Native to tropical regions, where they grow on trees; gardeners grow them on slabs of bark or tree fern stem, occasionally in hanging baskets or attached to trees. They do best with regular moisture, though they can dry out briefly without suffering damage.
These ferns have two kinds of fronds. Sterile ones are pale green in color, aging to tan and brown; they support the plant and accumulate organic matter to help feed it. Fertile fronds vary in color from gray-green to deep green; they are forked, resembling spreading antlers held either erect or pendent. For plants growing on slabs, be sure to water behind the sterile frond that attaches it to the slab.
P. bifurcatum. STAGHORN FERN. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. From Australia and New Guinea. Most common type and easiest to grow. Clustered, gray-green fertile fronds to 3 ft. long. Makes numerous offsets, which can be used in propagation.
P. hillii. ELK'S-HORN FERN. From Australia. Similar to P. bifurcatum. Kidney-shaped sterile fronds grow like plaques behind the fertile fronds, which fan out almost horizontally; they resemble deep green fingers to 3 ft. long, with forked tips.
P. superbum. GIANT STAGHORN FERN. From Australia. Grayish green fertile fronds may reach 6 ft. long. Both fertile and sterile fronds are forked; fertile ones are broad but divided somewhat like moose antlers. Protect plants from frosts. Sensitive to over-watering.