Platycerium care, the most elegant ferns

The Platycerium is a tropical fern

Image – Flickr / Bernard DUPONT // Platycerium elephantotis

Ferns are one of the most primitive plants that exist, since their origin dates back to about 420 million years ago. To give you an idea, they arose some 200 million years before the dinosaurs … and these animals are very, very far back in time.

But beware, that a plant is primitive does not mean that it has little ornamental value. Not much less. Often, beauty is in the simple. And the botanical genus Platycerium is a clear example of this. They do not have flowers, but their leaves, their bearing and their elegance are unmatched.

Origin and characteristics of the Platycerium

The genus Platycerium is composed of about 18 species of epiphytic ferns, that is, that grow on the branches of trees, native to the tropical forests of South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Guinea.

They are rhizomatous plants, with simple or forked fronds (leaves), green in colorand they can be fertile (which are the ones that have sporangia, where the spores are produced) or not. If the conditions are right, once the spores fall into a hole in the branch of the tree, it will germinate.

Regarding their size, we are talking about plants that they can measure up to 1 meter wide and even exceed itand weigh up to 100 kilos.

Main species

The best known are the following:

Platycerium alcicorne

View of the Platycerium alcicorneView of Platycerium alcicorne

Image – Wikimedia / Liné1

It is a fern native to Madagascar, Seychelles, Comoros Islands, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Develops fertile fronds (leaves) with a length of up to 60cm2 to 4 times divided into lobes up to 2,5 cm wide; and the sterile ones are ovoid, and form a hemispherical mass up to 32cm in diameter.

Platycerium bifurcate

View of Platycerium bifurcatumVista del Platycerium bifurcated

Image – Wikimedia / Forest and Kim Starr

It is popularly called elk horn or deer chub, and is an endemic fern of the Mimosa Rocks National Park, in southeastern Australia. It is characterized by having fronds (leaves) of 25 to 90 centimetersfertile, and other brown that remain almost attached to the branch or trunk of the host tree.

Platycerium proud

View of the Platycerium superbumVista del Platycerium proud

Image – Flickr / Arthur Chapman

The Platycerium proud It is a fern native to New South Wales, northern Nabiac and Queensland, in Australia. It has fertile fronds 75 to 160 centimeters long, pendant and divided.; the sterile ones, on the other hand, are brown and stay close to the host’s trunk.

What is the care of the Platycerium?

If you dare to have a specimen of these curious ferns, we recommend taking care of it as follows:


These ferns are plants that must be in an area protected from direct sunotherwise its fronds (leaves) would be burned.

Now, inside the house it is preferable that they are in a room in which a lot of natural light enters, and in which they are as far as possible from the drafts.


  • Garden: If the climate in your area is warm, humid and there is no frost, the ideal is to grow it on the branches of a tree, wrapping the roots with a little peat.
  • Flower pot: in pots you have to mix clay balls with a little peat, or with sphagnum moss.


They have to water three or four times a week in summer, and every 10-15 days the rest of the yearBy immersion. Use rainwater or lime-free water, and don’t spray / spray its leaves.


The Platycerium is a tropical fern

The Platycerium is a tropical fern

You can pay them from the beginning of spring to the end of summer with organic fertilizerssuch as guano for example, following the instructions specified on the package.

In the case that you have them in the garden, you can put a little compost or mulch over the roots, and water.

Planting or transplanting time

In springwhen the minimum temperature is 15 degrees or higher.

If you have them in a pot, transplant them every 4-5 years, when you see that the roots come out through the drainage holes or when they have already occupied the entire container.

Plagues and diseases

They are very resistant. You just have to control the mealybugswhich can be removed with a brush soaked in pharmacy alcohol or a few drops of dishwasher.


These ferns multiply by spores and by separation of seedlings that appear near the mother plant in spring.


Spores They must be sown in pots -with holes- filled with sphagnum moss previously moistened with water, and place in semi-shade.

Keeping the substrate moist, they will germinate in about 10-13 days.

Seedling separation

You can separate them when they are about 3 centimeters in sizewith the help of a spoon for example, to remove them with all their roots.

Then plant them in individual pots with sphagnum moss, and water.


View of the Platycerium stemariaVista del Platycerium stemaria

Image – Wikimedia Commons Platycerium stemaria

The Platycerium they do not resist cold or frost. The minimum temperature should be 10 degrees Celsius, although it is better not to drop below 18ºC.

What do you think of the elk horn ferns? Did you know them?

Platycerium care, the most elegant ferns

Leave a Reply

Scroll to top