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Platycerium bifurcatum (Staghorn Fern)

Staghorn Fern, Common Staghorn Fern, Antelope Ears, Australian Elk's Horn Fern

AGM Award
staghorn fern, Platycerium bifurcatum, antelope ears

Platycerium bifurcatum (Staghorn Fern), with its unique growth habit and striking appearance, is a fascinating addition to any plant collection. While it requires specific care to thrive, resembling its natural tropical habitat, its non-toxic nature and air-purifying abilities make it a rewarding choice for both indoor and outdoor gardening enthusiasts.

Staghorn Fern: An In-depth Look

Platycerium bifurcatum, commonly known as the Staghorn fern or Elkhorn fern, is a distinctive epiphytic plant prized for its unique growth pattern and striking frond shape. Resembling the antlers of a stag, it’s a popular choice for those looking to add a touch of the exotic to their plant collection.

Native: This species is native to Australia, Indonesia, and New Guinea. It thrives in rainforests, where it grows on trees, absorbing moisture and nutrients from the air and rain.

Plant Type and Habit: As an epiphyte, it grows on other plants, typically trees, without deriving nutrients from its host. It features two types of fronds: the basal fronds, which are sterile, flat, and rounded, serving to anchor the plant and trap organic debris, and the fertile fronds, which are elongated, bifurcated, and resemble stag horns.

Size: Typically, Platycerium bifurcatum can reach a height and spread of about 2 to 3 feet (60-90 cm). The plant’s size largely depends on its growing conditions and age.

Foliage: The foliage is the most striking feature. The sterile fronds are broad, flat, and tend to brown with age, forming a sort of nest. The fertile fronds are green, long, and forked, resembling antlers.

Uses: Its unique appearance makes it a favorite in ornamental horticulture. It’s often used in hanging baskets or mounted on boards and placed on walls to mimic its natural tree-growing habit. In large, tropical-themed gardens, it can be a striking addition.

Hardiness: Staghorn Fern is hardy in USDA zones 9-12. It prefers warm, humid conditions and does not tolerate frost.

Award: Recipient of the prestigious Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society.

Toxicity: This fern is not known to be toxic to humans or pets, making it a safe choice for households with children and animals.

Deer and Rabbit: Generally, Staghorn Fern is not a preferred plant for deer and rabbits, partly due to its elevated growing habit and texture.

Drought: While it can withstand short periods of dryness, prolonged drought can be detrimental. Regular watering, mimicking the humid, rainforest environment, is ideal.

Invasiveness: It is not considered invasive. Its epiphytic nature and specific growing requirements limit its spread in non-native environments.

Benefits: Aside from its aesthetic appeal, it can also improve indoor air quality. As an epiphyte, it absorbs nutrients and water from the air, potentially reducing airborne pollutants.

staghorn fern, Platycerium bifurcatum, antelope ears

Staghorn Fern Care

Light: Prefers bright, indirect light. Too much direct sunlight can scorch its fronds, while too little light may stunt growth.

Soil: Thrives in a well-draining, organic-rich potting mix. Ideal pH is neutral.

Water: Requires consistent moisture but not waterlogging. Water when the top inch of soil feels dry. Mist regularly to maintain high humidity. Water sparingly in winter.

Fertilizer: Feed with diluted, balanced liquid fertilizer during the growing season (spring and summer), once a month.

Pruning: Prune brown or dead fronds to encourage new growth and maintain plant health.

Propagation: Propagate by spore or by dividing the offsets (pups) that form at the base of the plant.

Pests and Diseases: Generally resistant to diseases. Watch for scale insects or mealybugs. Overwatering can lead to root rot.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is so special about staghorn ferns?

Staghorn ferns are unique for their antler-like fronds and epiphytic growth, meaning they grow on other surfaces like trees. This distinctive appearance and growth habit make them a striking and unconventional choice for indoor and outdoor decoration, offering a touch of tropical flair.

Do staghorn ferns like lots of water?

Staghorn ferns require regular watering but don’t like to be waterlogged. It’s important to allow the growing medium to dry out slightly between waterings. They enjoy high humidity, so periodic misting is beneficial, especially in dryer indoor environments.

Are staghorn ferns hard to care for?

Staghorn ferns are moderately easy to care for. Understanding their needs for indirect light, proper watering, and humidity is key. They require less soil and are often mounted, which can be an adjustment compared to caring for traditional potted plants.

Where is the best place to put a staghorn fern?

The best place for a staghorn fern is an area with bright, indirect light, like near a window with a sheer curtain. Humid environments like bathrooms or kitchens are ideal, especially if they can be mounted or hung, simulating their natural growing conditions on tree trunks.

Requirements

Hardiness 9 - 12
Heat Zones 10 - 11
Climate Zones 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, H2
Plant Type Ferns
Plant Family Polypodiaceae
Common names Staghorn Fern, Fern
Exposure Partial Sun, Shade
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 2' - 3'
(60cm - 90cm)
Spread 2' - 3'
(60cm - 90cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Sand
Soil pH Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Evergreen, Plant of Merit
Native Plants Australia
Tolerance Full Shade, Deer, Rabbit
Garden Uses Hanging Baskets, Patio And Containers
Garden Styles Mediterranean Garden
How Many Plants
Do I Need?
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
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Requirements

Hardiness 9 - 12
Heat Zones 10 - 11
Climate Zones 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, H2
Plant Type Ferns
Plant Family Polypodiaceae
Common names Staghorn Fern, Fern
Exposure Partial Sun, Shade
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 2' - 3'
(60cm - 90cm)
Spread 2' - 3'
(60cm - 90cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Sand
Soil pH Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Evergreen, Plant of Merit
Native Plants Australia
Tolerance Full Shade, Deer, Rabbit
Garden Uses Hanging Baskets, Patio And Containers
Garden Styles Mediterranean Garden
How Many Plants
Do I Need?

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