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Staghorn Fern

Scientific Name

Platycerium bifurcatum


Staghorn fern, elkhorn fern

Origins / Hardiness Zones

Asia, Australia / 9-12 USDA


Staghorns are epiphytic plants, which means that in they grow on other plants or trees in their natural growing environments. Though you can find young staghorn ferns sold in pots, mature plants need to be mounted to a board or hung in a hanging basket.

Light Needs

Water Schedule


Humidity Levels




A high relative humidity of 70% is vital for good staghorn plant health. Keep the plant away from heat vents, fireplaces, and other arid zones. Mist the fronds daily to boost the ambient humidity. If the fronds begin to brown at the tips, but the root ball is still moist, mist more frequently. Consider moving the plant to a bathroom, or even the shower, for a humidity boost.

A non-toxic plant pal! You can introduce this plant to your whole family, pets and children included. While it'll be a sad day for you and your plant if someone takes a nibble, you don't have to worry about poisoning anyone!

Staghorn ferns need bright, indirect or diffused light to thrive, though most species must be protected from the harsh rays of the direct sun. Rooms with Southern and Eastern exposures tend to be best. Staghorns can also be grown with certain grow lights, as long as they are receiving a full spectrum range.

Staghorn watering regimen consists of two processes: misting and soaking. Mist the fronds with a spray-bottle that emits a fine, ambient mist, such as a brass mister. Be sure to mist the entire plant, focusing on the underside of the antler fronds and the shield fronds. Soak your staghorn fern once a week 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.

Staghorn ferns are surprisingly cold-hardy, but for optimal growth, the temperature should not be allowed to drop below 50°F or above 100°F. Staghorn ferns can be placed outdoors when temperatures stay within this range. Be extra careful to keep staghorns out of direct sun and well-watered when hung outdoors. Bring your staghorn fern back inside when temperatures get chilly at night.

Stags are resilient plants that exhibit almost no pest or disease problems. If the plant is stressed, typically due to overwatering or under-watering, scale insects could infest a staghorn fern. Also, overwatering can cause root rot. Providing a combination of adequate lighting, temperature, humidity, and water is the best way to avoid these problems.

Staghorn ferns are typically propagated by spores or by division of pups.
Spores are the equivalent of tiny seeds that grow on the undersides of fern fronds. They can be harvested and started in sterilized seed starting mix. There are several ways to do it, but all are somewhat complicated and it takes at least a year before the baby plants are large enough to transplant.
Mature stags may produce pups near their base. Pups are baby plants that grow from the same rhizome as the parent plant. Closely examine the soil area around and between the basal fronds of mature plants. If you find smaller, developing plants, you can carefully separate them to pot up. For a strong staghorn fern colony, thin the pups to allow 3 inches of space between plants.

When the shield fronds begin to creep to the edges of the plaque, standard practice is to attach your board to a larger piece of wood with a few nails. Be careful not to nail through the shield frond or root ball when remounting! If you are worried about remounting, come back in to TGP and we'll take care of it for you!

Fertilizing your staghorn fern will promote vigorous growth, especially in younger plants. Feed your staghorn fern monthly during periods of active grown (spring and summer). Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer (ratio of 1:1:1). During periods of dormancy (fall and winter), reduce fertilizing to every other month.

If the leaves of your Staghorn Fern are turning brown or pale, this could be because of too much direct light.
If the antler fronds of your Staghorn Fern are turning brown, this could be because of overwatering. However, if the antler fronds are turning brown at the tips or wilt, this could be because of underwatering.

Staghorn Ferns have two types of fronds: antler fronds and shield fronds. The “antler” frond - the large leaves that shoot out of the center - take up moisture in the air, sunlight, and nutrients. The "shield" frond - the round leaves that surround the base of the plant - protect the plant roots and take up water and nutrients. These fronds start out green, but eventually turn brown and dry up.




Pests / Diseases

Common Problems



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