Mounting a staghorn fern

I’ve debated hanging a staghorn fern in my apartment for years. But with prices ranging from $85 to $150 for a mounted fern, I was afraid I’d get sick of the thing–unless I killed it first.

Our recent post on Paiko in Honolulu revived my interest in staghorn ferns, so I decided to conquer my fears and mount one myself. Several trips to local garden shops later (to say nothing of late-night wooden crate disassembly), I came up with a foolproof system. Here’s a tutorial:

Photography by Erin Boyle.

Above: The finished project—we’ll get there!

Materials

  • A wooden board (I used part of an old fruit crate, but any piece of flat wood will do)
  • Bowl or plate for tracing
  • Pencil
  • Hammer
  • 6 nails
  • Fishing line
  • 1 potted staghorn fern
  • Sheet moss
  • 2 screws and string (or a picture hanger) for hanging the finished board

Above: Choose a staghorn fern that has a flat surface.

Step 1: Start out with a healthy staghorn fern. I had the best luck mounting a staghorn fern that had a relatively flat shield (the brown shield-like part of the plant base). The shields sometimes grow vertically, creating less surface area to mount to a board.

Above: Draw a template.

Step 2: Use something round to trace a circle on your board that’s at least an inch wider than the circumference of the plant you’re hoping to mount.

Above: Create a support system for the staghorn fern.

Step 3: Hammer a minimum of six nails evenly spaced along the circle’s edge. Leave at least 1/4 inch between the board and nail head. The more nails you use, the more opportunity you have to secure your plant, so feel free to go crazy.

Above: Lay a base of soil on the board.

Step 4: Add a small pile of potting soil to the board, inside the circle that you traced.

Above: Prepare the staghorn fern for mounting.

Step 5: Remove the staghorn fern from its pot and loosen (read: tear) the roots a bit so that you’re left with only an inch or so of dirt attached to the base of the plant. Place the plant on top of the soil.

Above: Use sheet moss as a green backdrop.

Step 6: Tear pieces of sheet moss and press around the base of the plant, making sure to keep the moss inside the circle of nails.

Above: Secure the fern.

Mounted Staghorn Fern:

Spring is officially here! And today I’m celebrating by showing you how I made this DIY Mounted Staghorn Fern.

I know I’m a few years behind the mounted staghorn fern trend, but I still hope this tutorial is helpful. The reason I wanted to make and share this project with you is that I had signed up to take a class here in Pittsburgh to learn how to make one. Unfortunately, the class was canceled twice and never rescheduled. Whomp. Whomp. That’s why I decided to make a mounted staghorn fern on my own.

During the winter holidays, I hung a ceramic deer bust above the TV in my living room. I needed something to replace it, and this ended up being a fun solution. What do you think?

These staghorn ferns have gained popularity as a mounted plant because they look like horns. See what I mean?

While it’s certainly enough on its own, I may tweak or add to the design down the road. As it is, this mounted staghorn fern is an unexpected way to enliven a space with greenery for spring.

How To Mounted Staghorn Fern:

For this project you will need:
A piece of wood or a wood tray
Sawtooth hanger
8 screws or nails with a head
Fishing line
Sheet moss
Staghorn fern plant
Screwdriver
Hammer

To start the project, get a piece of wood on which to mount the plant. I used this tray I picked up at HomeGoods. However, you could use a scrap of lumber, old barn wood, a log slice, or even an old cabinet door.

On the back of the wood, attach a hanging device. I find a sawtooth-style hanger to be the easiest to work with, but anything that will allow you to attach your finished piece to the wall will work.

Next, attach eight screws (or nails) in a circular shape on the front side of the wood. The placement of the circle is up to you. Just be sure to consider your overall design and the final location of your mounted fern.

As a guide for adding the screws, I recommend using a plate, bowl, or circle pattern you have made. Since I was going to mount a larger fern, I used a 6-inch diameter plate for my guide.

Space the eight screws evenly around your pattern. (As I mentioned, you can also use nails, but make sure they have a large flat head so the fishing line will not slip off.)

Once your board is prepared, you’ll want to get your plant ready. After you remove it from its container, use your hands to loosen the roots and break away any access soil. You can also trim the roots if needed.

Now add a thin layer of moss to the inside of the circle shape you created with the screws. Place the fern on top of the moss. When you do this, take into account the direction of the leaves, the best side of the plant, and where your hanger is on the back. (You don’t want to plant your fern upside down.)

Then, start to wrap the moss around the roots of the plant. You’ll want to completely cover all the roots and soil.

With everything covered, you’re ready to attach the fern to your board. To begin, secure one end of the fishing line onto one of the screws with a knot. Then work the line across the moss-covered roots, going from screw to screw to secure the plant to the wood. Continue to work back and forth in various directions between the screws.

Pull the line tight to ensure everything is held firmly in place. Once secure, knot the fishing line on one of the screws to finish things off. To ensure full coverage, add additional moss as you work.

At this point, your project is almost complete. All you need to do is fluff the moss to hide any signs of the fishing line.

I also recommend watering your plant before hanging it on the wall. Allow any excess moisture to drip off before hanging. In between waterings, mist the plant and root ball with water to keep it moist.

To prevent possible moisture damage to your wall, leave a small space between your wall and the wood board. You can do this by affixing a few plastic/acrylic furniture floor protectors to the back of the mount.

And with that, your DIY Mounted Staghorn Fern is complete! Cute, right?

If staghorn ferns are not your thing, experiment with other houseplants!

To purchase a staghorn fern, visit your local nursery or plant supply store. I have occasionally seen these ferns at the home improvement store as well. You can even find them online!

If you liked this Staghorn fern project, you might love these too:

  • DIY Terrarium
  • Kitchen Herb Garden
  • Succulent Garden Bowl
  • Tabletop Cactus Garden
  • DIY Vertical Herb Garden

I hope you enjoyed this DIY project. If you tackle this project or something similar, please share it on social media and tag @inspiredbycharm and use the hashtag #myIBC. I love seeing your creations.

Happy Planting!

I‘d like to take a little detour away from sewing today, if you’ll permit me. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that I have two domestic obsessions: my cats and my houseplants. My plant habit started innocently enough. I started picking them up here and there at Ikea and Home Depot, but over the years I’ve gotten bored with the more traditional offerings and have started buying more exotic plants whenever I stumble on them. I love weird, architectural species and I don’t think a room ever looks finished without a pop of green. It still feels like a miracle that you can grow beautiful things inside and I’ve gotten to a point where I’m using apps and spreadsheets to keep track of my inventory and various watering and fertilizing needs. When I get into something, I get into it.

On a recent visit to my hometown, we visited Colasanti’s, a great nursery I’ve gone to since I was a kid. They always have a wide selection of weird green babies, and I pretty much started hyperventilating when I laid eyes on a Staghorn Fern. These are epiphytes, which is a fancy way of saying air plant. In the wild, these plants grow on vertical surfaces like tree trunks and rocks, so as a houseplant they are happiest when mounted and hung on the wall. The beauty of these plants is that they look like deer antlers – it’s like living taxidermy! They are easy to care for and look so beautiful and unexpected in an interior that I thought I’d share a tutorial on how to mount one should you ever stumble upon one at a nursery.

SUPPLIES

  • A staghorn fern (you can buy them online here)
  • A piece of wood to use as a mounting surface – weathered and salvaged wood looks particularly nice
  • Potting soil
  • Long strand spaghnum moss or sheet moss
  • Nails – preferably galvanized to avoid rusting
  • Fishing line
  • A bowl for tracing
  • A hammer
  • A pencil
  • Picture hanging hardware

Unfortunately I didn’t have any old weathered wood lying around, but I did have some scraps of plywood left over from my cutting table DIY. I cut a piece roughly 14″ x 14″, stained it using my beloved Minwax White Wash Pickling Stain and sealed it with Minwax Polycrylic Finish. Plywood does not hold up well over time so I will likely have to remount this as the plant grows. You can really mount these plants to anything vertical so don’t be afraid to get creative. It would look great mounted to raw lumber, sliced tree trunks, driftwood, you name it.

PREPPING THE BOARD

Once you have your surface prepared, you’ll want to use a bowl a little bigger than the plant to trace a circle. This will act as your guide for the nails. I used regular construction nails, but next time I would probably choose something with a broader head to make it easier to hold on to the fishing line. Hammer in the nails an inch or so apart, but not so far in that they go through to the other side.

You can install your mounting hardware before or after – I used these saw toothed hangers and hammered them in with the accompanying brass nails.

Once your board is ready, spread a few handfuls of potting mix in your circle. Since these are air plants, they don’t need a ton of growing medium, but you want something for the roots to sink into.

We can’t just plop the plant unto this soil. We need to break up the roots a little and flatten it out a bit so the plant isn’t projecting too far from the board. Be gentle as you break the roots apart with your fingers.

One important thing to note is that you cannot remove the hard, brown leaves on your plant. These are called basal fronds and they create the protective shield for the plant. In my case, the leaves were growing away from the base so I made sure that when the plant was hung, the shield was on the top side so that the leaves could grow downward. Place the plant on the board and add a little additional soil over the top of the plant.

WRAPPING THE BASE IN MOSS

These plants love humidity and moisture, so they need to be wrapped in moss to both contain the growing medium and keep the roots moist. All of my research indicates that spaghnum moss is the way to go. While I love the look of green sheet moss, it can be a challenge to find it in the sphagnum variety, so I used dried long strand moss I found online. Loose moss is obviously more challenging to contain, but it’s cheaper and I like the way the warm brown texture looks next to the green pop of the leaves. If you are using dried moss, soak it in room temperature water for a half hour or so to soften it up.

Squeeze the water out of the moss and wrap the plant with it. I used quite a lot as I wanted a nice, thick moisture containing barrier. Compress it as much as possible with your hands. I also stuck bits and pieces in to fill in any spaces between the nails.

Once you have a nice thick mass of moss with no visible soil, tie a fishing line to one of your nails. Criss-cross from one nail to another, wrapping a few times around each nail, careful not to catch the leaves with the line.

Go back and forth many times over, criss-crossing frequently. If you are using loose moss, this step is critical to make sure everything is secure. At the end, wrap the line around the perimeter of the nails a few times to make sure none of the loose moss can fall out.

You may need to tuck a few strands of moss under the wire here and there, but the fishing line is surprisingly good at containing all that organic material!

Before hanging, bring your board to the tub and use a cup to give the base a good soaking with room temperature water. Try to avoid getting too much water on the leaves as they are prone to fungus. Let it drain for an hour or so and you’re ready to hang it!

As the plant grows, you may need to remount it to a larger surface but since they are slow growers this could take years. Water weekly in the tub or sink, more often if it is hot out. You can check the soil by sticking your finger in the moss. They also love a good misting so keep a spray bottle nearby (I try to do it every day). In terms of sun, they like bright, indirect light. This is a fantastic article on the staghorn fern if you want more information about these amazing plants!

Thank you for humoring my plant obsession. I may share a few more posts about my favourite green dudes in the future since I think houseplants get a bad rep for being hard to care for. Like any hobby, once you nail down a few basic principles it becomes much easier to get going.

The covered porch on the side of my house that overlooks the farm is the perfect place to hang big ferns, in particular, Boston ferns and staghorn ferns. Here is what it looks like during the warmer months.
I love the way these lush green staghorn ferns catch the sunlight. These plants are mounted on wooden boards. Staghorn ferns are epiphytes, which means they are air plants. They gladly grow on a wall mount, which lets air circulate around them.


Recently, I purchased several smaller stagnhorn ferns that needed mounting. There are about 12-thousand fern species, and ferns are amongst the most ancient plants.
Ryan uses the same kind of wooden boards used to mount the rhipsalis earlier in the week. For this project, he starts by cutting a piece of burlap the same size as the back of the frame.
These frames measure about 12-inches by 15-inches. They were made right here at the farm using wood from felled trees.
Once the burlap was cut to the appropriate measurements, using a stable gun, Ryan affixes the burlap to the back of the frame.
He pulls the burlap taut as he staples to make sure it’s very secure.
Using a piece of monofilament, or fishing line, Ryan strings it through the burlap and around two or three of the middle slats.
And then ties the monofilament in the rear of the frame.
This will be used to hang the staghorn once it is mounted.
Here is how it looks from the front of the frame.
Next, Ryan takes the fern out of the pot and loosens up the old potting medium. This promotes good nutrient absorption.
Here, Ryan places the fern in between the slats so it is snug, and then secures it with garden wire.
Any gardening wire can be used to secure the staghorn to the board. Wire can be purchased at gardening shops or hardware stores.
Ryan also uses twine to give the rootball more support.
Here is the fern completely attached to the frame. Fern leaves are actually called fronds, and staghorn ferns have two types. The first is the “antler” frond – these are the large leaves that shoot out of the center of the plant, and from which staghorn ferns get their names, since they resemble the antlers of deer or moose. The second type of staghorn fern frond is called the shield frond. These are the round, hard plate-like leaves that surround the base of the plant. Their function is to protect the plant roots, and take up water and nutrients.
Because there was room, Ryan attached another fern to the board in the same way.
Next, Ryan used Spanish moss to fill the rest of the frame and to cover the soil and roots. Spanish moss is an epiphytic flowering plant native to much of Mexico, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Central America, South America, the southern United States, and the West Indies. It grows hanging from tree branches in full sun through partial shade.
Ryan places a generous amount of Spanish moss around the plant.
The Spanish moss also gives the staghorn a nice finished look.
Here is another frame ready to be filled with moss.
For this one, Ryan uses green moss. Mosses are small flowerless plants that typically grow in dense green clumps or mats, often in damp or shady locations.
Ryan packs it in tightly to secure the staghorn and to fill the crevices of the frame. The idea is to make sure the plant, frame and moss are making good contact. Eventually the shield fronds will grow and cover the base of the staghorn fern and help the plant attach to its home.
Here is Ryan holding up the finished staghorn. It is a good idea to hold it vertically before hanging to make sure it is well supported and not tipping out of the frame.
Here is one of the mounted ferns hung on a pillar in the main greenhouse. It looks so beautiful.
I am looking forward to seeing these on my porch this summer.

Ripper Idea – Elkhorn Fern

SERIES 30 | Episode 11

Gardens and plantings do not need to be limited to garden beds and pots – vertical spaces present heaps of opportunities for great plantings. Josh shows us how to successfully mount an Elkhorn Fern (Platycerium bifurcatum), a great architectural foliage addition to just about any garden. Being an epiphytic fern means it will grow without soil on the surface of a tree, or, in this case, a backing board.

  • Hardwood for mounting (Josh uses reclaimed Jarrah)
  • Picture hanging bracket or mounting hook
  • Tacks or screws
  • Hammer or drill
  • Wire, string, plant tie or fishing line
  • Coir chips
  • Coir pot liner

Method

  1. Using a circle of coir matting (or hanging basket liner), cut and fold to make a triangular pouch leaving an opening at the front.
  2. Place the coir pouch onto the backing board with the point facing down, and trace around the pouch with a marker
  3. Using a drill, insert 6 – 8 screws around the sides of the outline on the board – these will act as anchor points for holding the pouch. Leave the head of the screws 5mm out of the board to allow wire or plant tie to be twisted around them.
  4. Remove the Elkhorn gently from the pot, removing as much of the existing potting mix as possible. It is important to ensure the “scales” or “shields” at the base of the fern remain in place – they will eventually secure the plant to the mounting board by enveloping it.
  5. Insert the plant gently into the coir pouch, tucking the coir under and around the scales.
  6. Secure the top of the coir pouch with a metal clip, wire or similar
  7. Fill the inside of the pouch with a mixture of hydrated coir and seed raising mix, and pack in around root system
  8. To secure planted pouch to board, lay pouch on the backing board and run wire across the front of the pouch and twist around the screws
  9. Turn the board with the attached fern upright and mount in position on a wall. Ideal position is in a sheltered spot outdoors, receiving broken morning sun and afternoon shade.
  10. Water in well, keep moist (but no wet) and provide an organic fertiliser (and a banana skin) every few months.

I have some creative ideas for displaying mounted Staghorn ferns using repurposed materials and no nails!

This tutorial was presented on the Home & Family show on the Hallmark channel where I appear as the garden lifestyle and design expert.

Fans of home and garden TV will love this unique talk show!

Enjoy this rainforest wonder plant indoors and learn how to care for it.

ABOUT STAGHORN FERNS (Platycerium bifurcatum)

Staghorn ferns grow into a huge plant under ideal conditions which are warm, temperate and humid conditions.

  • The Staghorn fern is an exotic epiphyte plant that grows directly on trees and stone and draws nutrients from falling leaves that are caught by the ferns “antlers.”
  • Native to Australia and tropical, South East Asia, the Staghorn fern has two distinct leaf forms with its own function.
  • The smaller leaves cover the roots and help take up water and nutrients and are sterile, (they don’t bear spores).
  • The larger fronds resemble a stag’s horn and bear spores on its underside which help propagate the plant.
  • The large fronds can grow up to 3 feet long, depending on variety.

SHIRLEY’S STAGHORN FERN MOUNTED PLANTS

Browse some of my designs and if you are interested in replicating them, read the instructions below on “Preparing Your Staghorn Fern for Mounting.”

Staghorn Fern Mounted to Acacia Wood Cutting Board

Staghorn fern mounted to an acacia wood cutting board with burlap

After preparing the Staghorn fern for mounting, I wrapped it in burlap and hung it from the cutting board handle.

This is a unique and affordable way to display your Staghorn fern.

HomeGoods offered this acacia wood cutting board for approximately 10 dollars.

In a few years, the Staghorn fern will outgrow the cutting board and become very heavy.

At that point, the basal fronds will attach themselves to the board and not rely on the burlap for support!

Staghorn Fern Mounted to A Driftwood Photo Frame

Small Staghorn fern mounted to a driftwood photo frame.

My head started spinning with ideas when I came across this rustic driftwood photo frame from HomeGoods.

The opening for the photo measures 5″ x 4″-inches, perfect for my small Staghorn fern plant.

The back of the frame is open so it will be easy to water it by taking the frame down and dipping the back of the plant into a bucket of water!

As the plant grows it will basically “swallow” the frame, enveloping it completly.

I suggest that as it outgrows the space, move it and replace it with another small Staghorn fern.

Staghorn Fern Mounted to a Black Metal Fruit Bowl

Staghorn fern mounted to a black metal fruit bowl.

A black metal fruit bowl from HomeGoods, (again!) is repurposed as a planter!

I was looking for a contemporary style product to reinterpret as a planter- what do you think?

Mounting the fern to the open grid was easy to do with metal wire and will be easy to take down for a good soak of water!

If I allow the plant to grow in the metal planter indefinitely, two things may happen:

  • The metal may rust after a few years
  • The plant will swallow the metal basket

I can’t think that far in advance, so I’m not sure what I’ll do!

Staghorn Fern Planted in Large Driftwood Stump

Staghorn fern planted in crevice of large driftwood stump.

There’s a special story behind the stump of driftwood that I used as a “living sculpture planter” for the Staghorn fern.

A homeless man who I befriended entrusted the beautiful driftwood stump to me to be it’s “guardian” as he had no place to keep it.

This man found the stump when he was out and about with his daughters when he still had a home and they were very young.

The memory of him being with his girls is connected to this momento so it’s a precious possession for him.

He is estranged from his daughters now, making this unassuming stump even more important.

The Staghorn fern is planted in a large crevice along the top.

Now that I’ve served up some inspiration of repurposed Staghorn fern mounts, are you ready to make some of your own?

PREPARING STAGHORN FERN FOR MOUNTING

Materials

  • Small Staghorn fern
  • old pantyhose
  • sphagnum moss
  • fishing wire (25-50lb capacity)

Directions:

Remove any soil surrounding the roots of a small Staghorn fern and cover with wet sphagnum moss.

Place inside a piece of pantyhose. Secure with wire.

Cover the exposed pantyhose with decorative sheet moss or coconut fiber, WRAP with wire.

You are now ready to attach the prepared Staghorn fern to your selected mounting material!

WATERING AND MAINTAINING INDOOR STAGHORN FERN

  • Staghorn ferns thrive outdoors in humid climates (50-90 degrees) or indoors in high humidity rooms such as a bathroom or greenhouse.
  • Indoors, watering should be light but often, approximately every other day in the summer and twice a week during the winter as moss dries up.
  • Apply water to the root area which is blanketed in sphagnum moss when it feels dry.
  • During spring through summer, fertilize your Staghorn with a balanced, (1:1:1 ratio) half diluted plant food added to the water once per month.
  • Mist-spray your Staghorn regularly to maintain high humidity.

LOCATION NEEDS FOR INDOOR STAGHORN FERN

Bright light but not direct sunlight or it will scorch your plant.

OUTDOOR LOCATION FOR STAGHORN FERN

If you live in a tropical and humid area, you can grow Staghorn ferns outdoors!

Ideal temperatures are between 50 and 90 degrees.

Older, established plants may fare well in slightly colder and warmer temperatures, but this is the comfort zone.

Place your Staghorn in light to partial shade and bring indoors to humid room when temperatures dip below 55 degrees.

STAGHORN FERN FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

Why should Staghorn ferns be hung?

In nature, Staghorns are epiphytes and grow attached to tree trunks and stone and make ideal vertical plants.

The beauty of the shape of the Staghorn fronds are more visible when the plant is hung on its side.

How do you water an indoor Staghorn fern? How often?

Indoor Staghorns are dependent on you for their humidity needs and should be watered when the moss area is dry to the touch and misted regularly.

During the summer, this can be as often as every day or every couple of days, depending on how hot and dry you keep your house.

In wintertimes, you may only need to water once per week.

Apply water directly to the moss root area.

You may need to take down your wall mount and dip the roots in a bucket of water, so plan for this when creating your display mount.

Don’t drench the roots with water, water lightly as Staghorn roots and basal fronds may rot.

The rule of thumb is frequent, light watering over drenching your plant each time you water it.

How big do Staghorn ferns get?

Outdoors, under ideal temperatures and high humidity, Staghorns and their pups, (plantlets) can span 6 feet wide or more!

Staghorns can become very heavy, reaching hundreds of pounds.

What other plants can you combine with Staghorns for a pretty display?

Combine your small indoor Staghorn fern display with other epiphyte plants such as bromeliads, orchids and tsillandsias for a pretty combination.

Be aware that with time, the secondary plants will be overtaken by the larger Staghorn fern.

Succulents also combine well with Staghorns as their roots can also be wrapped in moss and watered as needed.

How long do Staghorn ferns live?

Well maintained Staghorns can be passed down from generation to generation as “legacy plants” and live hundreds of years through their progeny.

Should the small fronds be removed as they turn brown and old?

Don’t remove the small, infertile fronds that attach themselves to surfaces when they turn brown.

Your Staghorn will grow many layers of these round fronds which help capture nutrients from air and water for your plant.

The natural breakdown of these fronds provide hummus for the plant.

How do you propagate a Staghorn fern?

Staghorn ferns have spores that can be used for propagation but it’s an involved process that takes patience and experience.

An easier way to cultivate more plants is by dividing small plantlets that emerge at the base of the plant.

Do you have any questions about mounting Staghorn ferns?

Please leave a comment below!

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