Care and Feeding of Platyceriums

This page deals with the various subjects relative to caring for platyceriums.  Most of the information is taken from Wendy Franks book, Platycerium - Fern Facts in 1969.  What she wrote back then still applies today/
Thick layers of old shield fronds build up behind your platyceriums.  The top of these shields soon curl down over the top of your mix and mounting board.  Cut this old curled, dried growth off so your fern will have better light, air circulation and an open area for watering and fertilizing

The fertile fronds on your platyceriums should be removed from the plant once they are damaged - due to insects, fungus, fertilizer burn, old age, etc.

You will need to keep adding more moss and planting mix as the original breaks down or is washed away by watering.

When new fertile fronds are appearing - make sure they have growing room on the plant.  You may have to cut off an older frond or even part of the shield frond to make space for perfect new growth - especially on grande, holttumii, superfum and Wandae.


It is hard to tell another gardener how much to water and how often, because growing conditions vary so greatly between different garden locations.

For good healthy growth, platyceriums should to be watered on a weekly schedule.  If you let them dry out and remain dry for weeks, do not expect the ferns to look great when you finally get around to watering them again.  But if it is not too long, they will recover nicely  I have been told there are pores on the bottom of the female fronds that open up at night and receive water from the atmosphere.  During the day, they close up to protect their water stores.  On the other hand, platyceriums do need a dry period betweens weekly watering.  Observe the health of your platyceriums and adjust the watering as needed.

Some platyceriums are very susceptible to over watering.  Others are more tolerant of heavy watering.  It is probably safe to say when you do water them, drown them with excessive water and let them dry for a period depending upon the climate your garden is located within.  Platyceriums are used to heavy tropical rain during wet periods and then given time to dry for days or weeks before the next heavy rain.  So don't be afraid to water them excessively when you do water them.  Generally speaking you should probably water them more frequently  during periods of hot dry weather, and less frequently during the cooler winter months.  Pay attention to the moss at the bottom of the plant.  If the moss appears soggy, cut back on your watering, or a green algae may start growing.  If the moss is usually dry, increase watering.  Eventually the shield fronds will do a better job of covering the moss and preventing it from drying out as rapidly and then you can cut back on the frequency of watering.

In coastal areas, platyceriums may only need a good soaking once a week during the summer months and once every two weeks in the winter months.  Most platyceriums have good drainage and can cope with a good drenching when watered.  The one exception is the superbum.  I am told it can be over watered, so do keep an eye on it.  Also the P. andinum likes dry periods.  They don't get that much ran in the dry forests of Peru.

Wash off your platycerium ferns with water now and then - they like a clean "face".  This helps control insects and scale.  Do not wash off the foliage of your plant if the spores are ripe and you wish to gather them.  The pressure of water could destroy the spores.

A new thought that I am realizing is that the over watering problem may actually be a problem of too much chlorine accumulation.  It seems to me that Platyceriums may be exposed to months of constant rain in rain forests and they survive well.  Therefore if we only water them with rain water, or RO drinking water, the problem of over watering may not be a real problem.  I have presented this thought to Roy Vail for his feedback.

In my greenhouse, I have installed a Reverse Osmosis RO drinking water system and on a daily basis, I mist my Platyceriums and orchids with a couple drops of Super Thrive and a very week mixture of 20-20-20 orchid food in the RO water.  They love it and after the first week, new growth was appearing every where.

Another thought I have about watering Platyceriums is the pH level.  Pure water has a neutral pH of 7.0 and the pH scale is logarithmic either more acidic or more alkaline from pure water.  Rainwater has a pH of about 5.6 and contains carbon dioxide.  City tap water has a pH of about 7.6 depending in which city you live.  That means that Platyceriums in nature like acidic water, 100 times more acidic than my city tap water.  My thoughts are that Platyceriums prefer more acidic water than we realize.  RO water has a pH between 5.00 and 6.00 which based upon results appears to be preferred by my Platyceriums.  I have never read anything about the preffered pH for Platyceriums but if there is any literature on the subject, I would expect my conclusions to be accurate.

Acidic ground (well) water has a low pH and usually contains calcium and magnesium hydroxides as it percolates through the rocks which in turn absorbs carbon dioxide from the air.  Rain water will not have these minerals, but will collect carbon dioxide which it collects in the atmosphere as it falls from the sky .  This leads one to assume the Platyceriums like carbon dioxide in their acidic water.

To test these thoughts, I am running a test which you can watch and observe where two platyceriums are growing side by side with different water.


Many growers fertilize their platyceriums about every other month.  It may be a good idea to rotate the types of fertilizers to provide a full rounded diet.  Back in 1969, Wendy suggested; Spoonit, blood meal, fish, and commercial liquid and crystal forms of fertilizer.  Today their may be better choices.  She also likes Gro-tabs (plant food tablets) for platyceriums because it is a slow release fertilizer and you only need to fed your plants about 3 times a year.

Roy Vail has suggested testing new fertilizers on spare young pups to see how the plant reacts to the fertilizer and dosage.  That way you don't endanger a mature plant.


Scale, mealy bug and a black fungus are the three problems common with platyceriums.  Insecticides must be non-oil based.  In 1968 Wendy Franks suggested Cygon, Diazinon, Malathion, Sevin and Zectran 2E as good sprays for platyceriums.  When growing in an air tight green house, fume bombs are excellent.  Check to see if there are any restrictions on buying Fume Generators without permits.  Check with your local nursery for current pest control ideas.

Poor light, crowed conditions, leaving  "pups" on mother plant, and leaving Ppups" in pots too long befor mountint - all help to cripple and disfigure your platycerium ferns.  Insecticides that are too potent damage any very delicate new growth that may be just appearing.  You can not immediately see the damage that has been done - but the results show up much later as the fronds begin to mature.

Growing Environment
Platyceriums normally grow high under the leaf canopy in rain forests and like high levels lf light, but partial shade or filtered sun.  Experts at the Los Angeles International Fern Society, LAIFS, feel a 50 or 60 percent shade cloth is best for growing in cultivation.  Some platys like the P. bifurcatum can take full sun once hardened, but most need filtered sun from a shade cloth or the fertile fronds will burn and die off fast.  When setting up a growing area, include the P. bifurcatum under the shade cloth for better growing.  Even my green house has shade cloth to protect the platys.

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