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The complete Staghorn Fern care guide

Want to add a Staghorn Fern to your houseplant collection? They are beautiful and easy to care for! Here’s my complete Staghorn Fern care guide!

As a part of my birthday family fun day, my husband and kids took me to our local specialty plant store to pick out a new plant.

I wanted something a little different that I couldn’t find at the Lowe’s or Home Depot near my house.

Since we were in the middle of a bedroom makeover, I was drawn to a hanging staghorn fern.

These ferns are really beautiful and can be mounted on wood on your wall, making a unique statement piece.

Let’s talk about staghorn fern care indoors and out to decide if one might be right for your home!

staghorn fern mounted on the wall

What is a Staghorn Fern?

Staghorn ferns are epiphytic plants, like an air plant. This means that in their natural habitat they grow in the nooks and crannies of another tree. Imagine them nestled high up in the rainforest!

These plants can also be lithophytes, which means they grow in nooks or cracks in rocks (as opposed to trees).

Because of this, these plants don’t actually need to be planted in soil to live.

The staghorn fern has two types of leaves: the upward pointing antler fronds and the lower shield fronds. It’s important to hang them facing the correct way.

Other names for Staghorn fern plants include:

  • Platycerium
  • Platycerium bifurcatum
  • Stag head fern

Types of staghorn ferns include:

  • Staghorn fern (P. bifurcatum) – most common at nurseries in the USA
  • American Staghorn fern (P. andinum) 
  • Elkhorn fern (P. alcicorne) 
  • Crown Staghorn (P. coronarium)
  • Elephant Ear Staghorn fern (P. elephantotis)
  • Triangle Staghorn fern (P. stemaria)
  • Staghorn fern (P. superbum)

Are staghorn and elkhorn ferns the same?

Staghorn Ferns are often confused with Elkhorn ferns but they are in fact two different plants. Staghorn ferns are larger and have one central spot that fronds grow from. Elkhorn ferns have several rosettes of fronds with smaller, slender fronds.

staghorn fern mounted on the wall

Staghorn fern origins

Staghorn Ferns come from tropical Australia and New Guinea. They naturally grow in trees in areas with high humidity.

Is a Staghorn Fern rare?

Staghorn ferns used to be harder to find, but Platycerium bifurcatum, one variety of this plant, has become easy to propagate and therefore they are getting more common.

What is so special about staghorn ferns?

Staghorn ferns are unique with their 2 types of fronds and cool wall mounts. This makes them really appealing to houseplant collectors!

Here’s my guide on how to mount a staghorn fern!

How much is a staghorn fern worth?

The value of a staghorn fern will depend on its size and your market. I paid $22 at a specialty plant store for mine!

Are Staghorn Ferns toxic?

Staghorn ferns are non-toxic to pets and humans.

How big can a staghorn fern get?

Staghorn ferns can grow up to 3 feet across. They tend to grow larger when kept outdoors compared to being kept indoors.

How fast does staghorn fern grow?

These plants are slow growers, but can live for 10 to 20 years!

Do staghorn ferns flower?

No, these plants do not flower!

staghorn fern care guide

Staghorn fern care guide

Staghorn ferns are easy to care for once you get them in right conditions and care cycle.

Staghorn Fern watering

If your staghorn fern is mounted, it might be confusing as to how to water it.

Staghorn ferns absorb water through their roots AND their fronds, so you want to water the whole plant.

We water ours by laying it down in our shower and giving it a good soak! Let it dry in place before hanging it back up.

If you don’t want to get your mount soaked, soak the fern upside down in a bowl or sink of water for 5 minutes, then flip and let dry before hanging again.

How often should a staghorn fern be watered?

Your staghorn fern usually needs to be watered once a week in the warm months and once every 2-3 weeks in the cooler months.

If your plant is in a humid spot – like outdoors or in a bathroom – or gets misted a lot, it can go a little longer between soakings.

staghorn fern mounted on the wall

Can you over water staghorn fern?

Yes – these plants have shallow root balls that can easily be overwatered. This leads to root rot. Be sure that water is able to flow away and not trapped near the roots!

What does an overwatered staghorn fern look like?

Overwatered staghorn ferns can get black spots, which are a fungal disease. This is kind of like mold or rot due to sitting in too much moisture. Remove any black, mushy parts of the plant if you see them.

You will notice brown or black spots near the base of the fronds. This is a telltale sign of over watering!

Should I mist my staghorn fern?

Yes, these plants love to be misted regularly. Focus on the underside of the upward antler fronds and the shield fronds!

staghorn fern mounted on the wall

Staghorn fern lighting needs

Staghorn ferns are native to tropical areas and prefer bright indirect light.

They will get burnt in direct sunlight.

Do staghorn ferns like shade or sun?

Indoors, staghorn ferns should be placed near a sunny window. Outdoors, they should be kept in a place where they get bright, but not direct, sunlight such as partial shade and no direct sun.

How much sun does a staghorn fern need?

Staghorn ferns like bright, indirect sunlight all day long but don’t want to be directly exposed to the sun’s hot rays.

Can staghorns grow in sun?

Staghorn fern leaves tend to get burnt in direct sun. They do better in a bright but shady spot.

Can a staghorn fern live indoors?

Yes, staghorn ferns live very well indoors but need bright indirect light.

Can I keep a staghorn fern outdoors?

Staghorn ferns can be kept outdoors in zones 9 and 10. They can be grown in nooks in rocks, trees, or in hanging baskets. They will not tolerate temperatures below 50 degrees.

staghorn fern mounted on the wall

Staghorn fern soil + potting

Staghorn ferns can be potted but they are most commonly wall mounted or hung in a hanging basket to mimic their native tree homes.

Where do you hang a staghorn fern?

Staghorn ferns prefer to be hung in shady spots outdoors where they still get bright light. Indoors, hang them near a bright sunny window.

Can staghorn ferns stay in pots?

These plants don’t normally grow in soil but they can. For stagnorn fern care in a pot, be sure to use orchid bark or another well draining soil – their roots are not made for normal potting mixture soil and need good air circulation.

Does staghorn fern like to be root bound?

Staghorn ferns have very shallow root systems so they don’t really get root bound!

How do you re-mount a staghorn fern?

You don’t have to re-mount your fern until the lower, round shield fronds get larger than the wood board mount. Then, simply nail the board to a larger board for a better fit!

Staghorn Fern fertilization

Staghorn ferns should be fertilized once a month in the warm spring and summer months to encourage growth.

What should I feed my staghorn plant?

Staghorn ferns should be fertilized with a 10:10:10 formula. You can also use some food items to create your own fertilizer!

Are coffee grounds good for staghorn ferns?

Yes, small amounts of coffee grounds can help to boost acidity.

Are bananas good for staghorns?

Staghorn ferns love banana peels! Break them into small pieces and stick them into the plant to release potassium and phosphorus.

Beware if your plant is indoors – banana peels can really attract bugs!

Here’s how I make banana tea for my plants!

Are eggshells good for staghorn ferns?

Eggshells can provide a good source of calcium for plants!

mounting a staghorn fern

How to propagate staghorn fern

The easiest way to propagate a staghorn fern is by division. This means to pull the mother plant out of the soil and gently separate it into 2 or more pieces that you then pot or mount separately! Soon, you will have 2 full sized plants!

Can you take a cutting from a staghorn fern?

Stag horn ferns don’t propagate from cuttings but you can propagate any pups that grow on the plant!

When these baby plants are at least 4 inches across, you can use a sharp clean knife to separate them from the parent plant and plant them on their own.

mounting a staghorn fern

Troubleshooting staghorn ferns

Why are the tips of my staghorn fern turning brown?

Wilted plants with crispy brown tips indicated an under watered plant. Give it a good soak and up your misting and watering schedule.

Why are the shield fronds on my staghorn fern turning brown?

It is 100% normal for the lower, small shield fronds on your staghorn fern to turn brown and crispy. Don’t remove them!

Any more questions about how to care for staghorn fern?

Thanks for reading!

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