Elkhorn Fern

All You Wanted to Know About the Elkhorn Fern

The Elkhorn fern goes by a couple of other names, including staghorn fern and antelope ears. Besides the multiple names, one of the most interesting things about the Elkhorn fern is that it does not need soil to grow. Elkhorn ferns can be grown in pots, but they will also grow in the crooks of trees, off of rocks or hanging from strong branches. This particular fern is one of the most interesting plants to grow at home, and it is also quite easy to maintain. The only problem Elkhorn growers may run into is that the fern grows so large that moving becomes a major project.


An Elkhorn is usually started in a tree, tucked between some low branches, but it can also be started in a pot with everyday potting soil. These plants can be grown from just a 2-foot section of a healthy plant that has been separated and broken off to start new growth. The new piece of fern is simply placed in the crook of a tree and attached with some thin wire, arranged gently so as not to harm any part of the plant. Then a bit of moss is tucked in between the fern and the tree to give the plant something to grow with and help it attach to the tree.

This type of fern has a tendency to grow quite large in the proper environment. And by large we’re talking 20 pounds or more. Since size may be a concern when the Elkhorn or staghorn fern matures into a full-grown plant, it is a good idea to think long and hard about where to place these ferns.

This particular type of fern is probably best planted outside, because its growth may cause space problems when grown in the house. Of course, Elkhorns will grow indoors, and their unique appearance can make for a great conversation piece. When planting a staghorn fern inside, make sure you provide enough space to allow the plant to thrive. If it begins to get too big for the indoor space, the fern can always be separated and made into two smaller plants.

Elkhorn or staghorn ferns do not especially enjoy being placed in direct sunlight, and they don’t do well in cold temperatures either. This type of fern grows best in the deep south and southwestern states. Elkhorns do like humidity, though, so they are not a typical desert plant, even though they don’t require a lot of watering to stay healthy and grow. Most staghorn ferns are sheltered by the shade of the tree they attach to or hang from, so they do not get more sunlight then they can handle.

When it comes to watering, Elkhorn ferns are not very fussy at all. Since they are not grown in a traditional pot with soil, they obviously cannot be watered like the rest of the plants in the garden. These ferns do well with a regular misting of water along their leaves and roots. Some people take a hose to their staghorns every once in awhile and give it a good soaking, but this is not something that should be done very frequently. In fact, many Elkhorn keepers admit to practically ignoring their ferns. Despite the lack of frequent attention, Elkhorns soak in the moisture they find and manage to grow and flourish in the most unusual of locations.

If you are looking for a truly unique plant that does not require constant attention, then the Elkhorn or staghorn fern may be just the plant for you.