I've debated adding a staghorn fern to my apartment for years. My reluctance stemmed largely from a fear that I'd get sick of the thing and/or manage to kill it before I had the chance. With prices for mounted ferns ranging from $85 to $150, I wasn't ready to splurge on something that I wasn't sure about (See also: Temporary Houseplants for the Commitment-Phobe).
This week's story on Paiko in Honolulu revived my interest in the houseplant with a cartoonish resemblance to a taxidermied deer head (minus, gratefully, the beady eyes and black nose). I decided to conquer my fears and learn to mount one myself.
Several trips to local garden shops later (to say nothing of late-night wooden crate disassembly), I came up with a system that seems to be near foolproof. Here's a tutorial:
- A wooden board (I insisted on using the weathered end of a beaten up fruit crate, but any piece of flat wood will do)
- Bowl or plate for tracing
- 6 nails
- Fishing line
- 1 potted staghorn fern
- Sheet moss
- 2 screws and string (or a picture hanger) for hanging the finished board
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 up vertically, giving less surface area to mount to the board.
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.
Step 3: Hammer a minimum of 6 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.
Step 4: Add a small pile of potting soil to the board, inside the circle that you traced.
Step 5: Remove your staghorn fern from its pot and loosen (read: tear) the roots a bit so that you're left with only an inch or two of soil attached to the base of the plant. Place the plant on top of the soil.
Step 6: Tear pieces of your sheet moss and press around the base of the plant, making sure to keep the moss inside the circle of nails.
Step 7: Tie one end of your monofilament fishing line around one of your nails and stretch the line across the base of the fern to a nail on the opposite side of the circle.
Step 8: Wrap the line around the opposite nail several times (pulling the string taut), and repeat the process with another nail opposite the circle until the fishing line has been secured to all of the nails and the plant is secure. (I ended up going around each nail twice, for good measure.)
Step 9: After the plant has been secured to the board, gently lift it vertically to make sure that it's been properly attached. I did this step over the sink to catch any errant bits of soil (though shockingly little fell out). I used two screws and a bit of sturdy twine to hang my finished board in a spot that gets filtered light.
Step 10: Care for it. Mounted ferns enjoy a good shower weekly. To do this, remove the board from the wall, soak the entire board (and plant) in the tub, and allow it to dry completely before hanging back up again. A nice mist in the interim will help keep it happy.
Sound too labor intensive for you? See Expert Advice: 10 Best Low-Maintenance Houseplants.