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How to Cut Staghorn Ferns

large staghorns 2 image by mdb from

Staghorn ferns, known botanically as Platycerium bifurcatum, are a species of fast growing, epiphytic ferns. They will grow on the surface of another plant, such as a tree, without harming it or in the air when mounted to a non-living surface. Native to temperate and tropical Australia and New Guinea, staghorn ferns will grow in most climates where temperatures remain above freezing and can be overwintered indoors in cooler climes. The plants propagate themselves by developing small pups or side plants that can be removed to start new plantings elsewhere. Staghorn ferns require little to no pruning save to remove damaged or dead fronds, harvest pup plants or to reduce size slightly to create clearance around the plant.

Remove the small pup plants as they mature by grasping the smaller plant at the base between your thumb and forefinger to expose the point where it connects with the crown of the plant. Hold the fronds up and then cut where the young plant connects to the crown, making one clean slice if possible.

Reduce the size of your staghorn if needed to allow clearance around or near the plant. As they can get very large, this is sometimes necessary very quickly. Though not recommended--it will alter the natural shape and cascade of the fronds--it will not harm the plant. Remove the fronds needed to create space by cutting each individual frond one at a time, down at the base of the plant just above the crown.

Remove damaged or dead fronds by cutting the frond back to the point where it emanates from the crown. Make a clean cut and be careful not to tear the frond off, which can damage the crown tissues below it.

Scale Insects On Staghorn Ferns

Scale insects are small, largely immobile insects that are often confused for growths on a plant's leaves or branches. The male's white armor remains attached to the fern even after he's emerged as a mobile adult, making a fern scale infestation seem much larger than it actually is. As the young insects feed, they emit a protective wax coating that makes penetration by insecticides difficult. They will molt several times before reaching their adult forms; females molt twice, males molt four times. Pressurized water can be sprayed at the scale to dislodge them, but don't injure the staghorn fern. Apply these chemicals only as a last resort and when temperatures are below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Several applications of chemicals may be necessary to completely eliminate an infestation.

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