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How to Separate Staghorn Ferns

By Frank Whittemore ; Updated September 21, 2017

A staghorn fern is an unusual-looking plant with long, branching foliar fronds, reminiscent of antlers, and flat, basal fronds at its base. Staghorns are tropical epiphytes, living harmlessly on trees or other substrate and are well-suited to the growing conditions of Florida. They can also be kept indoors in cooler areas. Staghorns are easily propagated by separating small offshoots, often referred to as "pups." These can then be started on their own to form a new plant.

Select a specimen of staghorn fern that has pups, the small, juvenile plants that form on the edges of the plant. Water the parent fern the day before separating the pup.

Prepare a planting location for the pup. Place a layer of damp sphagnum moss in a wire basket. Fill the basket with damp potting soil and pack it firmly into the basket.

Separate the pup from the parent plant by carefully working it back and forth, gently loosening the basal frond from the parent.

Once the basal frond is lifted, locate the root-like rhizomes. Carefully cut the rhizome of the pup--with its attached basal frond and any foliar fronds--away from the parent with a sharp knife.

Place the staghorn pup into the basket with the underside of the basal frond in contact with the potting soil.

Attach the plant to the basket with a long wire tie strap. Thread the strap through the wire in side of the basket, over the plant and back through the other side of the basket. Fasten the tie on the underside of the basket tightly enough to hold the plant in place. As the plant grows, it will completely cover the basket and strap.

Give the plant its first watering. As the plant grows, allow the potting soil to dry out between waterings.


Things You Will Need

  • Wire basket
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Potting soil
  • Large wire tie strip

About the Author


In Jacksonville, Fla., Frank Whittemore is a content strategist with over a decade of experience as a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy and a licensed paramedic. He has over 15 years experience writing for several Fortune 500 companies. Whittemore writes on topics in medicine, nature, science, technology, the arts, cuisine, travel and sports.