In general, allow the medium to dry completely
between watering. This may be difficult to
judge since the outer medium may
appear dry, but the inner layers and the basal fronds will
be saturated. It may
be best to wait until the fern slightly wilts before watering. Once watered,
will quickly recover, whereas an over-watered fern will rot and die. Generally,
a week during dry, hot times of the year, and less during winter and
rainy seasons. Older plants,
those with spongy layers of old shield fronds,
tolerate drought better than less mature plants.
We suggest using a few teaspoons of Milorganite on top of the
sphagnum moss, and water
thoroughly to get it into the root system. Also add a similar amount of bone meal, and odd as it
sounds, banana peels. The acid and potassium in the peels is an excellent organic fertilizer.
On larger plants, Dynamite / Nutricote 13-13-13 works great, as long as you can get irrigation
to pass through the prills so its releases its fertilizer into the roots. You
can mix a tablespoon
into the sphagnum moss when remounting the plants, and make sure I leave some space in
back of the top sterile fronds for water to get in. It works great and the plants respond VERY well.
Some people also use a water-soluble fertilizer with a 1:1:1 ratio
(i.e., 10-10-10, 20-20-20).
Staghorn ferns can be fertilized
monthly during the warm, growing months of the year and
every other month when
growth slows down. Frequent fertilization is only necessary when
you want vigorous growth. Large or mature staghorns will survive and thrive with one or
applications a year of controlled-release fertilizer.
Most staghorn ferns thrive best under
partially shaded conditions. The dappled light of a
shade tree or indirect light
on an outdoor porch is ideal. This is the equivalent of 600-2000
foot candles. Very low light conditions produce slow growing ferns that are likely to
disease and insect problems.
Most staghorn ferns are considered tender or
semi-tender to cold and will not tolerate cold temperatures. There are
exceptions, such as P. bifurcatum and P. veitchii, which can
withstand temperatures as low as 25°F (1.1°C). South Florida growers will have
relatively few occasions when cold protection is needed. Most staghorns grown
outdoors are usually in protected, naturally warmer microclimates such as under tree canopy. However, central and north Florida growers should be prepared to
bring ferns into a heated garage, greenhouse
or home when extremely cold
temperatures are predicted.
Propagating staghorn ferns from spores is slow
and difficult and is not practical for most
gardeners. Pups (with their root
systems) can be carefully removed from large ferns and re-established. Wrap the
roots in damp sphagnum and then tie the root ball to a mount.
sterile frond will expand and grip the mount.
Staghorn ferns are fairly pest free. When kept
too wet, they are susceptible to a disease
called Rhizoctonia sp. This
fungus produces black spots on the basal fronds which can
spread rapidly, invade
the growing point, and kill the plant. If symptoms appear, withhold
reduce the humidity to slow the spread. Chemical controls are available and
generally effective when used as directed.
The insect pests to watch for are mealy bugs
and scales. Insecticides are effective against
these pests but may burn or
deform the foliage. Generally non-oil-based insecticides are safer
ferns than oil-based compounds. Other pests such as snails or slugs can be a
problem but are easily controlled. In Florida, contact your county Extension office for
recommendations for disease and insect management: http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/map/