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Platycerium bifurcatum - Staghorn Fern 

The Plant: This epiphytic fern originates from the tree-tops in tropical rain forests. It is often grown in hanging containers or wired onto tree bark, Cork being the ideal substrate. This unusual epiphyte has two distinct leaf types: one form of ‘leaf’ forms large shield-like sterile fronds which begin green but mature to a woody brown. This 'shield' almost wraps itself around its means of support.

These protect the roots of the Platycerium, and cling onto the plant support. The second leaf form is the easily recognised Stag shorn, broad fertile fronds which resemble antlers. The plant can become quite large if it is in a suitable growing environment.

Its Needs: The Staghorn Fern enjoys good light - but no direct sun - warmth and humidity. If the Platycerium is being grown on a piece of bark it may be easier to water by using the shower on cool day or by placing the bark and fern in a bucket of water to soak and then allow it to drain before re-hanging. otherwise watering can be a little problematic, unless the floor below is up to being drenched!

The Stags Horn Fern - indoorsWhilst it can be grown in a pot the Staghorn Fern looks more natural if grown on bark, simply wired to it with a ball of sphagnum moss around its root system. It will take a little time to be self-supporting, and may even require the wire support throughout its life.

Care: Water well through spring to autumn, by soaking as above, and by watering behind the shield foliage.(Use soft water if possible). Warmth and humidity are essential. Use a dilute feed on a monthly basis when the fern is growing actively.

Good for: Again these unusual looking plants tend to appeal to men. Perhaps it is the name and the robust, quirky appearance, or the lack of flowers. Easy to grow providing watering is maintained. Look good in a conservatory.

Problems with Platycerium.

The only pest we have come across - after growing many of these in plant nursery - is scale insect. They harbour themselves along the drooping leaves.

No diseases to worry about.

Propagation of Platycerium

Conveniently, this fern develops small plants on the tips of its roots. These can be detached and planted as separate plants - growing on in pot of sphagnum moss to start.

The experienced enthusiast will sow the ripe spores found on the underside of the main leaves. These will need a temperature of no less than 20deg C.


No pruning is required other than removing dead leaves. Do NOT remove the brow sheaf that protects the roots.


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