Platycerium bifurcatum: Growing and caring for Staghorn Fern

Staghorn Ferns or Elkhorn Ferns are peculiar houseplants that can be found growing on surfaces of substrates like trees.

Staghorn Fern

The Staghorn plant is perfect for small spaces like a balcony where they can be grown on balcony rails. 

They are native to the tropical regions of Australia, Asia, and New Guinea. They are slow growers that could grow to a height of 3 feet. 

It belongs to the Polypodiaceae family and features green flat leaves that take the shapes of Elk horns (which is where it gets its nickname). 

Staghorn ferns are non-toxic to plants and animals but should not be eaten in large quantities. 

Botanical NamePlatycerium bifurcatum
Common NamesElkhorn Ferns or Staghorn Ferns
OriginAustralia, New Guinea, and Asia
Plant TypeEpiphytic, fern 
Full SizeFrom 2 feet to 3 feet tall and from 2 feet to 3 feet wide 
Sun ExposurePartial or Indirect sunlight 
Soil TypeEpiphytes
ToxicityNon-toxic to people and pets

Staghorn Fern Care

It is a bit difficult to care for Staghorn Fern as they do require to be paid close attention. Meeting  their basic light, water, and temperature requirements would be necessary for proper growth.

Staghorn Fern Care

Staghorn Fern Light Requirement

Staghorn Ferns require a healthy dose of partial sunlight to grow well. However, providing too little sunlight can cause stunted growth for the Fern. 

Under the right temperature and humidity, the antler fern plant can tolerate exposure to direct sunlight, but prolonged exposure can leave the plant’s fronds scorched. 

Place the exotic fern into a shaded room with enough lighting. A westward-facing room with a window would be perfect for the Fern plant. 

Staghorn Fern Water Requirement

Frequent watering is important for the Elkhorn plant and this should be done at least once a week during the hot season and perhaps once in 2 to 3 weeks during the cold seasons. 

You would want to let the base of the plant dry before the next watering session. To make things easier, it is recommended that you remove the fern plant from wherever it has been hung and soak it in a tub for about 20 minutes. 

After the plant’s roots have received enough water, you can proceed to drip drying the fern and then rehanging it. 

Be careful, because excess watering can lead to the fern’s fronds wilting or turning brown at the base. 

Staghorn Fern Soil Requirement

Staghorn Fern Soil Requirement
Tom Orchid Nursery

As Epiphytic plants, Staghorns do not require a potting soil mix to grow healthy as they mature. However, during its young state, it would require some potting soil.

Also, before mounting your Staghorn fern on a surface, you would be required to use a little peat, moss, or organic compost as a base. 

Staghorn Fern Temperature and Humidity Requirement 

Staghorns require warm and humid environments to thrive. They can survive cold climates, but prolonged exposure would be harmful to the plant. 

Keep the temperature range between 50 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. And to help with humidity, you can try spraying the fronds with water often or making use of a humidifier. 

It also helps to mount the Staghorn Fern in a kitchen or bathroom or any room with a high level of humidity. 

Staghorn Fern Fertilizer Requirement  

Fertilizing your Staghorn fern should be done in the summer or spring season as this is when the fern plant is most active and this should be done once a month.  Avoid fertilizing the antler plant during the winter season and limit fertilizing to once in 2 months during fall. 

The fertilizer type to use should be a liquid soluble fertilizer that would have been diluted to about 50% of its initial strength 

Staghorn Fern Propagation Requirement 

Staghorn Fern Propagation Requirement 
Pistils Nursery

You can propagate the Staghorn fern in two ways, these are;

  • Propagation by Spore
  • Propagation by division

Be careful when propagating by division so as not to hurt the Fern fronds. 


 Staghorn Ferns are regarded as non-toxic plants, but it is recommended that you avoid eating them as they could lead to stomach upsets.

Common Health Problems of the Staghorn Ferns

  • Black Spots
  • Spider Mites
  • Brown Tips

Frequently Asked Questions

Where do staghorn ferns grow?

Staghorn Ferns are native to Australia, New Guinea, and parts of Asia

Where can I get Staghorn Ferns?

When figuring out where to buy staghorn fern, you can order them from online florist stores

Are Staghorn Purifiers?

Staghorn Fern does contain air purifying abilities 

How much sun does a staghorn fern need?

Providing access to little direct sunlight, it does however do well in partial sunlight.

What is so special about a staghorn fern?

They are epiphytic plants that grow on the trunks of other plants.