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stimulating growth on mounted staghorn fern

North Decatur, GA

Hi all,
New to the forum here. For my birthday this year (oct.), my boyfriend bought me a great mounted staghorn fern. It's currently hanging off the side of a South facing window, so it receives indirect, bright, but not sunny light. I have other plants growing VERY well right in front of this window (e.g. african violet, chinese evergreen) so I know it's not too shady. It's near a vent. I mist all my plants at least once per day, and I usually water the staghorn with filtered room temperature water every 2 weeks or so--usually only when it wilts a bit.

All this being said, I'm worried about it. It got a new little sterile frond about a month after we got it, but now this is turning brown. There hasn't been any other new growth besides this.
Is this bad? I know that it's winter, so maybe in Spring it'll perk up. I've just heard people talk about how crazy their fern grow, so I hope I'm not slowly killing mine.

I've attached a picture. Some caveats: it's drooping because I just watered it today. The white stuff is diatomaceous earth because I saw some ants around the plant. Also, I'd watered it about a couple days ago and it didn't perk--I think the ants maybe have something to do with that...
Any advice is appreciated!! Thank you!!

Thumbnail by mariakc
Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

It's hard to tell from your picture, but anytime you find ants crawling around on a plant I would look closely and see if you find aphids, scale, or mealybugs. All of those critters suck juices from plant leaves and secrete honeydew which the ants like. The way to solve the problem is to get rid of the aphids/scale/mealybugs, just taking steps to get rid of the ants won't get rid of the bugs that can actually hurt your plant.

North Decatur, GA

Thank you for the reply!! Yeah, that's what I thought. I checked for them and couldn't find any. I looked up pictures and it says they congregate around fleshy stems. There's no indication that on the fleshier parts of the plant (that I can see...) there are any other creatures. I'm not too concerned about the ants. I think that in a week or so, I can give it a good long soaking and drown em out...

What I'm more concerned with is when the plant will get new growth? Should I be concerned? Like I said, maybe I'm jumping the gun --it is still winter here...

This message was edited Jan 5, 2013 5:04 PM

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I wouldn't worry about it not growing if that's the only problem--plants don't grow fast all year round so it's normal to slow down. But, the one new frond turning brown plus the fact that it sounds like it droops a lot does make me wonder if there's something else going on. I don't know much about staghorn ferns, but in other plants symptoms like that could indicate a watering issue--either too much or too little (symptoms of over & under-watering can be similar). So I'd look into that and hopefully someone else who knows more about how to care for these will be along to help you. You also mentioned it being near a vent--does air from the vent blow directly on it? That's another thing that can make plants unhappy.

North Decatur, GA

No it doesn't get direct air on it. I've been watching it all day...and I'd wish it would stop drooping. I watered it about 5 hours ago now and it hasn't perked up. Don't know why.... :(
If anything, it's underwatered. When I first got it I was afraid of overwatering, so I didn't do the 15 min per week soak that's normally suggested...

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Wilting can signal either over or underwatering, but if it were underwatering then you should see it perk up afterwards. Unless of course you're letting it dry out too much and then just giving it tiny sips of water in which case you might consider doing the 15 min soak that's recommended. Since it's mounted rather than in a pot it seems like it would be harder to overwater it, so maybe you should be doing those soakings instead of however you've been watering it.

Southern Dutchess Co, NY(Zone 5b)

It might be under watering based upon what you have said. I'd take the mounted plant and soak it well in some collected rainwater or other filtered water for about 20 or 30 minutes. I am concerned about the vent and also the light from a south-facing window. Might be better to place it in an eastern exposure for a while and see if things change. Don't be too concerned about losing a frond during winter. Spring and summer are better indicators as to how the plant is doing. Misting the plant is OK but keeping stable humidity is better for it. Bugs are never good....

Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

Do the deep soak.
Plunge the slab into a container of water until it stops bubbling.
Remember that in nature they live in the trees, so very good drainage, but when it rains, it really pours down, so they get a thorough soaking when they do get 'watered'.

By just giving it a little water the water is not getting a chance to seep into all the pores in the root media, so there are many roots that are way too dry.

An area where African Violets are doing well sounds like good light.

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