How to Fertilize Staghorn Ferns
There are some other essential tips to grow Staghorn ferns successfully and they all relate to the natural habitat. Remember these are tropical plants. Ideal temperature is above 65 F, making them suitable for outdoor growth in temperate zones if they are covered on chilly nights and they will do well as houseplants in colder zones since they do not require direct sunlight, in fact they thrive in partial shade.
The other thing to remember is not to over water. If you are watering the basal trap, be aware that the outer part of the trap could appear dry and brittle while the inner part is holding enough moisture to keep the plant healthy for a long time. More Stag ferns are killed due to over watering than by going dry. Let the plant start to wilt a bit before watering. Try to avoid using tap water, since Stag ferns are not fond of some of the chemicals used in what comes out of our faucets.
Staghorn ferns are epiphytic perennials, commonly called air plants, and do not require soil for successful growth. A slow growing plant, they exhibit glossy green fronds that remind many of deer antlers. A tropical plant, they can be grown successfully indoors, adding a striking natural accent to any décor. Like all air plants, Staghorn ferns require little attention and minimal maintenance. What is required though is critical to successfully cultivating these enchanting examples of nature.
Understand that In its natural habitat a Staghorn takes care of feeding itself. Falling plant debris is collected behind the plant by one of the two types of leaves. Basal fronds or sterile fronds are the brown ones in the back that attach your Staghorn to the growing surface. Some of those fronds will be upright and split. In the wild, those overlapping fronds will catch falling plant debris and water creating a natural mulch pile that will gradually decay and supply nutrients for the plants growth. Since your stag is inside, you will need to help this process along and there are several effective choices.
Know that fish emulsion is one acceptable fertilizer for Staghorns. Mix 1 tsp. full in 1/2 cup of water. Stir. Carefully pour the mixture into the basal trap. Hold a paper towel under the fern to catch any leakage. Fertilize monthly.
Keep in mind that using a commercial liquid fertilizer (10x10x10 or 20x20x20) is also acceptable. To 1/2 cup of water add 1/4 tsp. of the fertilizer mix. Stir. Pour the mixture slowing into the basal trap area, holding paper towels beneath the plant to catch any leakage. Using this type of fertilizer bi-monthly.
Know that there is a third option and it is one that appeals most because it involves recycling and you get a sandwich out of the deal. Staghorn ferns love potassium and a great source of that is a banana. After making your peanut butter and banana sandwich, reserve half of the peel.
Using a sharp knife cut the reserved peel into sections small enough to place within the basal trap. If the peel sections are firm add several tablespoons of water to the trap to help with decomposition. Hold paper towels under the plant to catch any water that might leak. Add more peels when the current ones are mostly decomposed, approximately three months.
James (Jim) Walrod is a career journalist with 40 years of experience in online, print, radio and television journalism and has worked for major networks during his career. He holds degrees in mass communications, political science, business and economics. Walrod is the owner, editor and podcast voice talent for Newspirates.com, an alternative news site.