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How to Pot a Staghorn Fern

By Heide Braley ; Updated September 21, 2017

Staghorn ferns are excellent for providing a green plant in a shady room. They don't need direct sunlight, so they can grow in darker rooms like bathrooms. According to Gerald Klingaman of the University of Arkansas, the staghorn fern "is the most widely planted (of the ferns) because it can tolerate more abuse than the other more tropical species." They grow in highly organic mixes such as sphagnum moss and bark and don't need soil. It is a simple process to pot them as long as you have the proper materials.

Look over the staghorn fern that you want to take a cutting from. Check to see where a new plant, or pup as it is called, is connected to the mother plant by lifting up the fronds. Cut through the inner connection that is holding it in place with a serrated knife. Be careful not to break off the roots coming from the pup plant.

Wrap the roots in damp sphagnum moss and wind wire (not copper wire as it is poisonous to plants) around the root ball. Secure the plant in a wire basket made for hanging plants, or directly to whatever you wish to mount it on. You can place this root mass into a plant pot, but do not fill it with potting soil as it will be too damp. An alternative is to fill the pot with coarse bark fragments.

Water the staghorn fern only when it starts to wilt a little. Over-watering is the biggest cause of failure in growing staghorn ferns as they are technically an air plant or an epiphyte. This type of plants lives on other plants as a form of support. They get their nutrition from plant debris that falls from the trees above them that gets caught in their fronds and decomposes. The little moisture they need is from the humid atmosphere and rain water that flows over them.

Mount your newly potted plant somewhere where it can hang off the side of a surface, like a pole or tree trunk or porch support. If it is outside, you probably will not even have to water it if the rain can reach the roots. Keep out of the direct sunlight.

Fertilize the fern with a diluted general fertilizer dissolved in water once a month if you are growing it indoors. Apply the fertilizer a little at a time over the base of the plant so it doesn't run off.


Things You Will Need

  • Sphagnum moss
  • Plant pot/wire basket
  • Serrated knife
  • Wire

About the Author


Maryland resident Heide Braley is a professional writer who contributes to a variety of websites. She has focused more than 10 years of research on botanical and garden articles and was awarded a membership to the Society of Professional Journalists. Braley has studied at Pennsylvania State University and Villanova University.