How to Grow a Staghorn Fern


Staghorn ferns (Platycerium bifurcatum) are large, showy tropical plants. There are 17 varieties of the fern, some of which can grow up to 4 feet or more in width and length. Staghorn ferns are epiphytic plants, which are sometimes also called air plants. Epiphytic plants take their nutrients from the air or other sources rather than soil. In the case of staghorn ferns, they "catch" plant debris in their fronds and obtain nutrients as those debris decompose. For this reason, they usually grow on trees. Growing a staghorn fern is a bit different than growing a fern planted in soil.

Step 1

Plant your staghorn fern in the proper manner. Never plunge it into a pot of soil. Instead, wrap the roots in wet peat moss or surround them with damp bark, then place the plant and potting medium in a wire basket, or attach it with wire or fishing line to a piece of untreated lumber.

Step 2

Provide sunlight and warmth for your plant. These are tropical, heat-loving ferns. They should be grown inside in USDA growing zones colder than zone 10. Because they are usually attached to tree trunks, they are used to filtered sunlight, not direct sunlight. For that reason, place staghorn ferns in an area that has filtered or dappled sun, such as by a window with a sheer curtain, or on a trellis that receives a bit of shade.

Step 3

Water only when the planting medium has dried out completely. Watch for the leaves to begin wilting, or insert your finger deeply into the planting medium to check for moisture. If you can detach the plant from the mount, soak the root ball in water for a few minutes. Otherwise, pour water on the roots. Once-a-week waterings should be sufficient during hot periods with fewer waterings required during the winter.

Step 4

Fertilize your staghorn with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer (10-10-10). Use the fertilizer in place of a regular watering once a month during the hot summer months, and once every two months in the winter.

Things You'll Need

  • Peat moss or tree bark
  • Wire basket or piece of untreated wood
  • Wire or fishing line
  • Balanced, water-soluble fertilizer (10-10-10)


  • University of Florida IFAS Extension: Staghorn Ferns at a Glance
  • University of Arkansas: Plant of the Week: Staghorn Fern
Keywords: staghorn fern, Platycerium bifurcatum, epiphytic plants

About this Author

April Sanders has been a professional writer since 1998. Previously, she worked as an educator and currently writes academic research content for EBSCO publishing and elementary reading curriculum for Compass Publishing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in social psychology from the University of Washington and a master's degree in information sciences and technology in education from Mansfield University.