P80415Staghorn ferns are epiphytes. They cling to tree trunks, rocks or whatever they happen to grab onto. They can root into decayed wood if it is porous enough, but they are satisfied to just cling to the exterior. They do not need soil. They sort of make their own soil by collecting debris that falls from the canopies of trees above. In the jungles where they live, they get all the water they need from rain. They often live in the crotches of branches because that is where they happen to land. (The epiphyte I wrote about earlier was just a palm that landed in the wrong place, but is not really an epiphyte. https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/epiphyte/ )

In home gardens, staghorn ferns are often grown on wooden plaques so that they can be moved around like potted plants. Because it does not rain much here, they need to be watered occasionally. They do not grow very fast, but eventually need to be attached to larger plaques, or divided into smaller clumps that fit onto new plaques. Alternatively, they can be grown like plants in hanging pots, but without the pots. Even if they start out in pots, they may eventually envelop and obscure their pots, and form a big rounded hanging mass that only wants water and debris from above. A small bit of fertilizer might improve their naturally light color, but too much will roast leaf margins.

My colleague Brent Green acquired this humongous and well rounded specimen from a client who wanted it removed from an olive tree that it had grown too big for. It had been there for decades. Brent gives it a banana every month or so because it likes potassium. It does not get much debris from above in Brent’s well groomed garden.


19 thoughts on “Stag Party

    1. They are expensive here as well, especially such big specimens. There was a restaurant in Pasadena that had a few very large specimens hanging on chains from trees, and two that were about as big as this one hanging from the big trunks of coral trees.

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    1. Brent just drops it in on top. It decays just like any other debris that the ferns would collect. There is a larger specie of staghorn fern with larger upper fronds that flair outward to funnel debris in. This is not so obvious with these smaller ferns. All of Brent’s ferns seem to be happy. I took a few that were just as happy in my garden, and I just dropped in a bunch of old valley oak leaves in every once in a while, but never gave any of them a banana.

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  1. I have a mental image of holding a banana out tentatively and the fern reaching out for it, the banana vanishing into the plant’s depths and then a moment later the empty banana skin dropping to the ground.

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    1. Even if I could afford to send it there, you would not want to move it around from the garden to the glasshouse. If you can see the black railing in the background, that is the top of the stairs to the roof deck. The fern hangs just about a foot below the deck, and about two feet from the ground, so if the garage is ten feet tall, the fern is about six or seven feet tall and just as wide. it is very heavy. If you decide to grow one, start with a small one! They really dislike cold weather!


    1. Brent also says they like fertilizer; but he also fertilized another staghorn fern too much so that the foliage burned. It was the species with the bigger leaves that look like moose antlers. I never fertilized mine. The color was fine, but they did not grow very well until they went back to Brent’s garden.

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    1. Yes! Brent was not happy about taking it away from the olive tree where it had lived for so long. The olive tree looks better without it, but it was sad to see it go.


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