Staghorn Fern Care

Staghorn ferns are unique plants that resemble deer antlers, known for their distinctive fronds and growth habits. They are epiphytic, meaning they grow on other plants or surfaces in their natural habitats. In your home, they can be fascinating decorative plants. Caring for staghorn ferns involves understanding their specific needs and mimicking their natural environment as closely as possible. Let’s explore how to best care for these striking ferns.

Scientific Classification

Staghorn ferns belong to a group based on their traits. This group has different levels. Here is how scientists classify them:

  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Division: Polypodiophyta
  • Class: Polypodiopsida
  • Order: Polypodiales
  • Family: Polypodiaceae
  • Genus: Platycerium
  • Species: There are different types of Staghorn ferns


When you care for a Staghorn Fern, you need to get the light just right. Imagine a bright room, but with no sunbeams directly hitting your fern. That’s because Staghorn Ferns love bright, indirect light. They thrive under the cover of tall trees in the wild, which filters the sunlight. Direct sun can burn their leaves, so if you’re keeping your fern inside, a spot near a window with a sheer curtain is perfect. This kind of light is like a gentle morning sun that doesn’t overpower the plant. If you notice the leaves turning yellow or getting crispy, it might be getting too much direct sun. Move it to a shadier spot if that happens. Remember, you want to mimic the light of its natural habitat, which is dappled and soft.


Water is vital for your Staghorn Fern, but you must balance how much you give it. Think of it like filling a cup; too little and it’s still thirsty, too much and it overflows. Your fern enjoys steady moisture, but hates soggy roots. Water your plant when the surface feels dry to the touch. Usually, this means watering it about once a week, but it can vary with the weather. If you’re unsure, it’s better to underwater than overwater. Overwatering can lead to root rot, a serious problem for your fern. Remember to use lukewarm water. Cold water can shock the plant’s roots, causing harm. Imagine how you feel jumping into a cold pool. That’s how your fern feels with cold water.


Staghorn Ferns need the right type of soil to grow well. Unlike most plants, they don’t grow in regular potting soil. These ferns are epiphytes, which means they don’t need soil from the ground. In the wild, they grow on other plants, like trees. At home, you can mimic this by using a special mix. This mix is usually made of materials like bark, peat, and charcoal. These ingredients keep moisture while allowing air to reach the roots. You can attach your Staghorn Fern to a board or hang it in a basket with this mix. The key is to not let the roots sit in wet soil, as this can cause rot. So, choose or make a soil mix that stays a bit damp but drains well.


Staghorn ferns enjoy a warm environment. They thrive best in temperatures between 55 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep your staghorn fern away from cold drafts and frost, as these can harm the plant. If the temperature drops below 55 degrees, it could damage the leaves. However, too much heat isn’t good either. If it’s consistently above 100 degrees, the plant might get stressed. Inside your home, try to mimic the warm and cozy conditions of the fern’s natural habitat. You’ll find that rooms with stable temperatures work best for these unique plants. Remember, keeping a consistent temperature helps your staghorn fern stay healthy and grow.


Humidity is the amount of water vapor present in the air. For your Staghorn Fern, it’s like an invisible drink of water that it can absorb through its leaves. It loves to live in an environment that’s moist in the air, much like its natural tropical home. If you make sure the air around your fern is often damp, you’ll have a happy plant. Your fern will thrive if the humidity is around 50% to 60%. In many homes, the air can be drier, especially when the heat is on during colder months. This might make your fern a little sad. To boost the humidity, you can mist your fern with water, use a humidifier, or place the plant in a bathroom where showers help the air stay moist. Just remember, the Staghorn Fern counts on you to keep the air around it comfortably humid.


Fertilizer is like food for your Staghorn Fern. These plants don’t need a lot of it, but the right amount can help them grow. You should use a liquid fertilizer that is low in nitrogen. This type of fertilizer should be diluted – meaning you mix it with water to make it weaker before you use it. You can feed your fern once a month during the growing season, which is typically spring and summer. It’s important not to over-fertilize because too much can harm your plant. Just a gentle boost once in a while is enough for your Staghorn Fern to stay healthy and strong.

Size & Growth Rate

The Staghorn fern is a plant that can grow quite large. Over time, it can reach several feet in width and length. Its growth rate is commonly slow to moderate. This means you won’t see it get big overnight. It grows by adding new fronds, or leaves, which unfurl from the center. Each new frond can be exciting to watch as it slowly opens. The plant’s overall size also depends on its environment. With enough space, light, and care, a Staghorn fern can become a standout feature in your home or garden. Remember, it takes patience to see it achieve its full size.

Common Issues

Staghorn ferns can have problems, just like all plants. Sometimes they get yellow or brown leaves. This can happen if they don’t get the right amount of light or water. Pests, like scale insects and mealybugs, might also attack them. These bugs stick to the leaves and suck the sap, hurting the fern. Another issue is overwatering, which can cause root rot. This means the roots are too wet and start to decay. Less common are fungal and bacterial diseases, which often come from high humidity and poor air circulation. For example, if a staghorn fern doesn’t get enough air around it, mold can grow. To avoid these problems, you need to give your fern the care it likes. This includes the right light, moisture, and air flow. Keep an eye on your staghorn fern for these issues so you can fix them fast.


Toxicity is about whether a plant can make you or your pets sick if you eat it. The Staghorn Fern is known to be non-toxic. This means it’s safe for both humans and animals. Even if your cat or dog nibbles on the leaves, they should be fine. However, it’s always best to prevent pets from chewing on plants. Plants can still cause stomach upset if too much is eaten. It’s important to keep the Staghorn Fern away from any curious pets just to be safe. Remember, just because it’s non-toxic doesn’t mean it’s food. So, it’s a good idea to watch your pets and teach them to stay away from your Staghorn Fern and other houseplants.

Pro Tips

Pro tips are helpful hints that make caring for your staghorn fern easier. They give you smart ways to help your plant thrive. Here’s a list of tips:

  • Keep the fern away from cold drafts or heating vents to prevent shock.
  • When watering, aim for the base rather than the fronds to avoid rot.
  • Always use lukewarm water to water your plant, as hot or cold water can be harmful.
  • If your fern is on a wooden plaque, it’s a good idea to soak the entire plaque in water periodically.
  • Dust the fronds gently with a soft brush to keep them clean and healthy.
  • Rotate your staghorn fern regularly to ensure that all sides receive equal light.
  • To prevent transplant shock, move or repot your fern gradually to help it adjust to a new spot.
  • Check the back of the plant for baby ferns called “pups,” which you can gently remove and grow into new plants.
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