Staghorn Fern Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Platycerium bifurcatum”

Read our guide to Staghorn Fern plants for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for planting & caring for "Platycerium bifurcatum"
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If you are looking for an interesting plant to add to your indoor garden, the Staghorn fern may fit the bill. This creative looking plant grows to epic proportions once mature and looks quite similar to deer antlers. It is a great way to bring a bit of Australia into your home without ever having to whip out your passport.

They do require a bit more attention than most houseplants in order to thrive, but they are still very popular among homeowners all over the world. This epiphytic plant has two leaf forms and grows well mounted on substrates. The flat leaves are rather small and cover the root structure of the plant. They are tasked with soaking up both nutrients and moisture from the soil.

About the Staghorn Fern

  • The Staghorn Fern is part of the Platycerium genus.
  • There are 17 Platycerium species.
  • Staghorn ferns look very much like elk antlers.
  • Over saturating the staghorn fern plant can be harmful to its health.
  • These ferns love bright light and humidity.
  • Staghorn fern plants must have a very efficient drainage system.
  • The hotter it is outside, the more water a staghorn fern plant will need.
  • Propagating Platycerium plants takes time and patience.
  • Mature Platycerium epiphytes thrive mounted on bark or plaques.
  • These ferns can be planted in hanging baskets.
  • The staghorn fern should be fertilized with a diluted solution once weekly.
  • Mature staghorn fern plants thrive when mounted instead of potted.
  • This fern can propagate by division or spore.
Staghorn Fern on a tree
Staghorn Fern on a tree

Staghorn Fern Features: An Overview

  • Of all Platycerium species, only P. bifurcatum common.
  • Staghorn ferns are considered hard to grow.
  • Staghorn fern plants are epiphytic.
  • There are two specific leaf forms on the Staghorn fern plant.
  • The base feature pronged fronds that are a dark green color.
  • Make sure to nurture young staghorn fern with rich compost soil.
  • Many fronds on Staghorn fern plants can grow as long as three feet long.
  • The Staghorn fern is a native Australian plant.
  • It is important not to over saturate epiphyte plants or risk damaging their roots.
  • This fern is unable to tolerate direct sunlight.
  • The staghorn fern plant grows well when mounted on plaques.

Growing The Staghorn Fern

Growing staghorn fern plants does take a bit of concentrated effort. This attractive plant has two leaf structures and a very unique root system that allows it to grow fronds as long as three feet. There are a few different types of Platycerium, some of them are actually rare and much sought-after collector’s strains.

Since staghorn fern plants are epiphytes, their growth patterns and habits are much different than most house plants. Even the way the plant needs to be watered is different and will take some time to get used to. That being said, with the right care and a little patience, your staghorn fern plant will grow and thrive as part of your indoor garden.

When planting the staghorn fern, make sure that it is not placed in direct sunlight. It loves plenty if indirect bright light as long as it also is provided with ample levels of humidity and warmth. The common staghorn grows well mounted on plaques but can also thrive in other containers.

Regardless of where they are planted, they will need a highly efficient drainage system in order to survive. The plant is able to live in very cold and even freezing temperatures for a short time, but they prefer humid, warm conditions. A compost that is well-drained and rich in nutrients is ideal for younger plants while mature staghorn fern plants should always be mounted.

During the main growing season, feed your staghorn fern with a diluted fertilizer once a week. You can also substitute liquid fertilizer with slow-release pellets. Pellet fertilizer needs to be placed in the center of the main plant for proper distribution to the roots. Once a staghorn fern has been mounted, it should not be removed or disturbed other than cuttings for propagation.

Platycerium bifurcatum
Platycerium bifurcatum

Watering The Staghorn Fern

Watering the staghorn fern has a bit of a learning curve. It needs plenty of water during the spring and summer. These are the main growing months and they will consume the most water during this time period. Their moisture and watering needs are directly linked to the temperature outdoors.

As the temperature rises, you will need to give the plant more water, when the temperature drops, it will need to be watered less often. While this may seem simple, if the temperature fluctuates often, you will need to change your watering habits to match those fluctuations accordingly. The staghorn fern also loves warmth and humidity, but take care not to have an oppressive level of humidity.

There are many forms of staghorn fern, but the most common is Platycerium bifurcatum. All varieties need careful attention when being watered to ensure they get the right level of moisture they need to thrive without being overly saturated. Some species of the fern are rarer than others, with the rarest being too large to easily house indoors.

You can purchase this plant at most gardening centers where they can offer your specific watering instructions that will match your local climate. The main thing to remember is that they should be misted on a regular basis and they also need plenty of ambient humidity during the growing season. In the winter the fern requires less water, but should still be misted on a regular basis.

Platycerium bifurcatum seedlings
Platycerium bifurcatum seedlings

Propagating The Staghorn Fern

Propagation of the staghorn fern can be accomplished either by spore or through division. You can take a mature Platycerium and divide it into smaller, independent plants. Simple take small chunks of the Platycerium plant that contains a portion of the root ball and a leaf. This should be potted in rich soil that is also well-draining.

While these divisions are small, they will need to be kept both moist and warm until the roots have been properly established. In general, it takes a while for new divisions to root, and in some cases, new divisions may fail. It takes practice and patience to propagate a new staghorn fern. Even for veteran gardeners, propagating a Platycerium can be difficult.

Immature Platycerium plants grow well in loose, but nutrient-rich potting soil. As they mature, they will need to be transferred to another medium. Because they are natural epiphytes, they should be transferred to a plaque or even attached to a healthy piece of tree bark once matured.

Playtcerium Bifurcatum Live Plant, From Amazon

You can secure them with glue or even a bit of loose breathing pantyhose. Just make sure that the roots are wrapped well in moss so that they stay moist and keep the plan alive. You can also hang the fern in a suspended basket. This is less than idea since the roots and the fern will eventually grow through the lining of the basket. When this happens, they will form a ball under the basket which can be visually unappealing.

In Conclusion

For those looking for an artistic addition to their indoor garden, the Staghorn Fern is an unusual plant you may want to try. You can enjoy the mature plant mounted on wood while immature plants are able to be grown in a pot. The Staghorn Fern is not the easiest houseplant to cultivate, so if you are just starting out, keep this in mind. They are similar to bromeliads and orchids in that they are natural epiphytes. You can house them on other plants or on plaques or wood bark cuttings.

These unique plants are from the tropical rain forest and have a beautiful appearance to match. There are two distinct types of leaves; the green ones on the top of the plant and the brow flat leaves at its base. Both are essential to the health of the plant and serve very specific purposes.

They thrive when grown outdoors but can also live indoors with the right atmosphere and proper care. The best way to ensure your plant gets the light they need is to place it in a bright room that offers it plenty of indirect sunlight. In the wild, they grow under lightly shaded tree canopies, though too much shade can be harmful.

Avoid high levels of heat and make sure their roots always have the right amount of circulation to allow them to breathe. They need a lot of water and plenty of mist in addition to a humid environment. You should water the plant once a week, but mist it daily. They soak up water from their leaf fronds and their roots.

In general, the staghorn fern is very long-lived and will make an attractive addition to any home.


Hollie is a life-long gardener, having started helping her Dad work on their yard when she was just 5. Since then she has gone on to develop a passion for growing vegetables & fruit in her garden. She has an affinity with nature and loves to share her knowledge gained over a lifetime with readers online. Hollie has written for a number of publications and is now the resident garden blogger here at GardenBeast. Contact her at or follow on twitter

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