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Ferns/Staghorn Fern


QUESTION: I have a whitefly problem. I've used the cayenne/garlic/dish soap spray, to no avail.
What else can I use? Where can I get whatever product you recommend?
None of my other plants have any problems.
I live in a very small town, so an online retailer referral would be great.
Thanks so much.

ANSWER: Laura hi;

Indeed whiteflies can be frustrating, both in a professional and homeowner setting.  The main reason is their three distinct life stages: egg, larvae, and adult.  Unless you treat all three stages at once or in short sequence, you really are not solving your problem.

Obviously, you feel that you have exhausted the more 'organic' or 'natural' remedies.

I guess the first question would be whether you are comfortable utilizing chemical insecticides yourself and around the home.  As a licensed applicator in the state of Florida, I am well aware of the risks, benefits, and concerns that homeowners may have.  Ultimately, only you can make the decision for your own household.

Also, while these chemical products are generally safe when used as intended,they are inherently toxic and should be used with great care and only in full accordance with label instructions.  My recommendations are based on my experience and expertise, but are not intended as product endorsements and do not constitute any guarantees regarding performance or product safety.

With that said...

The two chemical products that come to mind are Talstar One (fast kill) and Merit 75 WP (long term control).  You may read more about them and even purchase online at  I have not used that website, nor do I know if it provides the best prices and service, but I find the provided information to be accurate.  Not all products are available in all states.

You would also need spray gloves, a sprayer, etc.  I would also recommend getting some yellow sticky traps to hang around the plant and capture some adult whiteflies.  I would spray the Talstar first, then Merit after 10 days, repeating and alternating as necessary.

As I write this I realize that this may become a costly and time-consuming endeavor. Frankly, I cannot think of a quick, cheap, and easy silver-bullet type of solution.  Whether this is all worth your while is an entirely subjective matter.

You can always try the dish soap, garlic, and pepper spray method again, but make sure to repeat every ten days while trapping the adults with sticky tape and even vacuuming them off.  Also, if you can bear the pests through summer and fall, you can bring the plant outside for a few days of light frost next winter. That will take care of your problem, and I assure you the plant will survive.

So, this is probably a longer answer than you expected, but I do find myself challenged and always reluctant to suggest chemical pesticide remedies to homeowners and plant lovers.

Thanks for your question!


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Staghorn Fern I
Staghorn Fern I  

Staghorn Fern II
Staghorn Fern II  
Thanks so very much for your quick and thorough reply; I really appreciate it.
My staghorn is in my bathroom, so I'm not gonna be hanging any yellow sticky traps. It's an aesthetic thing.
Is it safe to spray those chemicals on, and then put my staghorn back inside?
Also, what temperature do you consider "light frost"?
I live in a part of Colorado where it gets extremely cold, and it might still be cold enough at night to solve the problem by leaving it outside overnight. We've been down in the mid-30s to mid-40s, depending on what weather app. I use. I still bring all my other plants inside at night.
Is it okay to take it outside when I just watered it?
Also, how does one know when it's time to mount it on something bigger?
Thank you, again, for all your help. It's been really frustrating. I never had this problem when it was outside all the time when I lived in California.

Wow that is one impressive specimen!

I will try to answer your questions one by one.

1. Yes, for the most part, the plant would be good to carry back indoors as long as 24 hours had passed since the application and that no pets or people will be chewing on the leaves.  For specific information, you would have to refer to each individual product label.

2. As long as there are adult whiteflies buzzing around, they may potentially continue to lay eggs and make it difficult to break the cycle.  You may want to try any regular household insect spray (like the ones used for flies or mosquitoes) to suppress the adult population while the plant is being treated.

3. Bringing the plant outside for a while might be the best solution, as long as you make sure it is adequately shaded and not left to dry.  Temperatures in the 30's and 40's  do not alarm me at all, and they just might be cool enough to get rid of the problem.  Also, as you may have experienced in your previous home, the outside setting allows for plenty of natural predators to keep pest populations in check.  Having just been watered would probably be an advantage in this case, helping the plant sustain the trauma.

4. From an aesthetic and plant health standpoint, indeed now would be the time to remount or even split your staghorn.  However, that would eventually result in a much larger specimen that would be difficult to carry and may overwhelm the space you currently allocate to it.

Thinking is evident from the look of your staghorn (and care you provide to your other plants) that you are a serious enthusiast and are willing to extend quite a bit of effort in keeping your tropicals as pristine as possible.  Ultimately, in non-tropical climates, only a hobby greenhouse or sunroom would provide you with the conditions, climate, and size to enjoy your plants to their fullest capacity.  Is this something you have considered?  It would provide you an ultimate setting to nurse and care for your plants, and you would have almost infinite capacity to choose and replenish those you wish to enjoy indoors.

I realize my answer extends well beyond the original scope and intent of your question.  A staghorn of that size and quality in a home setting is indeed a rare thing but, whiteflies nonwithstanding, I unfortunately assure you that its care and general maintenance are not likely to become easier over time.

Please feel free to extend and follow up as you find appropriate.  My firm produces about 50,000 of these staghorns every year and I love learning where they end up and how they are doing.



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Dan Carmi


I can answer all types of questions regarding ferns: their physiology, life cycle, taxonomy, culture (for both the professional and hobbyist), home and garden application and care, site suitability, and more. I can also answer questions in the fields of greenhouse production, foliage plants, and houseplant care, along with questions in the general field of ornamental horticulture. I may be able to identify fern and foliage plants by photo, but I am unlikely to be able to do it by description (though I will never turn down a challenge). I am not an expert in crop, field, and agronomic production. I am not an expert on annuals, perennials, tree & shrub crops.


I am a horticulturist with a formal education and twelve years experience in commercial fern and tropical foliage production. I also served as Adjunct Professor of Horticulture at Florida Southern College.

Florida's Nursery Growers and Landscape Association: current member and Action Chapter Board Member 2006-2008.

I have a BSc in Environmental Horticulture / Business from Florida Southern College, specializing in Greenhouse Management and Production.

Awards and Honors
FNGLA Action Chapter President's Award 2006-2007, numerous academic awards 2001-2005.

Past/Present Clients
Through my place of employment, I serve hundreds of commercial growers across the country and beyond.

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