An epiphyte that’s oh-so easy to grow.

Andreas Hoernisch/Getty Images

Distinctive in appearance and name, staghorn fern is a species belonging to the genus Platycerium and the family Polypodiaceae. These ferns can be identified by their fronds, which bear an unmistakable resemblance to horns. Staghorn ferns, also known as Platycerium bifurcatum, are native to tropical regions of Australia and New Guinea. They have become popular houseplants across the world, where they’re grown on walls, trees, boards, and hanging baskets.

Staghorn ferns are hardy plants that can survive temperatures below freezing. They can also recover after drought, though they do best with consistent moisture and low light, making them suitable choices for indoor growing and shady areas. Most Platycerium ferns bear fronds that are flat and wide. Staghorn ferns have lobes that end in rounded points and resemble flat formations of stag’s horns, hence the fern’s common name.

Within the many species of the genus Platycerium, there occur a variety of species with a variety of appearances. They’re native to South America, Asia, Australia, and Africa, where they’re found growing on trees as epiphytes. A few other popular species include Platycerium coronarium, which has deeply lobed green fronds that droop into crownlike structures; Platycerium grande, which has forked fronds can reach lengths of 6 feet; Platycerium hilii, which is also known as elk’s-horn fern and has a pairing of kidney-shaped fronds and long forked fronds; and Platycerium superbum, which produces forked fronds that resemble moose antlers and can grow to be 6 feet long.

Staghorn ferns are epiphytic plants. They grow in the air when attached to structures like trees, walls, or hanging baskets, and they thrive in partial shade with regular water. According to The Southern Living Garden Book, “Staghorn 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.”

To grow a staghorn fern indoors, you’ll want to set up a hanging basket or mount the fern onto a hanging board so that it has something to cling to in the air. With a balance of shade and bright indirect light, moderate temperatures, and regular moisture, it should thrive indoors. Water frequently, but be sure to allow the plant to dry out some between watering. The Southern Living Garden Book advises, “For plants growing on slabs, be sure to water behind the sterile frond that attaches it to the slab.”

WATCH: Shade-Loving Fall Planter with Buffy Hargett

Do you have a staghorn fern in your home? What are your tips and tricks for growing them both indoors and out? If you don't have one yet, then what’s your favorite species of fern?

Advertisement