Staghorn Platycerium superbum and Elkhorn Platycerium bifurcatum ferns are both ‘air plants’, which means they don’t need soil to grow. Both will grow just about anywhere, as long as they are in filtered light with decent protection from heavy winds. They are both relatively easy to grow for even very inexperienced gardeners.
They are quite easy to tell apart. Staghorns are the larger of the two, with a large frond at the front that curves outwards. They use this frond to collect water and food as it makes its way down from the rainforest canopy. The elkhorn is a smaller fern and has multiple rosettes of foliage. The staghorns and elkhorn ferns we sell here at BAAG are attached by the growers to a backing board. These backing boards can then be fixed to a structure like a wall or a fence. They can also be attached to the trunk of a large tree. Deciduous trees work very well for this; the leaves protect the ferns from the heat and sunlight in summer, and when they drop in autumn they let the light through.
Staghorns and Elkhorn ferns both need very little maintenance. For ferns mouted on a tree the falling leaves can be a source of food for the ferns as some of them fall into the fern and rot. Ferns without the benefit of the falliung leaves could probably use a very light dose of liquid fertiliser once a year at the start of spring.
We regularly get asked about using mounting staghorn and elkhorn ferns onto their backing boards. Our supplier (who have years of experience) tell us that they mount directly onto the backing board with no moss or anything in between. This makes it easier for the elkhorn and staghorn ferns to root directly into the backing board.