Scientific Name: Platycerium bifurcatum
Synonyms: Staghorn Fern, Rainforest Fern, Antelope Ears, Vegan Antlers!
The Staghorn Fern is a houseplant that really makes a bold statement as a decor focal point. Known for its distinctive lobed foliage, felt-like texture, and handsome grey colouring, these Fern are a superb conversation piece, often due to the fact that their foliage resembles the horns of a large stag.
In the humid forests of Africa, Australia and Southeast Asia, Staghorn Ferns are found growing as epiphytes, attaching themselves to tree hosts and treating them as their homes. When considering the needs of your Staghorn Fern, you should think about how it grows in its natural environment.
Through the rainforest canopy foliage, it would receive filtered light and a good amount of humidity, which collects on their leaves making it their main source of water and nutrients. In the home environment, a bright, humid spot would be ideal - it doesn’t do very well in darker environments, so bear this in mind. Overall, Staghorns are relatively easy to grow and make a fabulous plant for both beginners and experienced plant parents alike.
Platyceriums have a slightly waxy texture that you should not remove (it's a protective coating), and at the base of the plant you will find round fronds, or shield fronds. Also called basal fronds, these are adapted leaves that turn crisp and brown with age. Don't damage or remove these either, as they protect the crown of the plant and their roots, that help them stay anchored to their host.
Either mounted, displayed in a Moss ball or potted Staghorn are highly attractive. You can create a distinct display by mounting your Staghorn on a unique piece of wood that matches your decor or colour scheme. Another idea is to mount several Staghorns at once in an attractive arrangement or hang a few at different heights in a Mossball or with other hanging houseplants. Alternatively, your Staghorn can be displayed as a tabletop or shelf feature in a bright room. Whichever option you choose, your Staghorn will certainly be a talking point.
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!)
Staghorn Fern Common Symptoms
- Scorched Foliage or Pale Leaves: Your plant is getting too much direct light; move to somewhere more shaded.
- Spots or 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. Learn more on Watering Houseplants here.
- New Fronds are Small: If the fern fronds are continuously small, your plant might not be getting enough light or humidity. Move to a brighter spot and give it a few months to improve, if new growth is larger, then your plant is happier in its new position.
- 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. If the infestation is extreme, treat with an organic Pesticide such as Pyrol. Click for more on Identifying and treating Common Houseplant Pests.
Plant Collapse: This is often caused by root rot as a result of prolonged overwatering, especially in winter. If you have caught it in time, remove the root ball from its pot, cut back and rotten roots, and let the soil dry out, before reintroducing to regular care.
Staghorn Fern Care Instructions
- Origin: Staghorn Ferns are sometimes called ‘rainforest ferns’ and are native to the tropical and temperate areas of Australia, Africa and South East Asia.
- 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. Read more on Summer Plant Care and Winter Plant Care here.
- Humidity: Moderate-high humidity and fine misting with a Spray Bottle or Mister 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 with a Liquid Fertilizer. 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 or 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 or mounted individually.
If in stock, shop for Staghorn Ferns here.