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Staghorn Fern- Plant Bio: Podcast Ep#79

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

This fabulous and frosty fern attracts the attention of every plant lover! It is a more difficult plant to care for, but that's where I can help! I am here to give every plant parent (at any skill level) the tools and knowledge needed to grow a healthy Staghorn Fern!



Botanical Name: Platycerium bifurcatum

The Staghorn Fern has green/blue almost chalky feeling fronds ("leaves") with a unique shield-like structured frond protecting the base of the plant.

The structured, rounded base fronds start as a light green color and eventually turn to a tan, crunchy like texture (totally normal). The green, frosty, antler-like fronds growing out from the base fronds may eventually grow clusters of brown spores on the underside of the tips of fertile fern fronds.


Sun Requirements:

Staghorn Ferns are one of the few ferns that prefer to be in bright indirect light but they can also grow well in medium light. Avoid direct sunlight as this could cause burning.


If you need any guidance to understanding light, or are in need of a grow light to help increase your light, check out the links!


Water Requirement

Watering for these ferns depends on the form you have this plant in. Many people mount their Staghorn Fern since it is known for the epiphytic ways. If your fern is mounted, you will more than likely need to take the full mount down and run it under your shower or sink for watering. When finished watering make sure there is not standing water within the fronds because this can cause rot.


If you have a younger fern planted in soil, it only needs low to medium moisture and can survive through spouts of drought. If you do have it planted in soil, make sure it is housed in very well-draining soil and don't allow it to sit in water.


This plant does need high humidity to thrive since moisture is takin in through its fronds. I would recommend placing near a humidifier or misting frequently to keep the moisture high.


Fertilizer

As I always say, there are LOTS of ways to fertilize plants. Unless you are extremely over-fertilizing your plant, there isn't necessarily a wrong way to do this. I currently use Fox Farm's Grow Big Liquid Fertilizer and I normally fertilize every 2 weeks when I water my plants, starting around the end of February through October. I honestly probably only fertilize once or twice in winter because the plant isn't as active! I use about 1/2 to 3/4 the recommended amount of fertilizer because I would rather under-fertilize than over-fertilize my plants. For the mount ferns, the fertilizer may be a bit more difficult so I would suggest having a diluted fertilizer in a saucer (or bowl) and place your fern directly in it to soak in the diluted water/fertilizer mixture. Staghorn Ferns can be sensitive to fertilizer so it is safer to use less than the recommended.


Practical Houseplant Book: "From spring to early fall, apply a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly."


There are MANY ways to fertilize and it is completely up to you! There are tons of products out there you can try but an overall rule of thumb for houseplants is that it is best to under-fertilize, rather than over-fertilize. Always use the recommended amount, or less, when applying your fertilizer to houseplants.


Propagation

The Staghorn Fern creates many pups of the main parent plant that can be pulled off and created into new plants. You can also create a new plant with spore germination but that can be a bit more involved. I don't advise this as the first option for propagation.


Other Facts

  • All part of the Polypodiaceae family.

  • Native to parts of Australia, Java, & New Guinea.

    • The fern is considered invasive on the Hawaiian Islands, so be cautious with this plant as a houseplant.

  • Staghorn Ferns can grow in environments with temperatures of 40 degrees F and above

  • Natively these can grow upwards of 3-4ft wide growing epiphytically

  • This fern was given the Royal Horticulture Society’s Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

  • They are NOT toxic to pets. If you are interested in learning about more pet friendly plants, check out Podcast Ep#31 for more info or the corresponding blog post!


Instagram Q&A

I asked followers if they had any specific plant questions I could address in this podcast and blog. Here are the questions and answers for the Staghorn Fern:


"Why the name Staghorn??"

  • The fronds resemble the antlers of a male deer or elk!


"Wanting to mount mine to the wall but how am I supposed to water it?"

  • To water a mounted Staghorn Fern you will need to be able to access them and take them off the wall to properly water them. You can shower them or soak them for a bit but you won't be able to property water them while on your wall without making a mess.


"How to mount/different ways to mount? And how big do they get/can they outgrow?"

  • There are SO many different ways to hang or mount a Staghorn Fern. The two most common ways would be using wire to attach it to a piece of wood or creating a moss ball (called kokedama) for it to hang in. Staghorn Ferns are slow grows so it will be many years before it would out grow the board or vessel you plant it in/on.

 

WANT TO LISTEN?

Go to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and more! Search for Houseplant Homebody to hear this episode and MANY more! You can also listen directly on my website under the Podcast page!


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Always written with extreme plant passion!

Love, Holly (Owner & Creator of Houseplant Homebody LLC)

 

Sources: Many of my plant books introduced this plant (LINK: scroll down to the bottom to find some books recommendations) plus University of Wisconsin Madison- Horticulture was a great source!

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