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How to Care for Staghorn Plants

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How to Care for Staghorn Plants

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Overview

Although the staghorn is a member of the large fern family, you might not recognize it as a fern because its fronds look different from more common ferns such as the Boston fern. The staghorns comprise 18 species in the Platycerium genus, which are native to the Philippines, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Australia, Madagascar, Africa and tropical America. Most staghorns are epiphytes, meaning they grow on other plants or tree trunks, but do not depend on them for sustenance. The staghorn ferns you find at nurseries are typically easier to grow at home than some species found in the wild.

Caring For Staghorn Ferns

Step 1

Mount your staghorn fern on a piece of driftwood, a tree or in a wire basket. If you mount this plant on a tree or piece of wood, put one to two cups of peat moss, compost or potting soil on the wood and then place the fern on top of it and secure it with plastic nursery tape or an old nylon stocking. If you plant it in a wire basket, pack it with your planting medium and then place the fern on top. When you hang the basket, orient it sideways.

Step 2

Water your staghorn infrequently, making sure to allow the planting medium to dry out completely before you water it again. You can wait until the plant wilts to make certain you are not over-watering it.

Step 3

Provide a partially shady environment for your staghorn fern. If it does not receive sufficient light, it will be more likely to develop diseases or be attacked by insect pests.

Step 4

Protect your staghorn from cold temperatures. Some species can endure a temperature as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit, but to be on the safe side, move your staghorn indoors before cold winter temperatures arrive.

Step 5

Fertilize your staghorn fern every month during the warmer months. Use a water-soluble plant food having an N-P-K ratio of 10-10-10 or 20-20-20. During the cooler months, fertilize only every other month. After your staghorn is older and larger, you can spread your fertilizing out to once or twice each year.

Tips and Warnings

  • Although staghorns are relatively disease and insect free, they can develop a fungal disease if you keep them too wet.

Things You'll Need

  • Peat moss, compost or potting soil
  • Driftwood or wire basket
  • Partial shade
  • Correct temperature
  • Water-soluble fertilizer
  • Insecticidal soap (optional)

References

  • University of Florida
  • The Gardener's Rake
Keywords: staghorn fern, tropical plants, container gardening

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.