Common Staghorn Fern Problems and How To Fix Them

Last Updated: April 16, 2022

Getting their name from their striking leaves, Staghorn Ferns are a little bit different to most houseplants as they are often mounted on planks of wood and hung up. You can grow them in pots, however, which does make their care a little easier.

If you have noticed issues developing on your Staghorn Fern but aren’t sure what’s causing them or how to fix them, then you have come to the right place. In this post, we will go through some of the most common issues that occur on Staghorn Ferns as well as methods to treat and prevent the issue. 

Causes of Staghorn Fern yellow leaves:

  1. Overwatering.

    If you notice that your Staghorn Fern is developing yellow patches on its leaves, the problem may be too much water. The reason why overwatering is so dangerous for a Staghorn Fern is that it can very quickly lead to root rot without you even noticing before the issue has progressed far enough to cause yellow foliage.

    Although the yellow leaves are irreversible (you can trim those off), this doesn’t have to mean a death sentence for your Staghorn Fern as you just need to replace any soggy potting mix and adjust your watering schedule moving forward. Allow either more time between waterings or give your Fern less water each time. 

  2. Direct sunlight.

    Alongside watering, the right amount of sunlight is also crucial for your Staghorn Fern’s health and there is such thing as too much light. If your plant is receiving a lot of bright direct sunlight each day you may start to notice yellow patches forming on the leaves. This is where the leaves are becoming sunburnt, something which is unfortunately irreversible.

    Make sure to move your plant further away from the window during summer to avoid it getting any direct sunlight. You can get away with having it closer in winter as the sun is a lot weaker and won’t really cause any sunburn.

  3. Natural ageing.

    If it’s only the oldest and smallest leaves on your Staghorn Fern that are turning yellow then this may be simply natural ageing. Over the years, it’s normal for your Staghorn Fern to focus its energy on new growth, meaning it will drop a few of its oldest leaves to conserve energy. These leaves will often turn yellow before dropping off your plant.

    The rate of natural yellowing should be about 2 or 3 of the oldest leaves every year. 

Staghorn Ferns lose leaves for a variety of reasons…

  1. Overwatering.

    Alongside brown leaves, too much water can also lead to your Staghorn Fern losing leaves. This often happens when the problem has progressed quite far but doesn’t mean you still won’t be able to revive your plant, it might just take a little longer.

    It’s important that you adjust your watering schedule moving forward to avoid more leaves falling from your plant. Either water less often or give your Fern less water each time. You also need to account for environmental changes such as seasonality that might impact how much water your Staghorn Fern needs.

  2. Cold temperatures.

    Another reason why your Staghorn Fern may be losing its leaves is due to inconsistent temperatures, particularly cold air. The ideal temperature for Staghorn Fern is somewhere between 18°C – 24°C, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to keep in a good range.

    Drafty external windows and doors can cause real havoc for your Staghorn Fern as the cold airstreams can freeze the leaves and also increase the risk of root rot. Air conditioning vents are also a problem during summer so watch out that your Staghorn Fern isn’t too close or this might be why it is losing leaves.

  3. Natural ageing.

    As we mentioned above with the yellow leaves, another less worrying cause of leaf drop is simply the natural shedding process. This is where your Staghorn Fern loses a few of its oldest leaves in favour of growing new bigger ones. If your Staghorn Fern isn’t dropping many leaves (1 or 2 every few months) then it probably is nothing to worry about and is simply part of the natural shedding process.

    But do keep an eye on how often they are falling off. If the rate speeds up then check your plant over again to spot any signs of overwatering or temperature extremes. 

Why is my Staghorn Fern drooping?

  1. Underwatering.

    If you notice that the drooping leaves are more towards the bottom of the plant, it may be due to underwatering as your plant prioritises new healthy growth over its older leaves. A drooping plant tends to be one of the earlier signs of underwatering so this hopefully means you have caught the problem before it has started to cause any permanent damage. 

  2. Overwatering.

    Strangely both underwatering and overwatering can have the same consequences including a drooping plant. This is because both extremes cause damage to the root system, weakening the plant and causing it to droop. You may find that the drooping leaves are fairly soft which is another sign of overwatering. 

Causes of curling leaves on a Staghorn Fern

  1. Underwatering.

    Curling up their leaves is the best way for plants to retain as much moisture as possible and this is often one of the earlier signs of dry potting mix. Inspect the soil and give your Staghorn Fern plenty of water over the next few days and you should see the leaves uncurl. Usually, this is a reversible issue so act quickly once you’ve diagnosed the problem to ensure that it doesn’t start to cause brown leaves on your Staghorn Fern

  2. High temperatures.

    If watering isn’t a problem then your Staghorn Fern might be curling its leaves if it is being exposed to hot air. Hotspots that form near windows, as well as radiators and cookers can dry out your Fern and cause the leaves to curl up in response. Use a digital thermometer to check that your room sits within the ideal temperature range for your Staghorn Fern and move it to a new spot if needed and you should start to see the leaves uncurl.

Those are the most common issues that you might face as a Staghorn Fern plant parent. As well as being armed with the right methods, the best chance you have at fixing the issue is making sure you catch it early. We recommend that in future you give your plant a good check over each time you water it. This will help you spot any early warning signs and treat the issue quickly. 

To learn more about how to care for your plant and prevent more issues from arising, check out our Staghorn Fern care guide.

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