Propagating Staghorn Ferns: Learn How To Start A Staghorn Fern Plant

Staghorn Fern Plant
staghorn propagation
(Image credit: luknaja)

A staghorn fern is a great plant to have around. It’s easy to care for, and it’s a fantastic conversation piece. The staghorn fern is an epiphyte, meaning it doesn’t root in the ground but instead absorbs its water and nutrients from the air and rain runoff. It also has two distinct types of leaves: basal fronds that grow flat and grip the plant to a surface or “mount,” and foliar fronds that collect rainwater and organic material. The two types of leaves together make for a distinctive look. What if you want to spread your staghorn ferns around? Keep reading to learn more about staghorn fern propagation.

How to Start a Staghorn Fern Plant from Spores

There are a few ways to go about staghorn fern propagation. In nature, the plant often reproduces from spores. Growing staghorn ferns from spores in the garden is possible, though many gardeners choose against it because it’s so time intensive. In the summer, look on the underside of the foliar fronds to find the spores. As the summer wears on, the spores should darken. When this happens, remove a frond or two and put them in a paper bag. When the fronds dry out, brush the spores off. Moisten a small container of peat moss and press the spores into the surface, making sure not to bury them. Cover the container with plastic and place it in a sunny window. Water it from the bottom to keep it moist. It may take three to six months for the spores to germinate. Within a year, you should have a small plant that can be transplanted to a mount.

Staghorn Fern Division

A much less intensive method for propagating staghorn ferns is staghorn fern division. This can be done by cutting a full plant in half with a serrated knife – as long as there are plenty of fronds and roots on both halves, they should be fine. A less invasive form of staghorn fern division is the relocation of “pups.” Pups are little offshoots of the main plant that can be removed relatively easily and attached to a new mount. The method is basically the same to start a pup, division, or spore transplant on a new mount. Pick out a tree or piece of wood for your plant to grow on. This will be your mount. Soak a clump of sphagnum moss and set it on the mount, then set the fern on top of the moss so the basal fronds are touching the mount. Tie the fern in place with non-copper wire, and in time the fronds will grow over the wire and hold the fern in place.

Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.