Caring for your Staghorn Fern
The Staghorn Fern (much like the Orchid plant and Air plant) is an epiphyte, which means it is normally found growing on the surface of another plant (such as a tree), deriving its water and nutrients from the surrounding atmosphere. Similar to the Air plant, the Staghorn Fern's roots do not actually serve much purpose apart from anchoring the plant to its base, so water and nutrients are absorbed through its fronds (aka leaves) instead. However, unlike its aforementioned epiphyte friends, the Staghorn Fern does not bloom, instead reproducing by spores found on the edge of its leaves.
Its environment may require fine-tuning and balancing, but once this is established, the Staghorn Fern is not difficult to care for. As a tropical plant, the Staghorn fern thrives in low to medium light and high humidity, much like the environment of the rainforest.
Staghorn Ferns prefer low to medium light, so if you're placing it indoors be sure to provide bright, indirect sunlight (not artificial light). If placed outdoors, you should put them where they will get partial shade.
More than a few hours in direct sunlight can cause your Staghorn Fern to lose its moisture.
There are two watering processes that your Staghorn Fern will require: misting and soaking. For soaking, submerge your Staghorn Fern for about 1 - 2 minutes, ensuring that its roots are saturated with water. Shake off the excess water gently before hanging it back up. You can do this about once every week or two, checking your Staghorn Fern for signs of dehydration or over-watering.
Apart from that, using a fine mist spray, mist your Staghorn Fern once a week. It is able to absorb water through its fronds and appreciates humid environments. In a drier environment, mist it 2 - 3 times a week. When its fronds turn soft or brown at the tips, it's telling you that it needs more water.
While it is still growing, fertilising your Staghorn Fern will allow it to grow at a much quicker pace. You can use a normal water-soluble plant fertiliser incorporated sparingly into your misting routine. Be careful, too much fertiliser can cause fertiliser burn! Check out our recommended fertiliser here.
When mature, not much fertilising is required. You can fertilise your Staghorn Fern twice a year for healthier growth.
Coming from a tropical climate, your Staghorn Fern will be able to tolerate anything from 10°C to around 32°C, the range of temperatures of the rainforest. It'll enjoy an air-conditioned room or office, and also the outdoor environment of a tropical country.
Ferns do not reproduce by seed, but by spores. However, growing a Staghorn Fern from spores is a much longer process than other alternatives. The best way to propagate them is to harvest the its pups, which will grow around the main plant over time. You can use a razor blade to cut the pup off the main plant, then wrap the cut end of the pup in damp sphagnum moss and tie it to a wooden block loosely or place it in a basket. It's now ready to be cared for as you would the main plant!
Although you can find young Staghorn Ferns sold in pots, mature plants eventually need to be mounted to a board or hung in a basket.
Browning at the tips or wilting: Dehydrated, water more frequently.
Browning/blackening at the base: Much too frequent watering with insufficient time between to dry. Reduce watering and allow plant to recover.
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