Staghorn Ferns - a Desired Beauty

Staghorn Ferns
Staghorn Ferns

Staghorn Ferns - a Desired Beauty

Nestled in the heart of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands is where you will find Granny Mouse Country House & Spa, the perfect combination of relaxation and luxury. With a heritage spanning 30 years, Granny Mouse has customised their ethos of being a “home-away-from-home” and is well known for its beautiful garden setting.

Staghorn ferns (Platycerium bifurcatum) are one of those plants that most plant-lovers either have in their garden/home or wish they did.

They have been described as the funkiest of ferns with an out-of-this-world appearance due to the drooping leaves, which resemble the horns of a stag. Although they look very majestic and regal when mature, they look very funky as baby plants.

Staghorn Ferns are more than just a pretty face; they're air-scrubbing powerhouses. These leafy companions excel at removing toxins like formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene—nasties that lurk in common household items from paints to furniture.

Staghorns love growing both outdoors and indoors in coastal and frost-free regions. Although considered indoor plants in the Highveld, they will grow in positions protected from the frost and cold winds outdoors, such as in evergreen trees or on sheltered patios and courtyards.

Caring for your staghorn is easy once you know the needs of the plant.

Light: Outdoors in the shade, especially in hot, dry climates and in semi-shade in humid areas. They prefer high light areas in the home or on the patio but not direct sunlight unless it is early or late in the day.

Humidity: Bathrooms and atriums provide good humidity in regions with dry air.

Watering: Mist the plants weekly on the leaves and a little on and behind the brown basal leaves. In the winter you can reduce watering to every 3 weeks. Some gardeners like to remove the plant from the wall, take it to the sink and let room temperature water flow over the leaves and basal leaves for about a minute. Allow it to drip dry and put it back in its place. If using this method, be sure to allow the roots to dry out between one watering and the next to avoid rotting the roots.

If the ends of the antler- looking leaves begin to brown, you are probably underwatering, and you will need to increase the misting.

Keep an eye out for brown or black spots at the base of the antler fronds, which indicate overwatering.

Feeding: These ferns are epiphytes and naturally cling to trees. Their roots serve an anchoring purpose with water and nutrients mostly being absorbed through the leaves. Add a balanced liquid foliar fertiliser to the water in your spray mister bottle. Do this once a month during the warmer months and once in two months over winter. Your local garden centre can advise you on a good foliar feed.

Banana skins, coffee grounds and tea bags are excellent slow-release fertilisers that you can place behind your staghorn.

If the staghorn is already mounted on a log or piece of driftwood, you can place it on a table or hang it on the wall. You can also grow the young plant in its original pot. However, it will later tend to become heavy on the side that the plant hangs over and unless secured will want to topple over.

A fun project would be to make your own mounting board. To do this, take a piece of wooden board, about 15cm x 15cm, remove the staghorn from its pot and add the sphagnum moss behind the basal leaves and over the roots.

Make a pouch with some hessian cloth to cover the roots and basal leaves so that the plant is held in place by the pouch. The roots will grasp onto the wood surface in time. Use tacks, small nails or a staple gun to secure the hessian firmly to the wood. Make a hole in the top of the wood to hang it on the wall or use some rope attached behind the wood.

If you don’t like the look of the hessian or the raw wood, use decoupage or some other creative way of disguising it until the basal leaves cover it in time.

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