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How to Care for Stag Horn Ferns

By Sarah Terry ; Updated September 21, 2017

Stag horn ferns (Platycerium) are air plants that are native to the tropical and subtropical regions of North and South America, Southeast Asia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Africa and Australia. Stag horn ferns get most of their nutrients from the air, growing on but not feeding on tree trunks and branches. You can grow stag horn ferns indoors mounted on a hardwood board, or outdoors mounted directly onto a tree, if you live in a warm, humid climate where the winter temperatures are mild and non-freezing.

Mount the stag horn fern by placing the lower fronds on top of a pile of sphagnum moss on top of a hardwood board that is wider than the lower basal fronds. Tie the fern to the board using fishing line, ensuring that the bud is just above the moss.

Allow your stag horn ferns to receive bright, indirect sunlight. Hang the board in a location with dappled shade. If the stag horn ferns are exposed to any direct sunlight, ensure that it’s only early morning sun.

Water your stag horn ferns once every week, soaking the moss with distilled water or rainwater. Pour the water over the moss until it becomes thoroughly moistened.

Feed your stag horn ferns an organic fertilizer, such as a fish emulsion, according to the dosage instructions on the package. Provide the fertilizer once each month during the spring, summer and early fall.

Remount the stag horn ferns onto a larger board when they outgrow the original board and the basal fronds become wider than the board.


Things You Will Need

  • Sphagnum moss
  • Hardwood board
  • Fishing line
  • Distilled water or rainwater
  • Organic fertilizer


  • If you see fuzzy brown patches on the tips of the mature fronds, don't wipe them away. The fuzzy patches may look like a disease, but these are actually the spores on the fertile fronds.
  • Soak the sphagnum moss in water for two or three hours before mounting the stag horn ferns. The moss should be thoroughly wet.


  • Keep your stag horn ferns away from heat or air vents, as well as any drafty areas, in your house.
  • Avoid over-watering your stag horn ferns. If you're unsure about how often you should water them, feel the sphagnum moss in the center of the plant. If the moss feels dry, water it, or if it feels moist, wait one or two days before watering.

About the Author


Sarah Terry brings over 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.