ANATOMY of a STAGHORN FERN
One of the reasons that staghorn fern care seems daunting is that the plant’s anatomy differs from that of most other common houseplants -- even other ferns. There are about 12,000 fern species, and ferns are amongst the most ancient plants. Whereas other plant species reproduce through flowers and seeds, ferns have neither; rather, they release microscopic spores into the air, which eventually become new plants.
Fern leaves are actually called fronds, and staghorn ferns have two types. The first, and most prominent, is the “antler” frond - these are the large, bifurcated leaves that shoot out of the center of the plant, and from which staghorn ferns get their names, since they resemble the antlers of deer or moose. Spores develop on the lower these fronds, and look a bit like brown fuzz -- don’t remove the spores! This is a no-no in staghorn fern care.
The second type of staghorn fern frond is called the shield frond. These are the round, hard plate-like leaves that surround the base of the plant. Their function is to protect the plant roots, and take up water and nutrients. These fronds start out green, but eventually turn brown and dry up. This is a totally normal part of the staghorn fern life-cycle -- in fact, this is one of the most common misconceptions in staghorn fern care. A brown shield frond does not mean your staghorn fern is dying, and dried shield fronds should never be removed!
How Much Light Does a Staghorn Fern Need?
Staghorn ferns need bright, indirect or diffused light to thrive, though they must be protected from the harsh rays of the direct sun. We tell people to put staghorn ferns in the brightest space in their home where, again, the plant will not take direct sun. Rooms with Southern and Eastern exposures tend to be best, though unobstructed North windows will do. Western light is fine, but be careful, as this afternoon exposure tends to be hot and harsh.
Can Staghorn Ferns Survive in Artificial Light?
Unfortunately, the short answer is no. We don’t recommend putting your staghorn in a room without natural sun.
How to Water a Staghorn Fern
Your watering regimen consists of two processes: misting and soaking.
Misting your staghorn fern
Use a spray-bottle that emits a fine, ambient mist, such as a brass mister.
Mist the entire plant, focusing on the underside of the antler fronds and the shield fronds.
Soaking your staghorn fern
Soak your staghorn fern in a sink or basin of water for 10-20 minutes, or until the roots are fully saturated. Alternately, hold the fern so the roots are fully submerged until fully saturated (1-2 minutes).
Alternately, place the plaque in a sink or bathtub tap, and allow room-temperature water to run through the root ball until it is saturated.
Allow your plant to drip dry before re-hanging.
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