The Q&A Archives: Staghorn?

Question: I have a very unusual plant. I have never seen anything like it before. It is a hanging plant, and the roots are exposed on the top. Which is where I water it. The "under carriage" of the plant is "stump" like and there the sprouts/leaves (?) grow. Even the leaves are very unusual looking. This plant is healthly even though it looks odd. I have been told that it is called a "Stag Horn". But I have failed to find any information on a plant with that name. Does it exsist, or have I just been mis-informed?? Also, if that is not what it is called, can you, just based on my description, tell me what you think it might be! WHEW!!

Answer: It does sound as though you have a Staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum). These plants can grow sterile fronds that are three feet long and up to a foot across. The fertile fronds are even larger. The fronds accumulate organic matter which feeds the plant. Most Staghorns are grown on slabs of bark or in hanging baskets.

Staghorn Fern can be propagated by carefully cutting apart any plantlets produced at the base of the plant. These may be established on a slab of redwood or cork.

First, wrap the roots in damp sphagnum moss and then tie the root ball tightly. Some people use cotton string and others use a small piece of chicken wire. Eventually the roots and round basal fronds will grip the bark and support the plant.

An alternative technique that I have used with good success is to place the plantlets on the exterior of a hanging basket lined with a coconut coir liner (or sphagnum moss) and filled with a sphagnum or potting soil mix. In time, you will have one big, beautiful staghorn as a hanging (rather than wall mounted) plant! Resist the urge to overwater, but keep the plant moderately moist. Little fertilizer is needed. An occasional dose of fish emulsion or seaweed extract is fine.

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