If you are a plant lover like me, you most likely also have at least one furry housemate that you share your abode with. And like all responsible fur-parents, it’s important determine if your next house plant is going to be pet or child safe before your bring it home.
Staghorn ferns have an out-of-this-world appearance and make for a great statement piece in your home or garden. They have two types of leaves, one which resembles the horns of a large stag or male deer, hence their name. They are also non-toxic to both cats and dogs, and they are easy to grow if you provide the right living conditions and are fantastic air purifiers, making them a must in any household!
These plants are often mounted or in a basket because they are epiphytic, which basically means that they grow in trees. They grow best in part shade to shady locations, because they get most of their water and nutrients from the air or fallen plant matter in the wild.
There are 17 different species of staghorn fern (Platycerium alcicorne) – which in addition to common staghorn fern, go by a number of other common names that include elkhorn fern and antelope ears. Each one has antler-like foliage as well as a flat, basal leaf. The flat leaves are infertile and turn brown and papery with age. They overlap onto a mounting surface and provide stability for the fern.
Growing a Staghorn fern is fairly easy. If they get adequate low to medium light and moderate moisture, they will thrive. In fact, whether grown indoors or outside, just be sure to provide moderate moisture and a humus-rich medium. If you are growing them outdoors, ensure that they are located in partial shade or low light for the best growth.
Over time your Staghorn fern will produce pups (or babies) that will fill in around the main plant. Ferns don’t produce seeds like most plants, so the best way to start a new Staghorn fern is from its pups. Use a sharp, sterile knife to cut the pup from the parent plant. Wrap the end of the cut in damp sphagnum moss and tie it onto a piece of wood or bark loosely. Provide the same care of Staghorn ferns that you would for an adult fern.
Your Staghorn fern requires frequent watering, but allow the plant medium to dry out in between. Fertilize them once per month with a 1:1:1 ration fertilizer diluted in water. The plant is prone to black spot, which is a fungal disease, so do not water over the foliage and minimise humidity indoors to prevent an infection.
In Singapore, a Staghorn fern can retail from anywhere between $16-80, so if you are looking at introducing this beauty into your home, just ensure that you do your research, and find a suitable location for it.