication that repotting is needed. As your staghorn grows, you can decide whether you want to mount your plant; many are mounted on wood and hung on a wall.
- Pruning: Not really required. At the base of the plant you will find shield fronds (also called basal fronds) that go brown with age - don’t be tempted to remove these… they are an integral part of the plant!
- Propagation: The most common way to propagate these is by division when plant matures - multiple plants are separated and potted/ mounted individually.
If in stock, shop for Staghorn Ferns here.