Staghorn Fern Best Practice ?

cocoabeachloraxAugust 2, 2012


I've just "invested" in a very large Staghorn fern that had been mounted to a large piece of wood that was buried into the ground below a large tree.

I do not have a large tree to just put it back as it was, and if I were to sink the remaining "stump" of wood back into the ground I'm concerned about what constitutes overwatering of a Staghorn fern.

I'm in Cocoa Beach FL, coastal central FL, so this will stay outside year round and get wrapped in a blanket should the temps drop below freezing.

Do they prefer deep shade ? Bright shade ?

I have several very small Staghorns that are doing very well in bright shade suspended in hanging baskets from my Sea Grape canopy. Unfortunately, I don't have strong enough Sea Grape limbs to suspend this from that are in bright shade.

So, my questions are: can you over water Staghorns easily ? Can you make a Staghorn happy in deep shade ? What do you feel are best practices for care of Staghorns kept outside.


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Staghorns naturally grow in forests on trees and on rock faces usually in bright shade. They're best when out of direct sun. However, there is one species which does well in full sun, Platycerium veitchii. When you say "deep shade" how dark do you mean? The shade under a thick canopied tree outside shouldn't be a problem for them.

If water can drain freely from them there's no such thing as over watering them. It's not unusual in their natural state to push on the nest leaves and have water flow out. So as long as your plant is above the ground there's no worries.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 8:58AM
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I'm not sure if the pictures give an accurate idea, but I was thinking of placing the fern within the "cradle" of this Ligustrum tree, it will get a lot of water there, and it is what I would call deep shade. This is the North West corner of the property.

The other pictures are what is directly in the area, a large canopy of sea grapes.

There is a picture of the thick solid sea grape branch that I thought was a candidate for suspending it from a chain.

Do you think this is too dark ? These pictures were taken at about 5 PM today.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 5:28PM
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I don't think that would be too dark for a Staghorn (Platycerium bifurcatum). If you get frost in your area then the tree canopy (it's not deciduous, is it?) will take the edge off the cold.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 12:48AM
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Thank you Tropic Breeze.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 3:27PM
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While the images provide some idea of shade, I suggest acclimating your staghorn to as bright a light condition as possible to keep them compact and hard. I would also provide a well ventillated area to grow your fern since good air circulation is the key to prevent over watering. You may get them established into a large wire or red wood basket which they van be hung or mounted to their support.
Bicfurcatums can be touchy when it gets too cold. Veitchii's can stand moderate cold temperatures and if these are the common Netherland cultivars, they are too sensitive to cold.
I like to use an old nylon stocking with timed release osmocote attached to the top of their shield fronds so waterings can supply them with added nutrients. Use a small bag not more than a tablespoon of pellets.
Use a media that dries well, or no media if it is an already established plant with many pups growing out of each other.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 3:59PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

I think you'll be fine in that location BUT I would try too keep it mobile . I lost my gigantic one to Wilma Could have saved it but had no trees and the other problem with staghorns they get gigantic and very heavy does take a few years. I throw a banana peel in the cups of all my epiphytes Ferns LOVE it lol Hopefully the limbs are strong enough to support the weight?? gary

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 6:05PM
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I'm thinking of buying a half Jack Daniels barrel from Lowes and having my hubby cut a hole in the bottom, flipping it over, then plunking the "stem" of the wood it's mounted on .
into the hole, this will keep it off the ground, and if the site we choose turns out to be too moist/dark/ light we can move it.

I'm not sure if the limbs would be strong enough

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 7:49PM
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A big part of the weight of a large plant is water. Imagine a container of the same volume as the plant just about filled with water. That gives you a bit of an idea of the weight you'll be dealing with.

The banana peel is a good idea. Not only is it good when it breaks down, while doing so it encourages insects which feed/breed/defecate/die within the nest leaves providing a lot of natural fetiliser.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 9:14PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

The Banana peel seems to work with ferns BUT not orchids
Seems to encourage rot in that case same is true for epi cactus but ferns love it lol gary

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 6:47AM
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Many species can take direct sunlight, it mostly depends on your humidity. P. ridleyi's actually prefer full glaring sunlight to shade. P. wallichii also likes full sun over deep shade and almost all of the wide frond species (superbum, grande, wandae, etc.) does better in full sun than shade. P. elephantotis also grows better in full sun, especially those with a heavy coating of fuzz on its outer layer.
Humidity is the key. Higher humidity levels allows for better prevention of drying out in intense heat.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 7:31PM
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Hello all. I fell in love with Staghorn ferns when I seen them in the greenhouse at my collage. There was about 4 of them and my professor would not sell me one for nothing in the world cause they were hard to come by in my town. Now 2yrs later, Lowe's started carrying them. So I got a few, 2 small ones and one medium size. The larger of the 3 is clearly marked Platycerium Bifurcatum, the other ones just have a tag that says Staghorn fern platycerium. Now The fertile fronds on these look nothing like the bigger one I have so I was wondering are they of the same species. I have 2 videos on YouTube, just search for threatt1000 and they will pop up. Also, how old do you think my larger one is and when can I start looking for fertile fronds spores to collect. Another thing is I have old banana peels on the bottom along with ironite plus granular fertilizer. My plans are in moss and watered only when dried with distilled water. Since winter is coming I have them inside and I mist them often to keep humidity between 50-80%.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2012 at 9:46PM
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