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Care of Staghorn Ferns

By Jennifer Loucks ; Updated September 21, 2017

Staghorn ferns are a tropical plant variety that grows attached to trees or rocks in its natural environment. The plant pulls nutrient-rich water run-off from the host and feeds off of its own frond growth. The fronds are fuzzy growths that have the appearance of antlers growing from the plant. A staghorn fern that is not mounted at purchase can be placed on mound of organic compost set on a piece of wood or bark, and carefully tied to hold it in place. The plant roots and grabs onto the mount when cared for properly.

Move the staghorn fern outside once the temperature reaches 65 degrees F. The fern must be moved inside at lower temperatures to prevent damage or death.

Place mounted staghorn ferns in an outdoor environment that is partially shaded. Good growing locations are under a tree that receives dappled light or on an outdoor porch with indirect sunlight.

Water a mounted staghorn fern, once the medium has completely dried, by dipping the fern's root ball in a bucket of water for 15 minutes. Let the fern wilt slightly if you are unable to determine the moisture level in the medium.

Mist the fuzzy fronds growing from the plant once per week with a fine water mister. This keeps humidity high around the plant. Gently dab excess water from the leaves after misting, taking care not to damage the protective fuzzy layer.

Fertilize the staghorn fern lightly on a monthly basis during the growing season. Use a water-soluble fertilizer that has an even ratio, like 10-10-10. Reduce fertilizer application to every other month during the slow-growth months.

Propagate staghorn fern plants by removing pups and their roots carefully. Pups are smaller ferns growing on large established ferns. Wrap the root system in moist sphagnum and tie the root to a staghorn fern mount. As the roots grow, they will grab onto the mount.


Things You Will Need

  • Bucket
  • Water mister
  • Water-soluble fertilizer


  • Overwatering the plant will cause it to rot and eventually die. It is not uncommon to water staghorn ferns just three times per year; once in spring, once in summer and once in fall.

About the Author


Jennifer Loucks has been writing since 1998. She previously worked as a technical writer for a software development company, creating software documentation, help documents and training curriculum. She now writes hobby-based articles on cooking, gardening, sewing and running. Loucks also trains for full marathons, half-marathons and shorter distance running. She holds a Bachelor of Science in animal science and business from University of Wisconsin-River Falls.