Houseplants forum→Staghorn Fern Rehab

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Name: Megan
RI (Zone 6b)
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Megos1286
Dec 20, 2019 7:04 AM CST
One of my colleagues knows I like the challenge of rehabbing plants from time to time, and she found this staghorn fern and gifted it to me. I have never kept a staghorn fern before, nor have I ever seen one potted like this in soil. Any guidance you can provide would be much appreciated, as I would love to save this one if possible.
This is a picture of it sitting on my desk, this is not where it will be kept as there is sub-optimal lighting in my office. Thank you!

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Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Dec 20, 2019 7:11 AM CST
I have never seen one posted in soil either. Of course I have not seen all the wide mysterious world has to offer...
I have a few different species, and every one I have ever seen has been mounted to a plaque of some sort and hung up.
When I have bought starts of more unusual species, the seller here who comes to the gardenfest every year advises people to lay them flat in a tray of damp sphagnum moss and mist them to give them a good start, and when they start to produce new growth mount them to a place (which can honestly be almost anything....a part of a cedar shingle, a piece of tree fern, a board with a layer of chickenwire over a bed of sphagnum, or a sphagnum-filled basket). I have never seen one in soil.
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Name: Megan
RI (Zone 6b)
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Megos1286
Dec 20, 2019 10:53 AM CST
Hi Gina! I'm wondering which would be more detrimental ... leaving it in it's soil or trying to unearth it and mount it in moss or onto something else. One of the leaves fell off at the base when I picked up the pot, I'm assuming there's some rot happening and really hope this little guy can be saved!
Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Dec 20, 2019 11:47 AM CST
Well the rot is being caused by the soil. As long as you have some of the overlapping flat leaf thingies (I don;t know stag horn terminology) that are intact and healthy I think it can make new projecting fronds. I was at a local nursery today looking for a tree fern totem to moss my Anthurium warocqueanun to and say several in wood slat orchid baskets, laying flat, on moss. I will take photos of a couple of mine. What you want them to do is make new imbricate leaf thingies that stick to the mount. The leaves arise from the center of these turtle looking leaves
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Name: Will Creed
NYC
Prof. plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Dec 20, 2019 11:59 AM CST
Many nurseries do grow small Staghorns in soil in small pots. However, that does make watering much trickier.

Yours is in a pot that is too large and the soil would probably stay moist for too long. It is probably advisable to carefully unpot it, not necessarily removing all of the soil. Try not to damage any of the existing roots. It can then be moved to a small pot or hanging basket filled with sphagnum moss or mounted on some other slab as Gina described.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
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Name: Lin Vosbury
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

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plantladylin
Dec 20, 2019 12:19 PM CST
I agree that the container of your Common Staghorn Fern (Platycerium bifurcatum) appears way too large for the size of the plant. They are often sold potted in soil but I doubt they survive very long unless someone takes extreme care with watering. I only see two fertile fronds on your plant and with no basal frond visible, I wonder if it's perhaps buried beneath the soil? Staghorn Ferns are Epiphytic by nature, growing on the bark of trees or on rocks. I've purchased a few small potted Staghorn Ferns in the past but I've always removed them from the soil and mounted them to a slab of wood or cork.


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Name: Megan
RI (Zone 6b)
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Megos1286
Dec 20, 2019 12:29 PM CST
Hi everyone, thanks for the information!
Tonight I'll work on removing the soil and using sphagnum moss instead. Hopefully I will find some type of basal frond. What are the lighting requirements for these guys?

I'll post pictures tonight when I take it out of this pot. Thanks again!
Name: Lin Vosbury
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

Region: United States of America Deer Region: Florida Charter ATP Member Million Pollinator Garden Challenge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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plantladylin
Dec 20, 2019 12:42 PM CST
Warmth, good air circulation, bright light, No direct sun.
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~ Playing in the dirt is my therapy ... and I'm in therapy a lot!


Name: Will Creed
NYC
Prof. plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Dec 20, 2019 3:54 PM CST
I don't think you will find a basal frond buried in the soil or anywhere else. In time and with good care, one will develop.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Dec 20, 2019 4:07 PM CST
Thanks guys for chiming in....I honestly have never seen a potted one LOL my stag horn world must be pretty limited
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Name: Megan
RI (Zone 6b)
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Megos1286
Dec 20, 2019 8:02 PM CST
Ok, so it appears to be wrapped in what looks like a landscape fabric ... and the root system is very strange. One of the fronds looks like it's starting to rip off as well. I removed any loose soil and placed it in this terra cotta saucer for now. Any thoughts?


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Name: Will Creed
NYC
Prof. plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Dec 21, 2019 7:22 AM CST
Nurseries often start new plants in very small mesh fabric filled with peat moss. The mesh gradually decomposes and disappears.

Don't leave the roots exposed to air for long. They don't tolerate getting dried out. Now, you have to decide if you want to keep it as a potted plant or mounted on some kind of slab. That will determine your next steps.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Dec 21, 2019 7:36 AM CST
These are 2 of mine. The first one is actually years old even though its very small....it was one that got neglected and 'reclaimed'. Its doing well now. I think its just a common variety. Its mounted over a pad of moss and now doesn't need the string holding it on it has grabbed on and anchored itself. As it continues to spread it will have to be placed either in a basket and allowed to cover the basket or on a bigger slab
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This is a more unusual one I got at the garden fest last March. This one was sold as a single fertile front laying flat in a small container of moss. It was about the diameter of a 4" container. I let it grow that way for about a month then transferred it to this plaque. It has established now and is doing well. I have been told by people who grow this one that it grows quickly and gets huge, so I will have to eventually do something like put it onto a tree stump or a large rock because they get very heavy
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Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Dec 21, 2019 8:20 AM CST
This is what I would eventually like to do with the elephant one I have. I saw this at the beach in May and fell in love with this idea. But I am not sure I have the space in my greenhouse to accommodate a boulder this big. I would need a thinner more vertical one. I think the possibilities for mounts for stag horns are pretty limitless
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Name: Megan
RI (Zone 6b)
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Megos1286
Dec 21, 2019 1:24 PM CST
Thanks for the info and pictures. I think I would like to pot it in a small pot of moss. Does that sound appropriate?
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Dec 21, 2019 1:36 PM CST
Though I do not grow Staghorn Fern, but knowing it is more epiphytic in nature, maybe you can try and grow it like a Phal orchid, in a chunky orchid bark mix with clay rocks instead. I am always wary with sphagnum moss when it comes to epiphytic plants. At least for me it is harder to gauge if it is dry enough especially during the cold season.

Florida area weather is always eons better than most of our areas in winter, so with your location Megos1286 in RI, your ambient conditions will be already way too cold for it, so I would really avoid using sphagnum moss when you plant your Staghorn Fern.

This time of the year to rehab a tropical plant is really not the best, but you can certainly try. Hope you can keep it warm, and as mentioned in bright light area as much as you can. Keep us posted how it goes, it will be an interesting learning curve. nodding
[Last edited by tarev - Dec 21, 2019 1:36 PM (+)]
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Name: Will Creed
NYC
Prof. plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Dec 22, 2019 11:55 AM CST
Your plant has already grown roots in soil so making the transition to sphagnum moss should not be a problem. I have done it many times and I am in the northeast, as you are. No need to wait for a seasonal change.

Do uses a pot small enough that it can just barely accommodate the roots and some loose sphagnum moss to cover them lightly. That will allow for adequate oxygen to get to the roots. Keep the moss barely damp by watering when the top half-inch of moss feels dry.

Let us see the results. Crossing Fingers!
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Megan
RI (Zone 6b)
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Megos1286
Dec 26, 2019 9:08 PM CST
Update - here he is! Fingers crossed we will have success. Thanks to everyone for all the advice, I will keep you updated!
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Name: Jeannie Wahine
Savannah, GA (Zone 8b)
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clif333
Dec 28, 2019 1:35 PM CST
I inherited several staghorn ferns like yours from friends, a larger one from one friend and two smaller ones from another. As I already grow orchids, I knew that this was an epiphyte and looked into it a little more to figure out how to mount them. I decided to try three different ways and each one is doing great. I live in the Savannah, GA area, so we never know what kind of winter we are going to have and I keep them in my greenhouse just to be safe. I went out to take this picture and our mild winter this year has them a little dry, so I took them outside. The smallest (left) is mounted on driftwood (sphag moss under it), sitting on a wood slat orchid mount for hanging. The medium (middle) is mounted on hanging driftwood (sphag moss under it and on back of driftwood). The largest (right) is in a coir lined hanging basket with sphag moss under it. As you can see, the large one has "pups" growing under the basket. There are many ways to mount them, but keeping the base of the fern at the right amount of moisture (not too moist for too long a period of time) and bright (but not direct) light on the plant are keys to their happiness. They need a proper drying out of the base before watering again. I use the once a week in summer and once every 8 to 10 days in winter formula for mine. You may have to experiment and keep a watering journal for a month or two to figure out your specific watering needs. Any insects, such as mealy bugs, can be dealt with using alcohol directly applied to the insect on the leaf with a q-tip, but DO NOT spray it on. The q-tip may make a small yellow or brown spot at point of application, as they are sensitive to most anything applied, but it will save the plant from future infestation. Keep applying as necessary until all bugs are gone. Hope this helps!
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Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Dec 28, 2019 7:35 PM CST
Ahhhh Savannah. Bonaventure Cemetery
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