Staghorn Fern ( Platycerium bifurcatum )

Staghorn Ferns are epiphytic plants ( aka air plants ) from the jungles of Africa and South America some even come from Australia. Some grow high up on trees, some grow on rocks.

Staghorns prefer low light. Light should be bright but filtered. So put it a distance away from a window sill or behind stained glass. It does not want direct sunlight.

Staghorn Ferns prefer constant slightly moist moss. You can also plant them in potting soil. I have one growing out back very happily in potting soil and hung in a pot under a tree in the shade.

Some people prefer to attach it to a piece of wood with a bit of moss to retain water between the plant and the wood. Fishing line works well to tie the moss and fern to the wood. If you mount them on wood, the wood will rot and have to be replaced periodically. I’m told the best mounting is a wire basket with a little moss. The Staghorn fern will grow out and around the basket covering it.

Look for a slight wilting of the leaves when the Staghorn needs water, or check to see the moss deep in the middle is getting dry. Staghorn ferns like moisture and if you grow them indoors they do best in humid areas like kitchens and bathrooms.

A rust colored growth on the underside of leaves is just spores forming.

It can be grown outside in warm climates, but will not tolerate freezing.

The staghorn produces two kinds of leaves, the large green, leathery, antler like leaves we love, and rounded sterile nest leaves. Those are the brown ones at the base of the plant. Leave them on the plant. They protect the spores from the green leaves and they will start out green and turn brown over time.

Full grown it can range from 1 to 5 feet tall.

More Information:
Staghorn Fern, Platycerium
Staghorn Ferns for Florida

Bear’s paw fern (Phlebodium aureum ‘blue star’ )

Cabbage Palm is rated for zones 9b to 11 so should do well here in Houston. It prefers light to full shade, slightly dry soil ( for a fern ) and should reach 3′ in height and 1′ across. Water is not a problem can adapt to moist or wet soil.

It is usually grown in baskets and is a fast growing fern. It is grown for its unusual shaped fronds. It can also be found growing in the nooks of live oaks.

Like rabbit’s foot fern it has creepers which are thick, these are covered in brown scales. I’ll add in a photo once they can be seen on this fern.

Does very well for a fern in droughts

Not cold tolerant, died back to the ground and as of early April has not yet re-appeared.

Scale can be a problem.

Propagation: Spreads by rhizomes.

Native to Florida, Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America, noted in 1854 exploration of US

Wavey cloak fern ( Cheilanthes sinuata )

Wavey cloak is a smaller fern reaching about 12″ in height and about 12″ across. It is hardy 7a-10b so should do just fine here in Houston.

Unusual for a fern it can take full sun to light shade.

More information to follow as I find it or figure it out.

Did not do well in winter below freezing or 100’F /drought summer 2011

Mother fern aka Oriental chain fern ( Woodwardia orientalis )

I brought this home from March Mart last year, thinking it was an Australian tree fern, but then it never got any taller. These things happen.

While it is not a fast growing fern it’s certainly been trouble free. It’s been stuck in a corner with little to no sun and moderately dry soil. Neither heat nor cold nor drought bothers it, though I’m sure it’d be happier with a bit more sun and water.

It is a large fern and striking. It’s about 3′ from tip to tip right now. In time it will get small plants on the end of its fronds like a spider plant. I’ll post photos once she makes some babies for me. I’ve never known a fern to do this so I’m really looking forward to it.

Propagate by division or spores or by the small plants that grow on the end of the leaves.

Note: Survived below freezing temps in winter and great drought and 100’F for 3 months summer 2011

Rabbit’s Foot Fern ( Davallia fejeensis )

This easy to grow fern loves shade and doesn’t mind if you forget to water it occasionally. It also will tolerate cold down to freezing occasionally. The fronts will grow 1′ to 2′ long indoors if it is happy. It will fill much thicker as it ages so there will be no space between the fronds.

It will be happiest in a hanging pot near a drafty window, on the north or east side of your home. Like all ferns the more humid the spot it is in, the happier it will be.

Rabbit’s foot fern is not as messy as other ferns, so you won’t have to clean it up as often.

Propagation is best done by division when it out grows its pot. You can also put a pot next to the pot with your fern and place one of the fuzzy feet a little bit under the soil. It will send up a new green frond at which time you can separate it from the mother plant.

This plant rarely needs repotting, unless the roots are escaping out the bottom, I’d leave it be.

This plant is from Fiji where it grows in the crooks of tree limbs. Peat moss combined with an equal amount of bark makes the best potting mix for Rabbit’s foot ferns, but if you are someone who forgets to water your plants, I’d use a regular potting soil.The peat and bark dry out fast.

While loved by everyone who grows them they are hard to locate at local nurseries and you’ll likely have to find an online source or an owner willing to part with a plug.

This fern grows well with epiphytic orchids if you are looking for a companion plant for your orchid.

Bird’s nest fern ( Asplenium nidus )

Bird’s nest ferns want moist soil, not a great deal of sun, no direct sun is fine, and it doesn’t mind the cold. they will do fine in drafty locations. This is one of the easiest houseplants to grow.

Do not mist these ferns! While like most plants, they love humidity, they do not like to have their leaves wet for any length of time. If you feel they need more humidity set the plant pot on a dish of gravel that has water in it.

In a pot this fern will likely reach about 18″ tall.

There are over 700 species of Asplenium worldwide, they are found everywhere. The nested leaves form a catch all place for debri which rots and forms compost to feed the fern. Outdoors you might find insects living there or even other plants that have taken up residence.

Propagate by division. It will form spores on the back of the leaves in straight lines when it is happy.

Possible problems you might have with bird’s nest ferns:
Root rot: no new growth appears, black flies may be around plant, soil might smell musty, leaves turn brown then black.

Solution – Repot. Take the plant out of old soil. Carefully wash off the plant and roots. There is bacteria you must remove before repotting. A little dish soap is ok. Replant in new clean soil. If you are using the same pot be sure to scrub it with bleach or run through the dishwasher first.

Leaf Nematodes: Brown spots appear near the center of the leaf near main vein and spread out to leaf edges.

Solution: You might save the plant by immediately removing infected leaves, maybe not. It might be possible to kill the nematodes by raising plant temperature over 125’F. Fill the sink with water warmer than 125′ and soak the plant for at least 10 minutes. Thoroughly wash the plant, a little dish soap is fine. Repot in clean soil. If you are using the same pot, send it through the dishwasher or scrub it with bleach first.

Scale: Little brown bumps on underside of leaves. Leaves may be sticky.

Solution: Wash with warm water and dishs oap, spray with orange oil if that doesn’t work.

Dwarf Elkhorn Fern ( Polypodium Grandiceps )

This looks like a twisted version of a bird’s nest fern. It wants slightly more light than most ferns and lots of water like all ferns do.

The height is about 18″, the spread is the same. We are at the edge of where it will grow so plan to protect it in the winter, or plant it close to the house. Enough heat leaks out of most homes in the winter to protect smaller plants that only need a little help.

Plant in part to full shade and keep moist in the summer, slightly less water is needed in the winter. This one died during a summer drought.

Propagate by division. This plant should slowly spread through the garden itself.

I had trouble finding information on this fern, I’ll post more information as I can find it. I acquired this at Jerry’s Jungle.

Did not survive below freezing temps winter 2011