Chained Staghorn Fern Plants: Supporting A Staghorn Fern With A Chain

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By Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

Staghorn ferns are large epiphytic evergreens in zones 9-12. In their natural environment, they grow on large trees and absorb moisture and nutrients from the air. When staghorn ferns reach maturity, they can weigh up to 300 lbs. During storms, these heavy plants can fall out of their tree hosts. Some nurseries in Florida actually specialize in saving these fallen ferns or collect them to propagate smaller plants from them. Whether attempting to save a fallen staghorn fern or supporting a store bought one, hanging a staghorn fern with chains may be the best option.

Staghorn Fern Chain Support

Small staghorn fern plants are oftentimes hung from tree limbs or porches in wire baskets. Sphagnum moss is placed in the basket and no soil or potting medium is used. In time, a happy staghorn fern plant will produce pups that may cover the whole basket structure. As these staghorn fern clusters grow, they will become heavier and heavier.

Staghorn ferns that are mounted on wood will also grow heavier and multiply with age, causing them to be remounted on larger and heavier pieces of wood. With mature plants weighing between 100-300 lbs, supporting a staghorn ferns with a chain soon becomes the sturdiest option.

How to Hang a Staghorn Fern with Chains

Staghorn fern plants grow best in part shade to shady locations. Because they get most of their water and nutrients from the air or fallen plant matter, they are often hung on limbs or in the crotches of trees much like they grow in their native environments.

Chained staghorn fern plants should only be hung from large tree limbs that can support the weight of the plant and the chain. It is also important to protect the tree limb from chain damage by placing the chain in a section of rubber hose or foam rubber pipe insulation so that the chain is not touching the tree bark.

In time, rope can become weathered and weak, so steel chain is preferred for large hanging plants – ¼ inch thick galvanized steel chain is usually used for chained staghorn fern plants.

There are a few different ways of hanging a staghorn ferns with chains. Chains can be attached to wire or metal hanging baskets with ‘S’ hooks. Chains can be attached to the wood on wood mounted staghorn ferns. Some experts suggest making a basket out of the chain itself by attaching smaller pieces of chain together to form a spherical shape.

Other experts suggest making a T-shaped staghorn fern mount from ½-inch wide galvanized steel male-threaded pipes that connect with female threaded T-shaped pipe connectors. The pipe mount is then slid through the root ball like an upside down ‘T’, and a female threaded eye bolt is attached to the top end of the pipe to hang the mount from a chain.

How you hang your plant is entirely up to you. As long as the chain is strong enough to support the staghorn fern as it grows, it should be fine.

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