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.
- A wooden board (I used part of an old 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 vertically, creating less surface area to mount to a 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 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.
Step 4: Add a small pile of potting soil to the board, inside the circle that you traced.
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.
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.
Step 7: Tie one end of the monofilament fishing line around one of the 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 errant bits of soil (though little fell out). I used two screws and a bit of sturdy twine to hang the finished board in a spot that gets filtered light.
Step 10: Care for it. Mounted staghorn 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 up again. A nice mist in the interim will help keep it happy.
For more ideas for staghorn ferns, see our Garden Design 101 guides, especially Houseplants 101: A Guide to Planting, Care & Design. And don’t miss:
- Curb Appeal: Year-Round Greenery in a Cold Climate.
- Christmas Cactus 101: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.
- 5 Favorites: Vegan Antlers to Mount on the Wall.
- Shopper’s Diary: Paiko in Honolulu.
- Required Reading: Evergreen, Living with Plants.
- Tropical Plants: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.