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Bifurcatum Platycerium (Staghorn Fern) Care — Pro Guide

Bifurcatum Platycerium (Staghorn Fern) Care — Pro Guide

If you don’t fancy pronouncing bifurcatum platycerium then go for its nickname instead – the staghorn fern. 

Known as such due to the fact that the leaves do look a lot like antlers, the Bifurcatum Platycerium is a pretty striking plant that can become a beautiful focal feature in your home. 

It is made all the more interesting due to the fact that the plant has until recently not been a major player on the houseplant scene. 

Since the Bifurcatum Platycerium is easy to care for and becoming more readily available, it is a great one to add to your houseplant collection. 

More interestingly, mature plants need to be hung on a vertical wall, usually mounted to a board or bracket so they can grow and droop over as they do in the wild. 

In fact, they are epiphytes which means they usually grow on other plants or trees, not in the soil. 

 

Bifurcatum Platycerium (Staghorn Fern) Care

Make sure to keep its soil moist but not overly soaked. Fertilize during the growing period and ensure the plant is kept out of direct sunlight. Humidity should be high – more than 50% – and draughty locations should be avoided. 

 

Soil

Bifurcatum Platycerium requires well-draining soil. Store-bought cacti soil will usually work. You can also make your version of soil by mixing sand and potting mix, or orchid bark. 

Perlite too can help to create air pockets in the soil that will help with drainage. Mix maximum 30-40% of the pot with general potting mix, then add in the sand, bark, or perlite to create a blend. 

The Bifurcatum Platycerium hates to sit in wet soil and can actually rot if overwatered or saturated. For that reason, the well-draining mix of soil mentioned above is quite important.

If you want to really give your Bifurcatum Platycerium the best chance, you can even source soil that is particularly designed for epiphytes. 

If you notice water not draining quickly enough from the soil or if it seems to be waterlogged despite reducing watering, then check there are enough drainage holes in the pot and inspect for signs of fungal infections. 

 

Light

Keep your Bifurcatum Platycerium in bright but indirect light levels. This is important, as direct sunlight can burn the leaves. A corner of a room a short distance away from a bright window is best. Since it does well in low-light environments it can also brighten up a hallway or atrium. 

Bifurcatum Platycerium actually possesses fronds and not leaves. These beautiful antler-like structures need to be protected from bright and strong sunlight as they can become easily burned. 

That’s the reason that indirect sunlight is the best sort of light for them. It mimics the native environment in which the plant usually grows – in the tropics of Oceania and Asia. 

In addition, since it usually grows on structures such as large trees, they are generally shaded from the worst of the sun’s rays in the wild. 

 

Water

Water only as the soil starts to dry, and do not oversaturate. Bifurcatum Platycerium grown in pots should receive a direct application of the water to the soil. You may need to put the whole plant in water to get under the flat frond at the base. 

During the growing season, you will need to ensure the soil gets a good drink so it becomes moist – but not saturated. 

Make sure to dry the soil out before the plant’s next dose. As winter approaches the Bifurcatum Platycerium will go into a period of dormancy. 

At this point, ease off on the watering. Give a little bit of water every now and again to lightly dampen the soil. 

Pick up your normal watering routine as spring approaches,

Watch out for pooling water in the soil. If you see this and have no obvious reason for it, then consider this a red flag. 

Either your soil is having drainage issues or worse still – you are experiencing the later stages of root rot or fungal infections. 

 

Temperature

Temperature requirements for a Bifurcatum Platycerium should be easy to maintain in the average home. Do not let it fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, or get above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Move the plant away from the fire in winter, as well as any draughty windows. 

The native environment of the Bifurcatum Platycerium, which includes as mentioned already Oceania or Asian tropical regions, is warm and humid

The plant does not tolerate cold, frost or draughts well. 

The Bifurcatum Platycerium variant can survive the old cold snap down to -30 degrees Fahrenheit, but not a prolonged one, and it could be detrimental to the growth of the plant. 

Don’t take the risk and keep your plant indoors! 

 

Humidity

Requirements for humidity are high – above 50% for sure, verging on 60%. If your Bifurcatum Platycerium is struggling you can try to mist the leaves, move to a more humid location such as a bathroom or even buy a humidifier

Misting a Bifurcatum Platycerium is a common practice amongst enthusiasts. During the summer months in particular you may wish to mist the leaves occasionally to keep them comfortable. 

If you have a smaller plant in a pot a small misting spray bottle will do the job. Larger Bifurcatum Platycerium that are mounted on walls might need specialist misting equipment. 

 

Fertilizer

Fertilizer can be applied in the growing months to your Bifurcatum Platycerium. Younger plants will benefit from feeding with a water-soluble application every month in the summer. Larger plants will need no more than once or twice a year feeds. 

Fertilization of your Bifurcatum Platycerium should be encouraged as the access to sufficient nutrients in a pot of container-mounted variety is lower than in the wild. 

Therefore, good fertilization will ensure the fronds grow lush and healthy in appearance. 

Choose a fertilizer that is balanced in nutrients in a 10-10-10 ratio, and make sure it is diluted accordingly to avoid any burns to the plant. 

You could also choose a slow-release fertilizer pellet that can be applied directly to the soil. 

And, if you prefer to use a more natural method to get nutrients to your plant, then why not place a banana peel under the flat frond at the bottom! 

In the dormancy period, you can lay off fertilizing altogether. 

 

How to Propagate the Staghorn Fern

Bifurcatum Platycerium are unusual plants and can be propagated either from “plantlets” that can be separated from the mother or by propagating spores. Plantlets need to be separated from the mother and replanted whilst spores are collected and grown in peat moss. 

If you are fed up with propagating plants from cuttings or offshoot and are up for a challenge then the Bifurcatum Platycerium will certainly deliver. 

The first method of propagation is by dividing what are known as plantlets. This is the method you would probably choose if you were propagating from a wild plant. 

The Bifurcatum Platycerium is usually made up of several such plantlets.

It is essentially what can be described as a “nest leaf” – a large and flat circle disc that grows out of the tree it is attached to. It is from this nest leaf that the fronds grow. 

To separate a plantlet for repotting take a knife or other gardening implement and go in behind the area where the nest leaf is attached. 

You will need to remove the plantlet from the others – they often grow overlapping each other. 

You can then use an old pair of pantyhose or other light tying material to tie the plantlet to its new location – hopefully, it will soon take root. 

The second method of propagation is more suitable for house-kept Bifurcatum Platycerium. Here you will have to generate the spores of the plant.

You can easily tell the plant part that makes spores. They are at the very end of the frond, are brown in color, and feel a little like velvet. 

To propagate spores you will need to put the end of the frond (the spore-producing area) into a paper bag. 

Check the bag every few days – eventually, you will see what looks like a light dust coating beginning to form at the bottom. Congratulations – you have your first spores. 

Next, time to repot

Peat moss is the best growing medium for Bifurcatum Platycerium. Fill it into a pot – but make sure it is sterilized first in hot water and covered until the moss cools down.

Place your spores evenly on the surface and cover with a glass plate. The pot should have a couple of holes in the bottom, and you can now set it into a large bowl of tub of water.

If in a warm environment the spores will begin to generate a green film until eventually – we are talking at least a few months – you will see the beginning of the fronds developing. 

Take the plate away at this point. You can pot or attach to a tree as you wish.

 

Growth

The base leaf or plantlet is sterile and grows directly onto trees. It looks a lot like a plate stuck to the surface of the bark. The fronds grow outward from the base and can be up to 18 inches in length. Bifurcatum Platycerium needs no soil to grow but can be kept indoors in pots if desired. 

The growth of the Bifurcatum Platycerium is perhaps the single most fascinating thing about this plant. 

Growing from a nest leaf usually attached to trees in rainforests in the tropics, they tend to grow in clumps. 

Such plants are known as epiphytes as they will grow onto other structures in the wild. As a result, they are generally happier being hung vertically onto walls if you are keeping them indoors. 

They can be kept as houseplants in pots, but need extremely nutrient-dense and well-draining soil to support their water and nutrient requirements. 

 

Common problems with the Staghorn Fern

Keep a watch out for waterlogged soil in potted varieties and do not overwater. 

Ensure humidity levels are kept high – over 50%, and that fertilizer is applied in the growing months.

Despite being a weird and wonderful plant with certain particular requirements based on its native origins once you get going it is a delight to care for. 

Lookout however for these common problems to ensure your Bifurcatum Platycerium stays healthy. 

 

Pests

Mealybugs are generally the most common visitor to Bifurcatum Platycerium. They can feast on the fronds or base and introduce disease. 

If you spot more than one you may have an infestation. 

Isolate the plant from others (easier said than done if you have a wall mount with numerous plantlets growing over each other) and rinse off. 

If that doesn’t work you may need to purchase an insecticide or insecticidal soap. 

 

Rhizoctonia

A type of fungal infection triggered by too much water in the soil or environment of the Bifurcatum Platycerium, Rhizoctonia looks like black dots on the leaves. 

They will usually appear near the basal leaf before spreading to the fronds. Act fast – there is still time to save the plant. 

First, try to dry the plant out as much as possible. This includes holding back on the water and trying to reduce humidity levels for a short period of time.

If the black spots continue to spread, you may need to get a fungicide. If left untreated, the plant will die. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions about Bifurcatum Platycerium (Staghorn Fern) Care

 

What is the ideal humidity level for a Bifurcatum Platycerium?

Humidity levels should be high – over 50% and up to 60% if possible.

 

Can you grow Bifurcatum Platycerium in pots?

Whilst these plants love to grow in the wild on trees – vertically – it is possible to grow them in pots as long as the soil is moist, well-draining, and packed with nutrients. 

 

Conclusion

A total talking point, the Bifurcatum Platycerium is a great choice for those wanting to make artwork out of their plant.