Many lovers of decorative flowers are familiar with the unique Platycerium fern from the Centipede family. The plant is often called “Staghorn Ferns” due to the specific shape of the leaves. In the wild, it grows in the humid regions of Australia, South India, New Guinea, Africa, Southeast Asia, and in the homes of Russians, they delight in unpretentious care and good decorative qualities.
The epiphytic plant Platycerium grows in the wild on the trunks and branches of trees, sometimes reaching very large sizes. It has 2 types of leaves and roots. Some are sterile, resembling pockets or saucers in appearance, designed to protect against drying out, as well as to collect water, dead insects, moss and small leaves. Such organic matter decays and is food for the fern, and also serves as an additional support.
The second type of leaf is like antlers. These are spore-bearing, expanded, beautiful wide leaves that can grow up to 1 meter in length. They begin to secrete spores for reproduction only when they reach 5 years of age. Until this moment, such foliage is covered with whitish, barely noticeable threads, which conserve moisture and are a natural protection from bright light.
It has short roots with long single branches. Some species of this fern grow in colonies, forming dense green growth on tree trunks, while others grow in separate specimens. In houses and apartments, they are grown in transparent vessels filled with moss, wide clay pots, hanging pots, plastic containers with slots, or on pieces of damp wood.
There are more than 15 species of platycerium fern. The most popular of these are:
- Angolan. In natural conditions, it grows in the regions of Central Africa. It has a whole uncut spore-bearing leaf blade with a pronounced venation, as well as short reddish hairs along the edges.
- Big. It occurs naturally in the Philippines and often reaches enormous sizes. The spore-bearing leaf vein is dissected in the middle into 2 elongated lobes.
- Bifurkatum. A small fern with spore-bearing and sterile leaves. It reaches a small size. Foliage with spores is covered with fine villi resembling dust. They protect the flower from excessive moisture evaporation and sunburn.
- Deerhorn. This inhabitant of the eastern regions of Australia and New Guinea has long spore-bearing leaves that grow up to 1 meter in length. They are very indented, and the segments diverge from each other in semicircles.
- Two-forked. This green “alien” is native to the tropical regions of Australia. He has rounded sterile vai, reaching a radius of 10 cm, and spore-bearing leaves are divided into large lobes and sometimes grow up to 50 cm in length.
- Losehorn. It grows on the east coast of Africa and the island of Madagascar and has a relatively small size, therefore it is widely used in indoor breeding. An adult plant does not grow more than 35-40 cm in height. The leaves of such a fern are dissected into wide slices that stand fairly straight, and do not hang down.
Needs fresh air and does not tolerate excessive drought, heat, smoke. Despite these limitations, many growers love this fern and create ideal conditions for growing it.
Moisture level and watering
The main thing in caring for a platycerium at home is to provide the flower with a stable high humidity (70-80%). To do this, it is better to purchase a special device – a steam generator or humidifier and turn it on daily, especially during the heating season.
If this is not possible, growers maintain a sufficient level of humidity using a deep plate with wet moss or expanded clay. A fern is suspended above it and the moss is periodically moistened with plain water. It is not recommended to spray at the same time. Such a temporary measure increases the humidity for a short time and can only do harm. One spray per month is enough to remove dust and dirt from the growths.
Experts do not recommend watering the fern at the root. It is best to immerse the container in clean water for 10-15 minutes, but not cold, preferably boiled or filtered. After the soil has absorbed enough moisture, the container is removed and excess water is allowed to drain. In the hot season, the flower is watered more often than usual, as soon as the top soil layer dries up. Strong moisture saturation should also be avoided. In this case, the root processes begin to rot, and the plant completely dies.
Temperature control and lighting
The exotic flower grows poorly and withers under the bright rays of the sun. It is better that diffused light falls on it. The optimal place for a pot or flowerpot with a beautiful fern is the western or eastern window sill. If the plant found a place only on the southern window, it is advisable to rearrange it in the shade at noon until the evening. Additional lighting is required during the winter season. It is organized by installing special phyto-lamps. The exot begins to hurt if it stands in a draft or in a too stuffy room. He needs frequent ventilation and the air temperature is not higher than + 20-25 degrees in the spring-summer period, and in the autumn-winter period – not lower than +16 degrees.
When cultivated in flower beds and at home, they practically do not reproduce. Rarely give new shoots from basal buds. As soon as the roots have formed on them, the processes are planted in a separate flowerpot and covered with a transparent jar or polyethylene.
Some ornamental crop enthusiasts have the patience to grow a flower using spores. They are separated from the leaves and then dried in a paper bag. Then a brick or stone is placed in a plastic box, wet moss or peat is spread on it. Standing water is poured into the container to a level of 5 cm. Fern spores are sown on peat or moss and covered with a bag. The seedling box is placed in a dark, cool place. Within 1.5-2 months, green moss grows on the surface of a stone or brick, and a little later full-fledged large leaves hatch. At the end, they are seated in different containers of peat.
Soil and fertilizing
For the preparation of the substrate under the Platycerium, leaf turf, moss and coarse-fiber peat are taken. Experienced growers add pine bark to the pot, a few pieces of charcoal or bark from the forest, and grow flowers on stumps and large pieces of bark. All soil components are pre-sterilized in the oven for half an hour at a temperature of 180-200 degrees. The fern also takes root well in ready-made soil from the flower shop (for ferns or orchids), slightly acidic and loose.
1-2 times a year, the soil is fed with universal means for ornamental plants. The preparations are usually diluted in water for irrigation. In autumn and winter, it is not advisable to oversaturate the substrate with minerals so that the root system does not start to rot. Some people put slices of banana peels or scalded tea leaves under the dome, formed from sterile leaves, as an additional feeding.
If the capacity has become small, a plant is transplanted. The main thing is to prepare the nutrient soil and not damage the roots during the procedure. After transplanting, the soil is moistened again.
When transplanting, you can not cut off dried shoots from the fern. If large branches are not planning to be tied to a piece of bark or other support, it is best to add rotten foliage to the ground to provide sufficient air ventilation for the roots and speed up rooting.
Why does the plant get sick
Due to excessive waterlogging, dark spots formed by fungi appear on the leaves of the flower. Of the pests, Platycerium also infects spider mites, scale insects, thrips, and because of this, the foliage begins to thin and fall off. For rescue, treatment with special chemical insecticides, and better with modern bio-preparations, for example, Aktellikom or Fitoveram, is necessary.
With an excess of light, the leaves turn pale and wither. Excessively dry air causes the ends of the wai to dry out, a cramped pot stops fern growth, frequent drafts and coolness in the house cause foliage to fall off and curl. In this case, it is necessary to adjust the care.