A Beginner’s Guide to Caring for Staghorn Ferns

Staghorn ferns are fascinating epiphytic plants that make a stunning addition to any home. Their antler-shaped fronds sprouting from a central base give them an incredibly unique look. Staghorn ferns are native to tropical forests and require some specialized care to thrive indoors. With the right conditions and a little know-how, these living works of art can grow for decades. Let’s go over the basics of staghorn fern care so you can enjoy these beauties in your own home.

Staghorn Fern Biology

There are around 30 species of staghorn ferns but the most common houseplant is Platycerium bifurcatum. Staghorn ferns are epiphytic meaning they grow on other plants and objects like tree branches and use aerial roots to anchor themselves.

The fronds of a staghorn fern come in two forms

  • Antler fronds – The large, bifurcated green leaves that resemble antlers. This is where the plant gets its common name. New fronds emerge from the center.

  • Shield fronds – The round, flattened leaves clustered around the base. Shield fronds are green when young but turn brown as they mature.

The shield fronds protect the roots and absorb water and nutrients for the plant through specialized scales. Never remove brown shield fronds, as they are still functioning for the plant.

Provide the Right Growing Conditions

Staghorn ferns originate in warm, humid tropical forests. Replicating their native environment is key to keeping them happy as houseplants.


Staghorn ferns prefer bright, filtered light. Direct sun will scorch their fronds. Grow staghorn ferns near an east or north facing window where they get plenty of gentle morning or afternoon sun. Light from a south window can be too intense unless filtered.


These plants thrive in warm conditions between 60-80°F. Temperatures below 50°F or rapid drops can damage them. Avoid drafty areas. In climates with hot summers, they appreciate some shade during the hottest part of the day.


Humidity is essential! Staghorn ferns soak up moisture from the air through their fronds. Recreate tropical humidity by misting the fronds daily or using a humidifier. Grow staghorn ferns in bathrooms or kitchens where natural humidity is higher.

Air Circulation

While staghorn ferns crave humidity, good air flow is also important to prevent fungal diseases. Position the plant so air can circulate freely around the fronds.


In nature, staghorn ferns attach to trees and rocks using aerial roots. Recreate this environment by mounting them on boards or plaques using sphagnum moss around the roots. This allows excellent drainage and air circulation.

Watering and Fertilizing

Since they lack extensive roots systems, mounted staghorn ferns take a specialized watering approach:

  • Mist the fronds several times a week, focusing on the undersides. This mimics tropical rainfall.

  • About once a week, soak the entire plant upside down in room temperature water for 5-10 minutes until the root mass is fully saturated. Allow to drain and dry out before re-hanging.

  • Reduce watering frequency in winter when plants are dormant. The roots should not be constantly wet.

Feed with a balanced indoor plant fertilizer diluted to half strength. Fertilize monthly during spring and summer when actively growing and blooming.

Common Staghorn Fern Problems

Here are some common issues and how to remedy them:

  • Brown leaf tips – Increase humidity and watering frequency.

  • Yellow or drooping fronds – Usually a sign of overwatering. Allow plant to dry out more between waterings.

  • Black spots on fronds – Caused by fungus. Improve air circulation and use an antifungal spray.

  • Failure to thrive – Double check lighting, humidity, and mounting conditions.

With the right care, staghorn ferns can live for decades and reach incredible sizes upwards of 3 feet across. Their uniquely shaped fronds will add a striking element to your indoor garden. Follow these basic care guidelines and you’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of staghorn ferns in your own home.

How to Care for your Staghorn Fern

SOIL I have a DIY on how to mount your Staghorn. I go into the steps but also tips and tricks for choosing your wood and correct plant placement.

TEMPERATURE: This fern can handle high heat and in fact enjoys a hot, muggy environment. Keep your range around 50-100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are keeping your plant outside during the summer remember to bring it inside for winter. Avoid drafty windows and AC units.

LIGHT: Recreating the Staghorn Ferns environment will yield the best results. Since it grows in the wild on trees it receives dappled sunlight, mainly shaded from the sun. Avoid placement in direct sun as it can burn the fronds. Consistent, shaded light is important. This doesn’t mean a room with no light; it means putting it above or next to a window. I recommend north light as it is very mild as is morning sun from the east.

HUMIDITY: Perhaps the most important thing you can provide for a Staghorn Fern is infinite humidity. As a result, these thrive in bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens especially if you live in a dry climate. It doesnt hurt to assist it with a daily misting, I recommend this continuous mister, or a humidifier in the room.

WATER: Mounting makes these interesting to water. Take it down from the wall (or you’ll make a mess) and put it in the sink or shower. Soak the moss root ball for 10 minutes until saturated. Allow to drip dry before hanging again. In the summer water once a week, letting the root ball dry out. In the winter water every 2-3 weeks. If you notice the fronds have started to brown at the base it is likely being overwatered. If the tips turn brown then it likely needs to be watered more.

FERTILIZER: Once a month during the growing season fertilize your Staghorn Fern. I recommend a liquid fertilizer.

REPOTTING: Remounting your Staghorn Fern can become necessary. If it still fits on the board, wrap new moss or peat balls around the roots and put them back on. If it’s too big, you might need a bigger board to mount it on so it can hold its weight and size.

PROPAGATION: Staghorn Ferns can be propagated by division.

  • Use only a big, old Staghorn that is easy to cut into pieces that have a shield front and some roots.
  • Plant each section into a compost and peat mixture.
  • Keep these babies in high humidity and the soil moist. To keep the plants moist, you can put a see-through plastic cover or glass dome over them.
  • These can take a while to root and may fail. Remember that you have the best chance of success if you try to grow more plants during the growing season.

PESTS & DISEASES: These are relatively pest-free plants but can get aphids, mealybugs, or spider mites, especially if you have other plants in your home infected. However, fungus can occur from too much humidity or traveling spores. This will appear as black spots on the fronds. To treat all of these, use neem oil.

PETS: This is non-toxic for pets.

These might not look like any Fern you have ever had but Staghorn Ferns still have those characteristic gorgeous leaves. While it might not be the easiest to care for, it is worth the effort. Having a plant that can also serve as a piece of wall art is unique and fun. Tag me on Instagram with your Fern babies @thegreenmadhouse and let me know if you have any questions below.

About the Staghorn Fern

Also, staghorn ferns are interesting and eye-catching plants because their leaves look like deer or elk antlers. You can mount them on wood to add greenery to your room or gallery wall. Even though these ferns are hard to grow, growers who want to add some variety to their houseplants and home decor love them because they are unique and easy to find.

Native to Oceania and Asia, they are in the Polypodiaceae family. Staghorn Ferns are ephiphytic meaning they grow on other plants, mainly trees, using aerial roots to attach. When you buy Staghorn Ferns in stores they are most likely potted in soil. This isn’t always wrong, and they can keep living that way if they want to, like many epiphytes do in homes. But for these plants, it’s better to use moss.

Recreating their native sub-tropical conditions is vital to helping the Staghorn thrive. High humidity and dappled sunlight are a must. Even though they grow slowly, they can get very big. If you live in a warm, humid area, you can leave them on your porch, but remember to bring them inside for the winter. Remember that these plants are invasive, so don’t plant them outside. Instead, keep them mounted in a small area.

Staghorns have two different types of leaves: shield and antler fronds. The shields are normally brown and rounded around the root ball to protect it. It might seem natural to pull off a plant’s brown, crispy leaves, but you should leave them alone because they protect the rootball and take in nutrients. Antler fronds are green and stick out from the base. They can grow to be a few feet long indoors, but they can get very big outside.

How To Care For Staghorn Ferns (Platycerium bifrucatum) | Plant Of The Week Ep. 33

How do you care for a staghorn fern?

Watering the roots Soak your staghorn fern facedown in a sink or basin of water for about 5 minutes, or until the roots are fully saturated. Alternately, place the plaque in a sink or shower, and allow room-temperature water to run over the root ball until it is saturated. Allow your plant to drip dry before re-hanging.

How do you water a staghorn fern?

Soak your staghorn fern facedown in a sink or basin of water for about 5 minutes, or until the roots are fully saturated. Alternately, place the plaque in a sink or shower, and allow room-temperature water to run over the root ball until it is saturated. Allow your plant to drip dry before re-hanging. How Often to Water a Staghorn Fern

How often should you water a staghorn fern?

A good rule of thumb is to water once per week in dry, hot times of year, and once every one to two weeks during cooler months. Start with this schedule, and adjust as necessary depending on your space. Staghorn ferns absorb water through their fronds, as well as their roots. This means that they respond well to misting and appreciate humid spaces.

How to grow a staghorn fern?

The plants grow outdoors in warm-season locations and indoors elsewhere. Mounted or in a basket is how to grow a staghorn fern, because they are epiphytic, growing in trees generally. Staghorn fern care relies on careful light, temperature, and moisture monitoring.

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