How to Grow Staghorn Ferns

Overview

The staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum) is native to the tropics. It can be grown outdoors in USDA horticultural zones 10 and warmer but needs winter protection everywhere else. The staghorn fern is an epiphyte, which means it grows attached to trees but does not pull nutrients from the tree. The staghorn fern, which can get very large, survives by capturing plant material within its base and feeding on nutrients provided from the decomposing material. The plant has basal fronds that it uses to attach itself to the tree and capture plant material, and foliar fronds that look like antler-shaped leaves.

Step 1

Fill a wire hanging basket with wet sphagnum moss. Use a fishing line to secure the base of the staghorn fern, with the leaves facing outward, into the hanging basket by intertwining the fishing line around the wires in the wire hanging basket. The basket will be hung sideways instead of the way a hanging basket is usually hung, so be sure to secure the sphagnum moss and fern with enough fishing line so it cannot fall out. "Pups (small plants) will eventually emerge from the back and sides of the basket and completely cover it," according to larrysorchids.com.

Step 2

Hang the basket sideways in a shady spot. Use a chain or strong rope, because the fern will get heavy as it matures. Staghorn ferns cannot live in direct sunlight for any length of time.

Step 3

Soak the sphagnum moss and fern with water only when the fern begins to wilt. That way you can be sure you are not overwatering the fern. The basal section of the staghorn fern will begin to rot if the sphagnum moss stays wet.

Step 4

Fertilize once a month with a half-strength water-soluble fertilizer that does not contain copper. Copper and copper products will kill a staghorn fern.

Step 5

Protect the staghorn fern from freezing temperatures by bringing it indoors, according to easttexasgardening.tamu.edu.

Things You'll Need

  • Staghorn fern
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Wire hanging basket
  • 50-pound-test fishing line
  • Chain

References

  • University of Florida: Staghorn Ferns at a Glance
  • East Texas Gardening: Staghorn Fern by Ann Smith
  • Larrys Orchids: Staghorn Fern
Keywords: staghorn ferns, staghorn fern care, epiphyte

About this Author

Based in Rockdale Texas, Jim Gober has been writing garden-related articles for 25 years. His articles appear in several Texas newspapers including The Rockdale Reporter, The Lexington Leader, The Cameron Herald and The Hearne Democrat. He is a Master Gardener and Certified Texas Nursery and Landscape Professional. He holds bachelor degrees in English Writing from St. Edward's University and Finance from Lamar University.