People ask me almost daily what my favorite indoor houseplant is.

Without a doubt, my most favorite indoor house plant to grow is the Staghorn Fern.

Unfortunately, during the Texas Freeze of 2021, I lost my biggest staghorn fern.

We lost power and water for nearly 15 days.

As a result, the temperature in the house dropped below 32 degrees in some rooms.

A few of my staghorns and orchids just could not pull through.

I did manage to save the ones I had over-wintered in my greenhouse.

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A staghorn fern and tillandsia being watered at the copper kitchen sink - J Dub By Design™
Staghorn and Tillandsia watering day.

History of the Staghorn Fern

The staghorn fern’s scientific name is Platycerium.

This fern is an epiphytic fern native to Africa, Australia, and Asia.

Epiphytic means that these plants grow on the surface of other plants.

Epiphytes do not cause any harm as they take in their moisture and nutrients from their environment – not the host plant.

Other cool examples of epiphytes are Tillandsia (air plants) and orchids.

Here is another fun fact!

The staghorn fern is related to the Blue Star Fern.

In fact, both the Staghorn fern and blue star fern are members of the Polypodiaceae family.

Many of y’all have seen my Blue Star fern mounted in my head planter.

Her name is Poly, and she makes regular appearances in my Instagram feed. And her fronds, also have that staghorn effect.

Back to the Staghorn………..

Characteristics of the Staghorn Fern

The Staghorn fern is made up of two types of fronds.

An example of a shield frond and antler fronds - J Dub By Design™
An example of the antler and shield fronds.

The shield fronds are round or heart shaped and wrap around the base of the fern.

These fronds help regulate the amount of water the fern receives.

And, for those Staghorn ferns growing in the wild, the shield fronds also help to catch any material from trees or surrounding greenery to help provide nutrients to the fern.

As the shield frond, or back plate matures, it will turn papery brown.

An example of a shield fern on a staghorn fern that has turned brown - J Dub By Design™
Here the shield frond has turned brown as the fern matures

The second type of frond on the staghorn fern is the green, forked, “stag” or “elk” shaped fronds.

These fronds are how the Platycerium came to get its common name – the Staghorn or Elkhorn fern.

The green fronds can reach as long as 18-24 inches, depending on the species.

Some varieties grow upright and some varieties will droop – they are ALL stunning and rewarding houseplants to grow.

Care of the Staghorn Fern

These ferns love humidity, moisture, and bright indirect light – just like any traditional fern.

And, just like traditional ferns they do not tolerate sitting in water. Therefore, they must drain properly.

I have seen these ferns grown in baskets.

Although stunning, I personally do not recommend keeping them in this type of environment for long….unless you own a greenhouse and a professionally mounted overhead misting system.

Because these ferns are epiphytic in nature, I have found that they grow better for the traditional plant lover mounted to a board in a small amount of fertile potting soil and then covered in moss to protect their roots.

Hand painted tiles in a large bar with long leaf pine beams and staghorn ferns - J Dub By Design™
Several of my staghorn ferns growing in this space right off the kitchen. They get bright morning light and enough humidity to be happy with weekly waterings in the sink.

Mounting the ferns this way is very similar to how they grow in their native habitat.

Mounting and hanging them upright also allows them to drain properly and prevents the dreaded root rot issue.

Unfortunately, root rot happens (most often in a basket) because the shield fronds at the base of the fern end up trapping the moisture indefinitely instead of allowing it to drain.

As I mentioned earlier, Staghorn ferns love humidity. In fact, these ferns take in moisture through both sets of fronds.

That is why I recommend growing these plants in a bathroom or kitchen where humidity is usually high.

If that is not possible, then you will want to mist these ferns in between their regularly waterings to ensure that they receive enough moisture to stay happy and healthy.

Otherwise, the tips of the fronds will start to brown from inadequate humidity in the air.

My Watering Recommendations and Steps

I recommend watering a staghorn fern deeply once a week.

Watering a staghorn fern in the kitchen sink - J Dub By Design™
A staghorn fern being watered in the kitchen sink.

Steps

  1. Remove the mounted fern from the wall.
  2. Set the board in the sink, and turn the water to a “cool” warm temperature (not ice cold and not hot).
  3. Run the water (more than a drip, but not full blast) onto the base of the fern until the roots are completely soaked and the moss can no longer absorb the water.
  4. Then, gently mist the fronds of the fern with the sprayer nozzle of your faucet.
  5. After allowing the fern to drain into the sink for a few hours, hang the fern back in its location.
  6. Do not water the fern again until the moss feels almost dry to the touch.

Note: I have read where some growers recommend soaking the entire board in water. I have never done as this decreases the life of the board (the board will either rot, split in two, or both). Then, you will need to re-mount the fern more quickly.

Trusted Staghorn Sources

Interested in More Plant FIY?

Click here to learn how I take care of my Tillandsia, also known as Air Plants.

Here is my tried and true method for getting moth orchids to re-bloom again and again.

Are you looking for a statement plant for your outdoor gardens. Check out the amazing Whales Tongue Agave.

Ferns are a big deal on my outdoor patios. Here is my tried and true method for keeping them lush and green all summer long.

Do You Love DIY’s?

Spring is just around the corner, and my DIY Faux Orchid Arrangement will brighten up any corner of your space.

Have you seen the old leather top bow front desk I just refreshed? It is amazing and I can’t believe how easy the transformation went!

If you are looking for a unique way to add flair to a piece of furniture, check out my Anthro nightstand dupe!

Did you see the DIY Topiary I made for Valentine’s Day? You can make this for any occasion……Mother’s Day anyone?

Are you looking for a way to incorporate some easy real greenery into your home? Check out my post on all the ways you can style air plants. I also give you some helpful tips on how to care for them.

My before and after Bedroom Refresh takes my college kiddos bedroom up a few notches.

I created a Footed Stool using materials I already had laying around my workroom. You won’t believe what I used for the legs of the stool.

Recipes Anyone?

Chilled Dips?

My dill pickle dip is the BOMB! It is the perfect dip for spring and summer……if you don’t eat it all before your guests arrive.

Monterey Jack Salsa is another great crowd favorite. Your friends will be begging you to share this awesome dip recipe.

Desserts?

You will love my Strawberry White Chocolate Cookies that are also the base for the perfect ice cream sandwich.

My Lemon Meringue Cheesecake is a great dessert option for your Easter Brunch or Mothers Day Luncheon.

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