Staghorn Ferns (Ficus benjamina) are one of the most popular houseplants in the home. They grow well indoors and outdoors. These plants have a long history in nature and were used as food sources by early man. Today they provide a nice addition to any living space. However, there are some rules when it comes to feeding these plants.
When feeding staghorn ferns, the plant needs to be kept moist at all times. If not, the leaves will turn yellow and die off. Also, if you feed them too much nitrogen, they will become overgrown with algae which can cause them to rot and eventually die. You want your staghorn ferns to stay healthy and vibrant!
If you’re looking for a simple way to keep your staghorn ferns alive, then read on…
What Is A Staghorn Fern?
A staghorn fern is a type of evergreen shrub native to North America. They are often referred to as “frosty” because their leaves look like frosted snowflakes. The flowers are white, trumpet shaped and up to three inches across. Staghorn ferns are grown by plant enthusiasts for their “mossy” foliage and the attractive growth habit.
Where Does The Staghorn Get Its Name?
The staghorn gets its name from its antler-like shaped fronds. Staghorn ferns are known to have some of the most intricate leaf structures among all ferns. They typically grow in clusters with each leaf resembling a deer’s horn. The unusual shape of the leaves makes them very desirable as houseplants. Most people prefer to grow them indoors because they are sensitive to frost.
Staghorn ferns are usually propagated through spores or leaf cuttings. The plant is also known to produce berries (which resemble blackcurrants) but these are rarely found on cultivated varieties.
What Type Of Soil And Lighting Do They Prefer?
Staghorn ferns prefer well-draining soil and lots of sunlight. Avoid planting them in areas that receive excessive amounts of rainfall or moisture. They can be grown indoors or outdoors but should be protected from extreme changes in temperature. A popular misconception about staghorn ferns is that they need constant humidity to thrive. While it is true that they do prefer moderate levels of humidity, they will not suffer if the levels drop below this range.
How Big Do Staghorn Ferns Grow?
Staghorn ferns are rather small plants that only grow to a height of 1.5 to 3 feet and a width of 2 to 3 feet. The plant’s rhizome can grow quite extensively so it’s best planted in a large pot (at least 20 inches in diameter). This allows the plant sufficient growing room without taking up too much space.
What Type Of Food And Water Do They Prefer?
Staghorn ferns are epiphytes meaning they get their nutrients from the air and not from the soil. They should never be planted in soil that is rich in nutrients (or else they may start growing in it). Instead, plant them in a well-draining pot with a mixture of peat, loam, and sand. Keep the pot in an area that receives lots of sunlight.
Water the plant when the soil is dry to the touch. Although staghorn ferns prefer humid conditions, excessive moisture should be avoided. They can be placed outdoors (in a shady area) or near a humidifier to ensure that they always have access to humidity.
How Are Staghorn Ferns Propagated?
Staghorn ferns are propagated through spores and rhizome division. Even if you take a staghorn fern plant from the wild, it will probably still produce spores (which can be used for growing new plants).
A spore will turn into a mushroom-like structure called a sporocarp and produce thousands of dust-like spores. When ripe, these spores can be collected and used for growing new plants. They need to be planted in sterile soil and kept in a moist environment until they germinate.
The other way of propagating them is by dividing the plant’s rhizome (this can be done by pulling it out of the soil). Each piece must have an eye (the brown dot found at the base) or it will not grow. The small pieces can then be planted in a separate pot and grown on their own.
Staghorn ferns are not considered difficult plants to grow and they are very attractive year-round. They can be placed inside or outside as long as they are kept in a shady, sheltered area.
Planting staghorn ferns is a great project for kids as they are easy to grow and can thrive with minimal attention. Kids will learn a lot about plants, nature, and responsibility as they watch their fern grow from a small cutting into a large plant.
Staghorn fern care may be a bit involved but the hard work will be worth it when you see your fern thriving in its new home.
Sources & references used in this article:
The common staghorn fern, Platycerium bifurcatum, naturalizes in southern Florida by RW Pemberton – American Fern Journal, 2003 – BioOne
New host plant records for some Australian Alticinae by TJ Hawkeswood, DG Furth – Spixiana, 1994 – researchgate.net
Air plant support device by AE Horowitz – US Patent 4,215,514, 1980 – Google Patents
Obtention of gametophytes and sporophytes of the common staghorn fern fide hortus third (Platycerium bifurcatum (Cav.) C. Chr.). by JÁ Gómez Llaca, J Páez Casares – Ernstia, 2013 – cabdirect.org