Plant Care

Tips To Grow and Care Staghorn Fern Indoors

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Staghorn ferns are epiphytic plants that grow directly on other plants, typically the forks of trees, and do not need soil. These plants are known for their two types of fronds - antler fronds and shield fronds.

Staghorn ferns can be grown indoors in a humid, draught-free environment keeping away from direct sunlight. They need average temperatures of around 20ºC in summer, falling to no lower than 16ºC in winter. With proper care, this fern can live many decades.

Staghorn Fern Overview

Scientific NamePlatycerium bifurcatum
Common NameStaghorn fern, elkhorn fern
Native AreaAsia, Australia
Size2–3 ft. tall
Sun ExposurePartial
Soil TypeAcidic
Hardiness Zones9–12 (USDA)

What Is Staghorn Fern?

Source : plantly

The Staghorn Fern (Platycerium bifurcatum) is an epiphytic plant native to the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia. Its unique appearance is characterized by leathery, gray-green fronds covered with a grayish-white felt, giving it the resemblance of forked antlers of male deer or elk.

The fronds have a thin, felt-like covering of white "hairs," which is important for gathering moisture. This plant is also known for its large, drooping, strap-like, unbranched fertile fronds, which can grow up to 2 meters long. 

Because of its epiphytic nature, this fern thrives on trees, rocks, or even as a houseplant. It just requires a bright location with indirect light, making it a low-maintenance and forgiving plant, suitable for various environments.

Staghorn Fern Care

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Staghorn ferns, with their distinctive appearance and air-purifying qualities, have gathered attention as easy indoor plants. Their unique antler-like fronds make them a distinctive and aesthetically pleasing choice for any living space. These plants require a humid environment and indirect sunlight to thrive successfully.


These ferns thrive in bright, indirect light, making them ideal for placement near a north-facing window or in a room with filtered light. Direct sunlight can scorch the leaves, while too little light can cause the plant to become weak and leggy.

When placing plants outdoors, keep them in a location that offers consistent but shaded light, such as a covered porch with plenty of windows. Morning sun exposure is beneficial. Monitor and adjust light levels for the best growth.


The amount of watering for your staghorn fern depends on various factors such as the size of the plant, the container, and environmental conditions. But as a general rule, they should be watered thoroughly but infrequently. Give them a drink only when the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch. This typically means watering every 1 to 2 weeks.

Gently insert a finger into the soil to feel for moisture. If it feels dry, then water the plant. Alternatively, you may also install a moisture meter to provide a more precise reading of the soil moisture levels. 


When selecting a container for an indoor staghorn fern, opt for a size that accommodates the plant's root ball with some room to grow. Ensure the container has adequate drainage holes to control waterlogging. Larger baskets, measuring at least 14 inches or even more, are preferable container sizes.

Always use a free-draining potting mix to prevent water retention. This should include a blend of peat moss, pine bark, and perlite. This type of soil mix mimics the plant's natural growing medium in the wild. Avoid heavy, water-retentive soils, as they can lead to root rot and other issues.


When it comes to temperature, these ferns like average temperatures of around 16 to 24°C and high humidity levels.

If your staghorn fern is kept outdoors, maintain the ideal temperature range of 10 to 38 degrees Celsius. Place the fern in a shaded area with plenty of humidity to support its growth, and bring it inside during colder temperatures to protect it from potential damage.


Being a low-maintenance plant, staghorn ferns do not usually require fertilizer. They get the nutrients they need from the bark. However, you need to feed them occasionally. Give them a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, applying every 2 to 4 weeks during their growing season.

If you are feeding them in fall and winter, just treat them once a month and refrain from using high-urea fertilizers. Avoid direct contact with the foliage while applying fertilizer to the base of the plant.


Source : agriculturalmagazine

Staghorn ferns do not need pruning, as their shield and antler fronds serve vital functions such as protecting delicate roots and absorbing water and nutrients. Over-pruning can stress this plant, so if shaping is desired, trim lightly, particularly in summer, and use sharp, clean tools.

Remove any diseased or damaged stems entirely, cutting right at the soil line, but ensure not to remove the brown shield leaves as they are integral to the plant's health. Additionally, regularly separate offshoots from the main plant to avoid overcrowding.


Source : thesill

It's typically suggested to repot a staghorn fern once every 3 to 5 years, and the best time to do this is during the spring. If you notice roots growing out of the drainage holes, it's a clear indication that the plant has outgrown its current pot and needs to be shifted to a larger container.

Steps for Repotting

  • Gently remove the plant from its current pot, being careful not to damage the roots.
  • Loosen the roots and remove any old, decaying, or mushy roots.
  • Place a layer of well-draining potting mix at the bottom of the new pot and position the plant in the center.
  • Fill the remaining space with the potting mix and water thoroughly.
  • Place it in a location with the appropriate light and humidity.

Common Pests And Plant Diseases

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Staghorn ferns are generally problem-free, but they can be affected by a few common pests and diseases, such as scale insects, mealybugs, spider mites, and thrips. These pests can cause issues like leaf discoloration and wilting. To prevent infestations, keep an eye out for signs of these pests and take quick action if detected, using neem oil or another natural fungicide.

Propagating Staghorn Fern

Source : gardeningknowhow

The best time to propagate these ferns is during the summer. There are several methods to propagate, including division, taking leaf clippings, and propagating from spores, but here we are discussing about two main, easiest methods.


This method is generally considered the easiest method, especially if you are a beginner. It requires a mature plant but involves simple steps and offers quicker results. However, you need to be careful while dividing to avoid damaging the mother plant.


  • Choose a healthy, mature staghorn fern with multiple fronds and a well-developed root system.
  • Sterilize a sharp knife or pruning shears with alcohol. Gather sphagnum moss, a mounting board, and string or wire for attaching.
  • Carefully cut through the center of the root mass and shield fronds with the sterilized tool. Aim for at least two to three fronds and healthy roots on each division.
  • Attach each division to its own mounting board by placing sphagnum moss around the roots and securing it with string or wire.
  • Water the mounted divisions thoroughly and hang them in a warm, humid location with bright, indirect light.
  • Keep the sphagnum moss moist but not soggy. New growth will appear in a few weeks.


Many staghorn ferns produce "pups" - small plantlets at the base. Carefully detaching these pups with established roots and mounting them separately is another simple method for propagation. However, this method might not always be available, and the pups can take longer to mature compared to divisions.


  • Look for small plantlets (pups) growing at the base of the main plant. They should have their own tiny fronds and roots.
  • Gently detach the pups from the mother plant, ensuring they have some roots attached.
  • Mount each pup on its own board using sphagnum moss and string or wire.
  • Water the mounted pups well and place them in a warm, humid location with bright, indirect light.
  • Keep the sphagnum moss moist but not soggy. New growth will appear soon.

How To Grow Staghorn Fern

Source : apartmenttherapy

After completing the propagation process, you need to transplant your fern to its new home. Start by preparing a container with well-draining soil. Choose a shallow, wide pot or a hanging basket with a sturdy backing. Fill it with a mix of peat, pine bark, and perlite to provide good aeration and drainage for the plant.

When transplanting, place the fern on the soil surface, ensuring that the root ball is level with the container's rim. Space multiple plants at least 3 feet apart to allow room for their antler-like fronds to spread. Maintain a planting depth that keeps the fern's basal fronds above the soil line.

Staghorn Fern Types

Staghorn ferns have more than 18 different species, each with its own unique characteristics and appearance. Here, we have discussed 4 of the most popular and interesting types:

Common Staghorn Fern

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This is the most common type of staghorn fern and is relatively easy to care for as well. This variety has large, flat, green fronds that can grow up to 3 feet long and 2 feet wide. The sterile fronds, which don't produce spores, are shield-shaped and brown. They help to protect the roots and rhizomes of the plant.

  • Botanical Name: Platycerium bifurcatum

Elkhorn Fern

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This fern is similar to the common staghorn fern, but its fronds are narrower and more deeply lobed. The sterile fronds are also smaller and more rounded. Elkhorn ferns are typically found in tropical rainforests in Africa, Asia, and Australia.

  • Botanical Name: Platycerium alcicorne

 Tassel Fern

The sterile fronds are deeply split and look like tassels, which is why they are called tassel ferns. These ferns are smaller than the usual staghorn and elkhorn ferns, with fronds growing only up to 12 inches long. These ferns are originally from Australia and New Guinea

  • Botanical Name: Platycerium hillii

Giant Staghorn Fern

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This fern is the largest of all the staghorn ferns, with fronds that can grow up to 6 feet long and 3 feet wide. The sterile fronds are massive and can be up to 2 feet wide. These ferns are native to Australia and Indonesia.

  • Botanical Name: Platycerium superbum 

Common Issues With Staghorn Ferns

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Blackening Fronds

Overwatering can develop blackening fronds, which robs the roots of oxygen and leads to root rot. To address this issue, ensure that the fern is not being overwatered. Allow the top layer of the soil to dry out between waterings and check that the plant is not sitting in water. If root rot is suspected, carefully remove the plant from its pot, trim away any affected roots, and repot it in fresh soil.

Brown Shield Fronds

Do not remove brown shield fronds, even if they become infested with scale insects or mealybugs. These fronds serve to protect the root ball structure of the plant and should be left in place. If the fronds become infested, address the pests using suitable pesticides, but avoid removing the fronds themselves.

Brown Growth Underneath the Antler Fronds

The brown growth underneath the antler fronds is normal reproductive sporangia and should not be removed. This velvety material is a natural part of the staghorn fern, required for its propagation and continued growth.