Staghorn Ferns: Mounting and Care

by John R.

 

The common staghorn fern, Platycerium bifurcatum, is an epiphytic species native to New Guinea and Australia. Striking, long grayish-green “antler” fronds (fertile) give the staghorn fern it’s name. Another type of frond, the shield frond (sterile),  starts out soft and green and matures into a hard, brown shell that protects the plant’s small root system. In their natural environment you would find them growing in trees or on other plants so we best mimic this indoors by hanging them using wood plaques and baskets.

 

Light and Watering

Keep your staghorn in bright but indirect light as you would with other tropicals. Remember that this is an epiphyte- the root system is small and very susceptible to rot from over-watering if potted. They pull water in through their fertile fronds so a regular misting is welcomed. I’ve found that my staghorns respond best to being moved to the bathroom for a shower once a week. I’ll soak them down and let them sit for an hour or so, allowing them to soak up some humidity and drip dry themselves before rehanging.

Mounting

A young staghorn will do just fine in a pot and you may find it is easier to keep them watered properly when potted at this stage. As your plant matures, though, you will want to mount it. Keep an eye on your shield fronds- when they begin to harden and turn brown your plant is likely ready to be hung. We carry them both in pots and on plaques, but if you want to try and mount your own here’s how to do it.

Supplies you’ll need:

    • Wood plaque
    • Fishing line (or floral wire)
    • Sheet moss
    • 4-5 small screws or nails
    • Screwdriver (if using screws)
    • Your staghorn!

 

Start with a piece of wood or decorative plaque. You can find some nice looking pieces at craft stores but any thin, broad piece of wood should do fine.
Insert the nails or screws into the plaque, leaving enough room in the center for the rootball, with an inch or so to spare.
Soak your sheet moss in water and lay a bed of it in between the screws. Remove your staghorn from it’s pot. Gently massage the roots, discarding any loose potting soil that falls. Press the plant down onto the sheet moss and cover the top of the soil/roots with more moss until completely covered.
Wrap the fishing line or wire around the top left screw, moving around the plant, and wrapping around the bottom right screw. Repeat back to the top right.
Now wrap from the top right, around the plant, down to the bottom left. Repeat back up to the top right.
For some added stability, wrap around the circumference of the root ball using all 4 screws.