Platycerium is native to almost every continent, but especially in Australia and Southeast Asia. The epiphytic fern of the Polypodiaceae family grows in tropical areas and colonizes the trees of the rain forest. A total of about 18 species of the family are known, which differ slightly in appearance.


The plant nestles against the rough bark of tropical woods at a height of up to 30 meters and feeds on the dying plant parts of its host. It finds support in the branch forks and thanks to its special leaves, which cling to the host plant. The staghorn fern also unfolds its full beauty in the living room at home and, in addition to the clinging niche leaves, presents its second leaves reminiscent of deer antlers. The easy-care species Platycerium bifurcatum is the most common in our country. The plant can usually be cultivated in a flower pot without any problems, but has some wishes in terms of care.


The antler leaves have brown spore deposits on the underside of the leaves. Propagation by seed is theoretically possible, but is considered to be quite complicated. The small brown spores need a constantly warm environment of around 25 degrees and high humidity to germinate. Light is not required for the time being.

It is advisable to use the spores in the substrate (peat or a peat-moss mixture) immediately after collecting them. The surface should be covered with sand. Keep the substrate moist. As soon as the plantlets have formed their own roots, they can be transplanted into individual containers. However, there is no guarantee that something will grow from the spores of your own plant.

Plant staghorn

Platycerium impresses above all thanks to the forked leaves, which are reminiscent of deer antlers. But the plant has a second type of leaf to offer. Round niche leaves grow in the lower part of the plant, at the point that nestles against a host plant. The staghorn fern uses these niche leaves to really latch on to the host. Over time, these leaves will turn brown while the decorative antler leaves remain green. Brown leaves are not cut off.

The niche leaves serve primarily to protect the roots and the rhizome, as well as against drying out. The plant regularly forms new niche leaves without the existing brown leaves falling off. Under certain circumstances, several layers of niche leaves are formed, in which the old, brown leaves are covered by new ones. The plant thus forms a reservoir for water and humus from which the roots can draw.

The antler leaves are green and velvety hairy. They grow spread out and hanging down on all sides, so the decorative fern is ideal as a hanging plant. In addition, the staghorn fern can also be cultivated on barren substrates, such as a piece of natural cork or tree bark.

Since the plants are quite adaptable as epiphytes, they can be easily cultivated indoors. Platycerium bifurcatum, Platycerium hilii, Platycerium grande, and Platycerium willinckii are preferred. The Platycerium bifurcatum variety is the most commonly found commercially. All four varieties do not differ in terms of care, but show some differences in terms of growth height and leaf color. The Platycerium grande achieves a larger growth than the widespread variety Platycerium bifurcatum. The hanging antler leaves can even reach a length of 140 cm. The leaves of the Platycerium bifurcatum can reach a maximum length of 80 centimeters.

Platycerium can reach an age of many years, but grows quite slowly. Normally you can count on three new leaves per year.


Repotting the fern is recommended every three years. Since the plant grows on trees, it does not take deep roots. This is why flatter vessels are particularly suitable. When repotting, be careful not to damage the roots and choose a larger container. Either orchid soil or a mixture of two thirds potting soil and one third peat can be used as a substrate. Alternatively, the fern can also be attached directly to a piece of tree bark or natural cork. Organic substances such as moss (sphagnum) or peat, which are placed around the roots of the plant, are then suitable. At least for growth, the plant should be attached to the tree bark with a thread. The disadvantage of this quite attractive type of cultivation, is that you have to regularly remove the plant from the tree bark to water it. The dry tree bark would repeatedly soak up water when immersed in the bath and after a short time would start to modernize.


Platycerium is relatively adaptable but does require a bit of maintenance in apartment cultivation. There are a few things to keep in mind, especially when watering. If the staghorn fern is in a pleasant place, it will also thrive in the apartment.

useful information 

Fern antlers should never be wetted or washed off. The matt or even dusty effect is due to the many hairs, which are important for the health of the plant. The brown spots on the underside of the leaves are normal, they are spore deposits.


The optimal location for the fern is light to semi-shady, but never in direct sunlight. Its natural environment high in the trees gives the fern a bright position, but protected from direct sun by the canopy. The plant is correspondingly sensitive to blazing sun. If the plant gets too much sun, it can lead to fading or even burning of the leaves.

In the summer months, the plant likes a warm location, preferably above 20 degrees. From a room temperature of 22 degrees, you should also pay attention to the humidity, the fern does not thrive if the air is too dry. A temperature of up to 24 degrees is then well tolerated by the plant. In the winter months, the plant should be placed correspondingly cooler.


Since the fern grows on trees in its natural habitat, bare, rough substrates are also appropriate. In addition to a piece of real, coarse tree bark, natural cork is also suitable for this. If the plant is placed in a pot, the substrate should be rather loose and permeable to water. The staghorn fern does not particularly like waterlogging, but the root ball must not dry out completely either. A coarse-grained mixture of moss (sphagnum) and peat works particularly well as it mimics natural conditions.

This mixture is used both for cultivation in a flower pot and on a barren substrate. If the fern grows on a piece of bark, it should form a kind of root ball surrounded by the substrate. Over time, the plant forms protective niche leaves that provide stability and cover the root ball. In the meantime, it is a good idea to tie the fern to the ground using strong thread or floral wire from florist supplies. A thread made of natural materials should be chosen here, an artificial material would cut into the plant too much. When the plant has grown, you can remove the thread again.

As soon as the staghorn fern has almost completely encased the chosen base with its niche leaves, you can place the entire construction on a larger piece of bark, branch or a special epiphyte trunk. Here you should also provide stability with a piece of string, at least temporarily, until the plant has connected both pieces with each other through its growth.


Due to the natural growth of the staghorn fern, with the niche leaves gripping the root ball, it is virtually impossible to water the plant from above. To ensure that the plant gets enough water, care must be taken when watering. An immersion bath is particularly recommended, allowing the root ball to soak up water as needed.

  • Summer: immersion bath 1x week
  • Winter: immersion bath every 2 weeks
  • Choose room-warm water with as little lime as possible
  • Summer: keep the root ball in the water for about 20 minutes
  • Winter: A few minutes of immersion is enough
  • Allow the substrate to dry before the next watering
  • Pay attention to signs: if the leaves are limp, the plant needs more water. If leaves fall off or rot, it means you have been watered too much.
  • However, do not dry out the root ball completely
  • Do not spray the plant directly. Never get antler leaves wet as this could damage the vital hairs on the leaf surface.


Thanks to the rather shallow subsoil on which the staghorn ferns live in nature, they are dependent on additional fertilizer. A liquid fertilizer that is added to the irrigation water is suitable for domestic breeding.

Fertilizer can be added to the immersion bath once a month during the warmer months when the plant is in its growing season.

During the dormant period, between October and February, the plant needs fewer nutrients. Accordingly, either the concentration of the fertilizer solution or the frequency of fertilization can be adjusted.


In winter, the staghorn fern takes a break and shuts down its physiological processes. The plant then needs an ambient temperature of 16 to 18 degrees Celsius. The plant does not tolerate less than 13 degrees. The location should also have good ventilation. In the hibernation phase, Platycerium must continue to be watered. The immersion baths are held fortnightly, but the plant needs more water, so the immersion bath can also be done every 10 days. However, you should limit the time that the root ball is in the water to just a few minutes in the winter, as the low temperature prevents rapid drying.

Propagate antler fern

If kept well, the staghorn fern regularly produces offshoots that can be separated and planted separately, especially when repotting. The offshoots appear at the base of the plant. Once roots become visible on the cutting, it is viable and can be carefully separated from the mother plant. It is rare for multiple offshoots to grow at the same time. A substrate made of moss (sphagnum) and peat is suitable for the new shoot. In order for the small plant to grow well, it is advisable to water it once a week using an immersion bath.

diseases and pests

In principle, Platycerium is not susceptible to pests. Occasionally, however, scale insects infest the plant and spread on the underside of the leaves. Such an infestation is usually favored by air that is too dry, often by increased heating in winter. Since the antler leaves should not come into contact with water, you can either carefully scrape off scale insects with a knife or paint them with a brush dipped in alcohol. The alcohol should kill the parasites.

The plant shows disease symptoms under suboptimal living conditions. Limp leaves and brown leaf tips occur when there is too little water and the root ball dries up too much. If the plant shows dried leaf tips, this indicates either drafts or air that is too dry.

The large, brown spots under the antler leaves, on the other hand, are completely harmless, these are spore deposits.

The staghorn ferns are very decorative thanks to their large leaves and look exotic both as a hanging traffic light plant and on a barren piece of bark in the living room at home. The plants have to be watered regularly using an immersion bath, but are otherwise not very maintenance-intensive.

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