Care of a Staghorn Fern


The staghorn fern, also known as elkhorn fern, is an epiphyte. An epiphyte uses another plant, such as a tree, as a host for support. Epiphytes are not parasites. They do not draw nourishment from the host or damage it in any way. Epiphytes draw water and nutrients from the air. Staghorn ferns are native to tropical areas of Southeast Asia, Philippines, New Zealand, Australia and Africa. They are ideal houseplants that flourish with minimal care.

Step 1

Mount the staghorn fern plant to a wooden slab host. Hammer three or four nails into the slab in an approximate outline shape of the base of the staghorn plant. Place the plant on the slab in the nail outline, with a small bit of sphagnum moss behind it. Fasten wire or fishing line to one nail, and crisscross it over the staghorn fern plant base, wrapping around the other nails. Continue until the plant is securely fastened to the slab.

Step 2

Place the mounted staghorn fern in shade or filtered light. Try to mimic its native habitat, where the ferns grow on shady tree branches.

Step 3

Maintain a temperature from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A staghorn fern will not survive temperatures below 45 degrees.

Step 4

Mist the air near the staghorn fern to water it. Do not spray the fern itself, or the fronds will get water spots. Water applied directly to the plant may encourage fungus disease and rot. Staghorn ferns need a humid environment, but not soggy conditions. Some growers water their staghorn ferns by briefly dunking the entire plant in water, making sure that the water runs off completely.

Step 5

Place two or three decaying leaves between the plant and the wood slab once or twice a year for fertilizer. Staghorn ferns are very slow growing. Results from fertilizing occur over a long period. If you water with the dunking method, a balanced, mild liquid fertilizer may be added to the water twice a year. Rinse the plant after fertilizing by dunking it again in clear water.

Things You'll Need

  • Staghorn fern plant
  • Rough wooden slab, or cork slab
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Light gauge wire or clear nylon fishing line


  • Gardenline: The Staghorn Fern
  • You Grow Girl: Platycerium bifurcatum

Who Can Help

  • University of Florida: Staghorn Ferns at a Glance
Keywords: staghorn fern care, growing staghorn fern, epiphyte, plant without soil

About this Author

Fern Fischer writes about quilting and sewing, and she professionally restores antique quilts to preserve these historical pieces of women's art. She also covers topics of organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family. For over 35 years, her work has been published in print and online.