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How to Propagate a Staghorn Fern

By M.H. Dyer ; Updated September 21, 2017
Prpagate staghorn ferns by removing pups at the base of a mature plant.
large staghorns 2 image by mdb from Fotolia.com

With its unusual, horn-shaped fronds and strange growing habits, staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum) is sure to become a conversation piece. The staghorn fern is an epiphytic plant that attaches itself high in a tall tree, where it survives on decomposed leaves, plant debris and water that drips from the tree. In the home environment, the staghorn fern is usually packed in damp sphagnum moss and mounted on sturdy board. If you have access to a mature staghorn fern, a new fern can easily be propagated by removing a small plant, or "pup," that grows at the base of the adult plant.

Prepare a large piece of wood, which will be the mounting board for the staghorn fern. Hardwoods such as mahogany or oak will hold up well. The board should be at least 1/2 inch thick, and a minimum of 12 to 14 inches wide. Paint or stain the wood, if desired. Attach a sturdy hook, chain or wire hanger on the back of the board.

Wipe a knife blade with a mixture of one part household bleach to 10 parts water. The bleach mixture will kill any bacteria that could be passed on to the staghorn fern. Be sure to use a knife with a sharp blade.

Put three large handfuls of sphagnum moss in a bowl of water. Allow the sphagnum moss to soak overnight, or until the sphagnum moss is wet clear through.

Use the knife to cut a pup, along with its root system, from the parent plant. Remove one handful of sphagnum moss from the bowl of water, and squeeze out the excess water. Pack the damp sphagnum moss around the base of the pup. Squeeze the excess water from one of the remaining handfuls of sphagnum moss and pack it into the hole where the pup was removed from the parent plant.

Hammer 10 to 12 small nails in a circular shape in the middle of the mounting board. The diameter of the circle should be slightly larger than the base of the staghorn fern pup.

Squeeze the water from the last handful of sphagnum moss and place the moss in center of the circle of nails. Put the staghorn fern pup in the middle of the spaghnum moss.

Attach clear fishing line to one of the nails. Cross the fishing line over the staghorn fern pup to a nail on the other side, and continue criss-crossing the fishing line over the pup until the pup is securely attached to the board.

Hang the staghorn fern under a tree, or where it will be exposed to dappled sunlight or early morning sunlight. Don't place the staghorn fern where it will be exposed to hot, direct sunlight.

Water the staghorn fern once every week, and keep the sphagnum moss moist. If possible, water the staghorn fern with rainwater.


Things You Will Need

  • Large piece of wood
  • Paint or stain (optional)
  • Sturdy hook, chain or wire hanger
  • Household bleach
  • Sharp knife
  • Bowl of water
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Small nails
  • Clear fishing line

About the Author


M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.