Growing Staghorn Ferns: Elkhorn Ferns Care Guide

What Are Staghorn Ferns?

Staghorn fern is one of the most ancient plants, and many scientists consider this species can be a transition between modern and ancient fern because of their frond (fern leaves) types and characteristics.

These beautiful tropical plants have bifurcated leaves that have made them very attractive. They are also known as Elkhorn ferns.

This plant looks dramatic when it is hung on a wall because it seems like a living sculpture.

Related post: 23 Types Of Ferns To Grow Indoors or Outdoors

Staghorn Fern Species – Platycerium bifurcatum

 staghorn fern guide care

Staghorn fern belongs to the Platycerium genus. Though there are 18 species in this genus, the Elkhorn fern is considered the only houseplant.

Staghorn ferns are epiphytes as they grow on other plants or large trees non-parasitically in the natural habitat.

They need an extensive root system to stay attached to the trees.

Staghorn can be found mainly in tropical and warmer areas. The leaf extract of P. bifurcatum is known to have many benefits [1][2].

General Information

  • Scientific name: Platycerium bifurcatum
  • Common name: Staghorn fern
  • Sun exposure: Partial shade
  • Soil condition: Moist
  • Drainage: Well-drained
  • pH: Neutral
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic
  • Native region: South Africa, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and Australia

Types of Staghorn Fern Fronds

 staghorn fern guide care

The anatomy of the Elkhorn plant is quite different from the other ferns. The leaves are called fronds, and this fern has two different types of leaves.

Firstly, the antler fronds that arise from the center of the Staghorn. These leaves look like the elk horns, and that’s how P. bifurcatum has got their names.

Spores are produced on the bottom section of the leaves.

The second type of frond is called shield frond, which is hard and round and surrounds the plant’s base.

Shield fronds (also known as basal fronds or flat leaves) protect the base of the plant and plant roots and help them take up nutrients and water.

Initially, they look greenish but turn yellow after a few weeks.

People often get worried about Staghorn fern care when they notice these brownish leaves.

Staghorn Ferns Grow and Care Guide


It prefers growing in bright but indirect light, though it can grow in direct sun if you supply an adequate amount of water and humidity.

Be aware that direct sunlight can burn the new fronds, which are pretty fragile.


These air plants require a potting mixture to thrive.

Keep the growing medium moist for new plants, and when they become mature Staghorn ferns, you can mount them on wire baskets or hang them on walls.

To prepare the media, you should use peat moss, compost, and other organic amendments – even a banana peel will be helpful.

If you are looking for potting material that is pre-mixed and contains organic amendments, you should consider this organic potting soil. We have had many of our friends use this in your gardens and say it’s one of the best soils they have used.

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 staghorn fern guide care

Adequate watering is the key to ensuring the mature plants’ active growth as Staghorn ferns absorb water too much.

This plant grows best in a moist medium and requires frequent watering.

Due to their water demands, we suggest you use moss while preparing the potting mix.

The best way to water it is by removing the plant and soaking it in a water-filled tub for 15 minutes till the roots and root ball becomes saturated.

Don’t forget to drip dry before you hang it again.

You should maintain a good watering schedule because overwatering inhibits a good air circulation process and may cause root rot.

Temperature and Humidity

Both temperature and humidity play a prominent role in keeping this plant happy.

It grows well in high humidity and warm temperatures, though it can tolerate a little colder temperature.

Don’t let them stay in temperatures lower than 50-degrees Fahrenheit (10-degrees Celsius). 

High humidity can accelerate the growth of this plant. If the ambient humidity is low, mist the leaves with water.

You can place or hang Staghorn ferns in the kitchen or bathroom as these places are humid.


Fertilize the plant using water-soluble fertilizer during spring and summer, which are the growing seasons.

Fertilizers will accelerate the growth, and the fern can produce seeds more quickly. Reduce fertilizing during the winter as Staghorn fern undergoes dormant condition.

Propagation and Repotting

Staghorn fern needs to be repotted when they become massive and too dense.

You need to cut a portion of healthy leaves and attached root ball from the mature one and plant it in another container for repotting.

Don’t worry if the planted ones take time to produce new roots.


Does a Staghorn Fern require artificial light?

It does not need any artificial lights to grow. However, if your place lacks even the indirect sun, you can choose the artificial way.

How much light does a Staghorn Fern need?

They grow well in shade and indirect sun. So, you don’t have to worry about this if the place receives plenty of sunlight.

How frequently should I water a Staghorn Fern?

Too much watering can kill the Elkhorn. Try to maintain a schedule observing the temperature and humidity level.

Are Elkhorn Ferns toxic to humans and pets?

No. Elkhorn ferns are non-toxic.

This article describes how people grow and take care of these houseplants.

This ancient plant doesn’t require too much maintenance except a higher humidity level, optimum moisture content, and fertilizer.


[1] Mesah, J.K., Odunbaku, C., and Sonibare, O. 2006. Medicinal herbs are used for managing some ailments among the Esan people of Edo State, Nigeria. Pakistan Journal of Nutrition, 6: 490-497.

[2] Matthias, Agbo & Nnadi, Charles & Ukwueze, Nkechinyere & Okoye, Festus. (2014). Phenolic constituents from Platycerium bifurcatum and their antioxidant properties. Journal of Natural Products. 7. 48-57

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