Plants 101

How to Care for a Staghorn Fern

A Staghorn Fern is a unique and visually striking plant known for its antler-shaped fronds. Learn how to create the best growing conditions for this pet friendly plant, and keep it happy and healthy in your home for years to come.

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The Staghorn Fern resides in the Platycerium genus which includes around 17 fern species native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world. These ferns are named after the shape of their unique fronds, which resemble the antlers of a male deer or stag. The most commonly grown Platycerium species include the bifurcatum, ridleyi and elephantotis.

The Staghorn Fern naturally grows as an epiphyte in their native environments. Epiphytes are plants that grow on top of other plants, typically trees, co-existing in the most harmonious, harmless way. They derive their nutrients and other vitals from the air, water, dust, and debris around them.


The Staghorn consists of several distinctive parts, each playing a role in the plant's growth and development:

  1. Basal Fronds: The basal fronds are the oldest and largest fronds that are typically broad, flat, and shield-shaped, resembling the outline of a stag's antlers. Basal fronds provide support and protection to the plant and serve as a base for the growth of new fronds.
  2. Fertile Fronds: The fertile fronds are the reproductive structures of the plant. They differ in appearance from the basal fronds and have a more elongated shape with spore-producing structures called sporangia. Fertile fronds are typically located towards the center of the plant.
  3. Shield Fronds: Shield fronds are rounded structures that emerge at the base. They resemble small scales or shields and provide protection to the plant by covering the root system and helping to anchor the fern to its growing surface. Overtime, the shield frond will start to die back but a new shield will emerge to take its place.


Staghorn Ferns prefer bright, indirect light. Direct sunlight can scorch their fronds, while too little light can stunt their growth. Placing them in an East or West facing window, or a diffused South window will be ideal. Unobstructed North exposures can work but may causes stunted growth and leaf loss. If your space doesn't provide enough natural lighting, or if you'd like you to mount it on a wall away from a window be sure to utilize a grow light.


Staghorn Ferns are sensitive to overwatering and should be allowed to dry out between waterings. When watering, saturate the soil evenly and allow excess water to drain out of the planter. If your Staghorn Fern is mounted, bring the mount to a sink or tub and give the moss ball a good soak.


Staghorn Ferns thrive in high humidity environments ranging between 30-40% indoors. You can mist the fronds daily, but placing a humidifier nearby will most consistenly maintain adequate humidity levels. Not sure if humidity is high enough? You can measure the level of humidity with a hygrometer or LTH meter.


Staghorn Ferns prefer temperatures between 60-75°F and doesn't have a strong cold tolerance, taking damage by cold drafts or temperatures below 55°F.


As epiphytes, Staghorn Ferns do not naturally grow in soil but they can live in a planter as long as a well-draining potting mix is used. Alternatively, they can be mounted on a board or hung from a basket filled with sphagnum moss, bark chips, or a mixture of both. These materials help retain moisture and provide a substrate for the ferns to anchor onto. Check out our How to Mount a Staghorn Fern blog post to learn how to mount yours today!

Common Problems

SYMPTOM: Wilting fronds, dry potting mix

CAUSE: Underwatered

SYMPTOM: Yellowing leaves, wet potting mix:

CAUSE: Overwatered

SYMPTOM: Shield fronds browning

CAUSE: Natural occurence, a new shield frond will grow to take its place

Words By The Sill

Empowering all people to be plant people—a collection of articles from The Sill’s team of plant experts across a variety of plant care topics to inspire confidence in the next generation of plant parents. Welcome to Plant Parenthood™.

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