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By Louwrens Opperman & Roy Vail

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Cyathea dregei





Growing ferns from spore the easy way.

Keith's Fern Page


Ferns for sale in the USA  (only) Charles Alford Plants  

1645 9th St. S.W.
Vero Beach, FL  32962 USA Contact Charles 


The back ground images were sketched by my farther, Gert Opperman




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.

  • Watering

Some species have a very pronounced wet and dry seasons 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. 

  • Temperature

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.

  • Light

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.

  • Humidity

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. 

  • Growing medium

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 easily.





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