Staghorn ferns are magical-looking plants of the variety Platycerium and are named for their peculiar fronds that resemble the horns of deer and elk.
These beautiful plants are often referred to as rainforest ferns due to their penchant for tropical environments. In homes and gardens, they can either be grown clinging to trees or mounted to boards.
Formerly, staghorn ferns were quite tricky to come by, but they have become far more accessible and prevalent through simple propagation techniques.
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How to Divide a Staghorn Fern?
To divide a staghorn fern, identify a natural division or offshoot with a root or stem connected to the main plant. Usually, these can be removed by gently twisting them free from the mother plant, but if not, a sterile knife can be used to sever the roots. Offshoots must be mounted immediately as failure to do so could harm or kill the plant.
Identifying a Staghorn Fern Offshoot
To identify offshoots that are ready for propagation, it is first necessary to know a little bit about the biology of staghorn ferns.
These gorgeous plants are made up of two types of fronds. Sterile fronds or shield fronds are the flat, rounder part of the plant attached to the mount or tree.
Emerging from shield fronds are fertile fronds that resemble the antlers the plant is named for. Roots and rhizomes develop behind shield fronds.
New shield fronds form from the tips of rhizomes nestled behind existing mature shields. Immature shield fronds start green but turn brown over time.
As a point of interest, as they mature, they begin to amass decaying matter, essentially becoming self-sustaining compost systems.
An offshoot comprises a shield or shield portion and fertile antler fronds that grow on the main plant. This is the portion you want to remove and propagate.
Dividing my Staghorn Fern
Once you have identified an offshoot or natural division on your staghorn fern that is viable for propagation, you can start the process of dividing the plant.
In terms of fully formed shoots (shield and antler fronds), one may be able to twist them off from the mother plant gently, but in some cases, they can be quite stubborn and will need to be cut loose.
If complete offshoots are not available, staghorn ferns can be divided by cutting them as one would a cake. Divvy up a large shield into smaller parts, each with its own rhizomes, fertile fronds, and roots.
You may need to study the plant for a while to make sense of the mass of roots hidden behind the shield, and it is essential to cut and severe the roots as cleanly as possible.
Where possible, look for a natural division.
Ensure your workspace and tools are clean and sterile before cutting into plants to avoid spreading pathogens or diseases.
Mounting my Divided Staghorn Fern
Staghorn ferns must be mounted as soon as they are divided, and there are several ways to do so.
To mount staghorn ferns to trees, one can use wire baskets. They can also be mounted to pieces of rot-resistant wood or large rocks.
Whichever method you choose, the important thing is the growing matter you select. These plants enjoy coarse, barky soil and moisture-retaining mediums like sphagnum moss.
Staghorn divisions can be nested on moss and tied to wood slabs or wire baskets with plastic wire or cable ties.
With regular misting, you should see gorgeous growth from your newly divided ferns from here on out.
When to Divide my Staghorn Ferns
As a rule of thumb, the best time to divide staghorn ferns is in early spring, before they enter their active growing season.
With that being said, however, it is possible to separate them at any time during the year, so long as your plant is healthy and relatively mature.
Staghorn ferns should be divided when they outgrow their mounting boards or become too heavy for the tree or object they are mounted to.
Frequently Asked Questions about How to Divide a Staghorn Fern
How often should I water my staghorn fern?
Water your staghorn ferns regularly, but make sure their growing mediums’ dry in between watering sessions. Overwatering staghorn ferns can damage them significantly and encourage fungal infections such as black spot. They love a good misting, and their leaves can be treated to this every few days.
Do staghorn ferns need to be fertilized?
Fertilizing or feeding staghorn ferns can benefit them. Once per month, give them a dose of light fertilizer that is diluted with water. If they start to yellow or wilt, reduce feeding, as you may be overfertilizing your plant.
What are the best growing conditions for staghorn ferns?
Staghorn ferns are tropical air plants that enjoy good air circulation, which is why they thrive on mounts. They require good light and will not be harmed by some direct sunlight. They are happiest in temperatures ranging between 60 degrees and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 27 degrees Celsius) and enjoy moderate humidity.
Staghorn ferns are living works of art and look absolutely magnificent both in the home and garden.
Should you be in possession of a healthy, thriving Staghorn fern, there is no reason not to propagate and enjoy its offshoots.
The landscaping potential of these beauties is endless and can be very rewarding if one considers how easy they are to grow and care for.
Daniel has been a plant enthusiast for over 20 years. He owns hundreds of houseplants and prepares for the chili growing seasons yearly with great anticipation. His favorite plants are plant species in the Araceae family, such as Monstera, Philodendron, and Anthurium. He also loves gardening and is growing hot peppers, tomatoes, and many more vegetables.