All About the Staghorn Fern

The staghorn fern is a plant that has distinctive fronds or divided leaves. In the wilderness, staghorn ferns usually grown on and around other trees, and they are therefore called epiphytes. The fern bears 2 different types of fronds and is native to tropical areas of Asia, Australia, South America and New Guinea.

Fronds on Staghorn Ferns

The fronds on a staghorn fern are separated into basal sterile fronds and foliar fertile fronds. The basal fronds collect materials such as water, leaves and organic debris. This material gradually breaks down and forms nutrients that can be absorbed easily by the plant. The foliar fronds disperse spores in the wind, which germinate and produce new staghorn ferns. The staghorn ferns make them highly valued and sought after because of this distinctive frond structure.

Growing Staghorn Ferns

Staghorn ferns cannot survive freezing temperatures. They are therefore not good choices as garden plants in areas that experience harsh winters. You can, however, grow them as houseplants. These plants grow best in shaded areas or spots that receive filtered sunlight.

This emulates the type of sunlight the plant would receive in the wilderness, through the canopy of leaves on a host tree. These plants require high humidity to flourish. Room temperatures are adequate for growth, but the plant must be protected from cooler temperatures in the winter.

Mounting Staghorn Ferns

You can grow a staghorn fern for some time in a pot. However, these plants quickly overgrow the boundaries of a pot and you will have to transplant them. It is best to mount the plant on a board and secure it.

To do so, evaluate the base of the plant and insert some nails in a pattern that is slightly larger. Soak some sphagnum moss and place it inside the nail pattern. Place the staghorn fern on top of the sphagnum moss. Allow the basal fronds to touch the moss. Secure the plant to the board with some wire or rope by tying it around the nails. You can mount the board from the ceiling or on a wall.

Watering and Feeding

Staghorn ferns cannot tolerate excessive watering. This can lead to rot and leaf problems. To ensure high humidity, periodically spray the air around the plant with water. To water the staghorn fern, plunge the entire plant in a container of tepid water. Water that is warm or cool can be damaging. If your plant is in a pot, check for signs of dryness in the soil. If it is still moist, postpone the watering for a day or 2.

If the plant is hung on a board, check the sphagnum moss to see if it is dry before watering. Staghorn ferns require minimal feeding. You can add some fertilizer to the water a couple of times a year. Avoid letting the fertilizer sit on the leaves. If there is any remnant on the fronds, rinse them with water. As the staghorn fern gets bigger, you may have to remount it on a larger board.