Staghorn ferns are usually grown mounted on a piece of wood or in a basket. They will need a little mound of peat, compost or other organic matter piled up under the plant. Over time the fern will produce pups that will fill in around the main plant. Ferns don’t produce seeds like most plants, so the best way to start a new staghorn fern is from its pups. Use a sharp, sterile knife to cut the pup from the parent plant. Wrap the end of the cut in damp sphagnum moss and tie it on to a piece of wood or bark loosely. Provide the same care of staghorn ferns that you would for an adult fern.
Staghorn ferns need bright, indirect light or diffused light to thrive. Do not place them in direct sun. Rooms with Southern and Eastern exposures tend to be best.
Your watering regimen consists of two processes: misting and soaking.
Misting your staghorn fern: Use a spray-bottle that emits a fine, ambient mist, such as a brass mister. Mist the entire plant, focusing on the underside of the antler fronds and the shield fronds.
Soaking your staghorn fern: Dunk your staghorn fern in a sink or basin of water for about a minute, or until the plant’s roots are fully saturated. Alternately, place the plaque in a sink or bathtub tap, and allow room-temperature water to run through the root ball until it is saturated. Allow your plant to drip dry before re-hanging.
Under and over-watering are the most common causes of staghorn fern failure. There is no hard and fast rule as to how often a staghorn fern will need watering – the amount of light, humidity and heat they receive in your home will dictate your watering schedule. A good rule of thumb is to water once per week in dry, hot times of year, and once every two to three weeks during cooler months. Start with this schedule, and adjust as necessary depending on your space. Staghorn ferns absorb water through their fronds, as well as their roots. This means that they respond well to misting and appreciate humid spaces.
More humidity = less watering. If your staghorn fern is in a space where it receives lots of ambient humidity, like a bathroom, you’ll probably be able to reduce your misting and watering.
More light or heat = more watering. During the summer, be especially attentive to your stag. Most species can handle a bit of drought, even to the point of wilting, but not much more. Through summer and fall, mist your plant regularly, and check the moss at the base of the plant regularly for dryness.
Less light or heat = less watering. Remember – these plants don’t tolerate overwatering. During the winter, you’ll likely need to cut back on watering. Keep in mind, though, that if your plant is directly over a heating duct or near a fireplace, that will dry your plant more quickly.
If the antler fronds begin to brown or blacken at the base, this is a sign of over-watering. Reduce watering to once monthly until plant shows sign of recovery. If the antler fronds begin to brown at the tips or wilt, this is a sign of under-watering. Increase watering as needed.
Fertilizing your staghorn fern will promote vigorous growth, especially in younger plants. Feed your staghorn fern monthly during periods of active grown (spring and summer). Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer (ratio of 1:1:1). During periods of dormancy (fall and winter), reduce fertilizing to every other month.
Mature staghorn ferns can survive with a twice-yearly feeding.