The first time I saw a Staghorn fern I was amazed! It was a unique looking plant and to grow on a piece of bark? The fern fronds were fuzzy and resembled stag antlers. I had to find out a little more about this plant and add it to my collection.
photo credit: Zesmerelda
The Staghorn is a fern from the Platycerium genus. There are 18 fern species in the Polypod family. Ferns in this genus are widely known as Staghorn or Elkhorn fern because of their uniquely shaped fronds. This genus is epiphytic and is native to tropical areas of South America Africa Southeast Asia Australia and New Guinea. To grow them in my Zone 5 it would be an indoor plant and I would have to have a humid tropical environment.
In your home, if you want it to grow successfully you need to create the environment it gets in the wild from trees. This makes it very different from other houseplants but if you get used to its requirements its not that hard to grow.
You will usually purchase a Staghorn fern that is ready to hang and grow but if you don’t you need to create an outdoor woody home for the fern. To do this wrap the root ball in a mixture of sphagnum moss and coarse peat moss.
Then you will need to tie the wrapped roots to a slab of bark with string. This will simulate the way Staghorn ferns grow in nature. This is the part I like best about the Staghorn fern. Choosing the bark it hangs from! I will spend a day in the woods finding a unique piece of bark with character.
Hang the fern and bark piece on a wall or from the ceiling. The Staghorn fern requires bright, but filtered light. If you hang the plant in front of a window, which receives direct sunlight you will need to place a transparent curtain over the window. The natural lighting from a window facing a south or east window is the best lighting for the
Water the Staghorn fern by dipping its bark and root ball in a bucket of water. Water only after the bark and root ball are completely dry or the fronds begin to droop. Let the root ball and bark soak up water for 15 minutes in the spring, summer and fall, but only for a few minutes in the winter. After this step I usually let it drip over a pan.
You may need to add additional bark as the roots fill up the first bark piece. You can do this by attaching new bark carefully to the old by nailing or tying it to the old bark. The roots will move into the new bark.
Additional growing tips
Staghorn ferns like temperatures of 65 degrees Fahrenheit or higher and will grow poorly in temperatures that are under 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mist the fronds once a week with a fine mist of soft water. This will wash away dirt and dust and keeps the humidity high around the plant. After you mist the plant gently wipe off any excess water left on the leaves.
The Staghorn ferns roots are naturally adapted for growing in bark and will grow best this way. They really do not do well in ordinary pots and just don’t have the natural artistic look in a pot.
Staghorn ferns do not usually require fertilizer. They will usually get the nutrients they needs from the bark.
When you spray or clean the fronds do not wipe them off with harsh materials like a sponge. Sponges will remove the fronds fuzzy exterior thus damaging the plant.