Most species of Platycerium ferns are not difficult to
keep at all while I find that other species are quite tricky.
They make an excellent picture in an indoors garden, growing on a tree outside
or on a specific mounting to display the fern. I have always found them
versatile and quite easy to grow. It is always good to remember that they are
naturally found in tropical to subtropical parts of the globe and they always do
best in conditions as close to their natural habitat as possible. As I
live in Pretoria, South Africa I can unfortunately not grow them all outdoors as
it gets much too cold during Winter.
Some species have a very pronounced wet and dry
and it is best to try and determine in which habitat the fern that you want to grow is
found (see the grouping on the "species page"). P. quadridichotomum
wilts completely and the fronds curl up and look quite dead but then recover
soon after the first water is received. Even P. elephantotis can wilt
significantly and then recover when watered, whereas P. madagascariens and P.
ridleyii do not want to dry out in the least.
It has been said that most hobbyists tend to over water Platycerium in
general. The dead pad of sterile/shield fronds act like a water reservoir. The clump becomes bigger
and thicker with age as the new ones continue covering the old.
When the plants are older they can remain without water for longer periods at a
time because of the spongy texture of the old shield fronds. Try and keep
Platyceriums moist or damp at least while watching for over watering. If over watered they rot quite easily.
Some collectors believe in not dipping /
submerging when watering them. The practice is also only viable
if the plants are still small enough to move them.
If you look at the structure of the frond
around the bud it seems that it is designed to keep water off the bud / growth
point. Some species even have hair around the bud to keep water directly off
the bud. Watering from behind the shield fronds with a dripper system or even
spraying from above seems to be a better solution.
Most of the more common species (P.
bifurcatum and P. superbum)can tolerate
temperatures as low as 0 °C and sometimes even a little below. P.
veitchii can even take temperatures below 0 °C. P. ridleyii is said to need minimum
temperatures of about 15 °C. The very tropical species thrive on high
temperatures. I keep my plants in a closed green house and temperatures can
easily reach 35 - 38 °C during the summer months and they just
love it. When you live in the tropics and the temperatures do not drop below
10 °C you should not have a problem with any of the species,
but if you do not have tropical weather conditions a temperature controlled
enclosure is a minimum requirement for the colder months.
Platycerium ferns like well lit areas
with good air movement. Some species, i.e. P. veitchii can tolerate direct sunlight and is found
growing in full sun in it's natural habitat in Australia. Once again it would
be better if the natural habitat conditions are imitated. P. ridleyii
is found high up in the trees and would therefore prefer more light than P.
andinum that is found lower down in the canopy where there is less light.
Try and go for bright locations with moderate warmth.
All Platycerium ferns do better in high humidity, but we
have collectors growing them in non tropical areas with little humidity with great
success. I have to add that the the more tropical species suffer somewhat due
to the low humidity.
As mentioned previously these plants are epiphytes.
They therefore grow in an organic medium. In nature they cling to trees and have dead
plant material dropping in behind the shield fronds. This decomposes and
becomes compost for the plant to grow in. Most people mount their plants on
wooden boards or plant them in hanging baskets with an organic medium like peat moss, or
osmunda fiber. Some people even use leaf mold. I prefer the natural look of a plat mounted on a dead log or
branch with a
backing of palm peat or sphagnum moss. They are attached by tying them down
with a piece of twine or nylon
pantyhose that is removed later on. See the mounting
tips on my FAQ page. It is always best to experiment with
different mediums to determine which works the best for your situation.
After everything is said and done they are very versatile
and undemanding plants (given the right conditions) that make an attractive picture in any garden. As with any other
species of plant there are easier and more difficult ones to grow, but if one would want
to grow the more difficult species a controlled environment can be built quite