Houseplant Girl

Staghorn Fern Care

Staghorn Fern

Staghorn Fern Is Amazing Decor

The first thing I noticed when I first saw a Staghorn Fern was it’s unusual and beautiful aesthetic, something I immediately wanted in my own home. The alien appearance and buck-like horns are a vegan’s dream, especially when it comes to ‘hunting chic’. No need to kill a deer in order to get impressive antlers!

Mounted on a board and wrapped in vintage burlap, the staghorn fern will be the centerpiece of your home, becoming living art. The staghorn fern (Platycerium spp.) has dozens of species and were quite rare until recently, becoming ever increasingly popular houseplants.

What Is A Staghorn?

While the Staghorn is utterly beautiful, how difficult is it to care and manage such a unique plant? I know many who have struggled to keep these plants alive, myself included. So what’s the deal? Are they difficult, or do we just need some tips?

Staghorn ferns are technically Epiphytes, which means they grow on other plants or trees in their natural habitats. Just like air plants, staghorn ferns cling on to other living plants and thrive in warm areas like the tropics, jutting out of the little crooks of trees. They hang on via their roots and are able to absorb nutrients and water through their  fronds, pretty cool stuff.

Staghorn Fern

Staghorn ferns can seem daunting because of how different they look, their anatomy is completely inconsistent with other varieties of houseplants available, even from other ferns. And while there are over 12,000 different types of ferns, the Staghorn is one of the most ancient plants—living history!

And while most plants will reproduce through flowers and seeds, ferns are unique in that they reproduce through microscopic spores into the air, mush like mushrooms!  These spores eventually become new plants.

Staghorn Anatomy

The leaves of ferns are also not called leaves but are called fronds. Staghorns have two types of fronds, the most prominent is the “antler” and these are the large leaves which shoot out the center of the plant, giving resemblance to deer antlers. Spores will develop on the lower of the fronds, and will look like brown fuzz—do not get rid of the brown fuzz! This will be detrimental to your plant!

The second kind of frond is called the shield frond, which are the round, hard plate looking leaves which surround the base of the plant. These fronds protect the roots and take up water and nutrients. They will also start out green, but eventually will turn brown and dry up. This is completely normal and you should not worry when this happens! This is the life cycle of the fern and a brown shield frond does not mean you are killing your plant! You should never remove the brown frond as it will also be detrimental to the Staghorn.

The last part of a Staghorn fern is the root ball, which helps attach the fern to its home/host. Staghorn’s have minimal roots and because of this will need very extensive drainage as these ferns are susceptible to root rot.

Staghorn FernPlant Care

Light: Unlike their fern counterparts, the Staghorn fern needs lots of light. Remember, they originate in the tropics, and the species most commonly seen in homes is native to Australia. Bright, indirect light is best. Look for the brightest spot in your home which doesn’t receive direct light, rooms with Southern or Eastern exposure will be the best. Don’t put your ferns in artificial lighting or basements, they need real light!

Water: In order for your fern to thrive, you must have two practices when it comes to watering. 1) Misting. 2) Soaking.

Misting: You’ll want to use a spray bottle to mist the entire plant, focusing on the underside of the antler fronds and the shield fronds. Do this every day or every other day.

Soaking: Soak your Staghorn Fern plant-side down into a bowl or sink full of room-temperature water. Make sure the sink or tub is large enough for you to soak the entire plant, including the plaque. Soak it for 10-20 minutes or until the root ball is saturated. Allow your plant to drip dry before you rehang.

There is no one rule on how often you must rewater your fern, and honestly, this is the number one reason they die. The amount of watering all depends on light, humidity, and heat they will get while in your home. However, a good rule is to water them once per week in the hot and dry times of the year and once every two to three weeks during cooler months.

The more humid your space is, the less misting they need! The more light they receive, the more water they’ll need! Mist and water regularly in the summer, and always check the base of the plant regularly for dryness.

These ferns will not tolerate over-watering, so if the antler fronds begin to brown or black at the base, this may be a sign of over-watering. Make sure you reduce watering to once a month until they recover.

Underwatering will be noticed when the antler fronds begin to brown at the tips or wilt. Increase watering if this happens.

Temperature: While Staghorn’s are from the tropics and warm weather places, they are pretty good with cold, however, they should not be allowed to drop below 50 degrees or go above 100 degrees.

Fertilizer: Fertilize your fern monthly during the growing periods and use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer.  In the winter, you can reduce fertilizing your fern to once every other month.

Staghorn Fern

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After finishing her masters degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Michelle wanted to share her love of plants and all things medicinal. With her knowledge of Chinese herbs and household plants, she decided to create a site sharing her love of indoor plants.

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