Platycerium bifurcatum: Staghorn Fern (Elkhorn Fern) Plant Care

What Are Staghorn Ferns?

  • Scientific name: Platycerium bifurcatum
  • Common name: Staghorn fern or Elkhorn fern
  • Sun exposure: Partial shade and indirect light
  • Soil condition: Moist
  • Drainage: Well-draining soil
  • pH: Neutral
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic
  • Native Regions: South Africa, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and Australia

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.

Staghorn Fern Species – Platycerium bifurcatum

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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 Platycerium bifurcatum is known to have many benefits. [1][2].

Types of Staghorn Fern Fronds

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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 arise from the center of the staghorn. These leaves look like elk horns, and that’s how Platycerium bifurcatum got its name.

Spores are produced on the bottom section of the leaves.

The second type of frond is called the 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.

For other types of ferns to grow indoors, read our related post on different types of ferns.

Staghorn Fern Plant Care

Staghorn ferns are native to tropical rainforests and are epiphytes, which means they grow on other plants or objects rather than on the ground. These ferns prefer moist conditions when it comes to watering. As for sunlight, they require bright indirect sunlight. Read further for more information on how to grow and propagate elkhorn ferns.


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 growing medium, you should use peat moss, compost, and other organic soil amendments—even a banana peel will be helpful.


 staghorn fern guide carePin

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 become 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 growth, and the fern can produce seeds more quickly. Reduce fertilizing during the winter as Staghorn Fern undergoes dormant conditions.

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.


How much light does a Staghorn Fern need?

Staghorn ferns grow well in shady and indirect sunlight growing conidtions. Try not to place your plant in direct sun as it is too much. Elkhorn ferns need anywhere from 4 to 8 hours of indirect light each day to trhrive.

How frequently should I water a Staghorn Fern?

Water staghorn ferns at least once a week during the spring and summer when the weather is drier and warmer. In contrast, you should water them once every two to three weeks during the cooler months. Staghorn ferns absorb water through their fronds and roots and too much watering can possibly kill them.

Are Elkhorn Ferns toxic to humans and pets?

No, Elkhorn ferns are non-toxic to humans and pets. So, you can plant them indoors or outdoors without any worries about young children or pets getting into them.

Does a Staghorn Fern require artificial light?

Staghorn Fern plants do not need any artificial lights to grow. However, if your growing location lacks indirect sunlight, you can definitely use artificial light.


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