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Staghorn Fern (Platycerium ssp.): Home

Staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum) photo courtesy of flickr cc/ manuel m. v.
A popular staghorn fern, sometimes called elk's horn fern, Platycerium bifurcatum is relatively easy to grow; photo courtesy of Flickr cc/ Manuel M. V.

Staghorn fern (Platycerium spp.)

An important factor in determining the suitability of a plant to your home and envisioning the care it will need, is to know the origin of the plant. Plants that are native to desert regions will require substantial amount of sunlight and loose, fast-draining soil. Plants from the floor of a rainforest will need some protection from strong sunlight and generous humidity.

Platycerium are epiphytic ferns whose native habitat is the rainforest. They grow high up in the branches of trees where their roots take nutrition from organic matter trapped in the branch crooks they inhabit. They produce two kinds of fronds: sterile fronds at the base, which usually turn brown, grow in overlapping layers and clasp onto a growing surface; fertile fronds are showy, green, flat, and shaped like stag's antlers.

Staghorn ferns are interesting plants that can make a dramatic statement when grown in your home. They can grow quite large (3 - 4 feet high), so they need lots of room.


Unlike many plants in the forest, staghorn ferns are situated high in the canopy and thus are accustomed to more light. They are best grown in strong, indirect light.

Water and Humidity:

These plants originate in the rainforest and prefer a moist environment. The compost or moss that they grow from should be kept evenly moist but not waterlogged during the growing season, just moist during the non-growing part of the year. These plants take in water from the air as well as from their growing medium so both mist and soak the plant for best results.

If the infertile fronds completely cover the growing medium, to water you should immerse this brown portion of the plant in a large container of water until saturated. Allow the plant to drain before re-hanging. Adjust watering in the winter when they will be absorbing it less quickly.


Platycerium like temperatures up to 75° F., though a summer temperature of 70° and minimum temperature of 55 ° F. is best. In addition, an airy, well-ventilated room suits these plants. In warm rooms, be aware that you will need to mist-spray once daily.


Staghorn ferns can be grown in several ways, either in a pot of free-draining compost, attached  to a board, or in a hanging basket. Board and basket are much preferred. If growing your plant from a board,  grow in sphagnum moss attached by wire or fishing line to a piece of wood or bark (larger than the existing plant). For a hanging basket, line the basket with sphagnum moss and place the plant inside. Eventually, the brown fronds will cover the outside of the basket. These two methods of hanging the plant provides the air circulation that mimics their natural growing situation.  


Feed occasionally with a liquid fertilizer during the active growth period. If the plant is attached to bark, feed by immersing that material into a solution of water and dilute fertilizer.

What to Watch for:

Direct light on the fronds will bleach them of color and may leave blotchy marks. Ferns develop best if night temperatures dip down by ten degrees or so.

Over and under-watering are both problematic. Be sensitive to the moisture or dryness that your fern is experiencing and adjust your watering and misting schedule to compensate.

These plants are not typically troubled by pests but scale may attack the underside of the fronds.

The leaves of Platycerium bifurcatum; photo courtesy of Flickr cc/Forest and Kim Starr
The leaves of Platycerium bifurcatum; photo courtesy of Flickr cc/Forest and Kim Starr

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