Decorating with Stag Horn Ferns: Meet Philomena!

Stag Horn Fern and Bench(That’s Philomena! Above, top right.)

 

I have a thing for garage sales. My mom and I go ever Saturday, like it’s our religion, and most people we know are dumbfounded by this. They pepper us with questions. “Do you haggle?” No, we’re shy so we usually pay full price unless that price is ridiculous and we’re brave enough to suggest a lower figure. “What are you looking for?” Nothing in particular. It’s like a treasure hunt. We go with an open mind in search for awesomeness–at a fair price.

 

 

Gilded cash register This was $1,200. I don’t know if that’s a fair price or not. But I do know it did not make my cut for “reasonably priced items for staging.”

 

 

Case in point, the other day, I found these, in a box marked “Free”. Seriously? Seriously. For free. The garage sale woman was so nice, she reiterated, “They’re free,” in case I had missed the sign. (I had not.) JB and I just finished making a table (more on that in a future post) using turned legs from Home Depot (at $10 a leg x 4 legs, definitely not free), so I cursed myself a bit for not being prophetic enough to foresee that there would be free table legs in my future. Oh well. It’s okay, there will be more tables to build. I can see it already.

 

 

Carved table Legs

I get excited every time I look at these. All that carving…and free! 

 

 

Anyway, I also have a thing (read: big, pulsating crush) for stag horn ferns. You know, these guys.

 

 

Stag horns on wall

 

 

 

JB’s last name starts with a “B” and rhymes with “luck” so you can imagine why all things resembling antlers and horns have a special soft place in my heart.

 

 

Stag horn on white house

 

 

 

See the resemblance?

 

 

Real stag

 

 

So when I found this stag horn fern at a garage sale for $15, I handed over my fifteen dollars. (Home Depot charges $45 for the same size so this was a case of very fair pricing.) I christened it Philomena (I guess I gave it a gender, too) and brought it home with all sorts of ideas blooming in my mind. Note: I name all my houseplants. Philomena joined her siblings Gertrude, Anastasia, Penelope and Roger. The “boy” in the bunch belongs to JB. Somebody needs to have some kids already, eh?

 

 

Stag Horn Fern MountedThis is Philomena before I gave her some style.

 

 

I thought maybe I’d hang her in the bathroom because stag horn ferns are fans of humidity–they don’t like the temperature to dip below 65 degrees–and we all know showers make bathrooms feel a bit equatorial every time we use them. But she didn’t look right there. (I did, however, suspend an air plant and moss in a glass orb to see how an air plant survives in a bathroom. I can tell you they do not survive in my office or living room.)

 

 

 

Feeding Stag Horn Banana PeelFood (banana peels or Gro Now tablets) goes right back there.

 

 

But I had the perfect place outside. So I hung her. Then I fed her. Yes, here is maybe the best part of owning a stag horn fern: you can/should/will really want to feed them banana peels. The woman who sold her to me told me once a month. Advice on the internet runs the gamut from one per month to 4 to 8 per month. I’m sticking to one per month since I also  read that the decomposing banana peel can attract fruit flies. If you own one, please let me know if you feed it banana peels and how often.

 

 

Stag Horn Fern in Bathtub

I took this picture standing outside the restaurants The Lark and The Lucky Penny, here in Santa Barbara. I have stag horn fern (and galvanized bathtub) envy. So pretty!

 

 

Then my garage sale partner (aka, my mom) called and said, “You know what would look good? A frame around Philomena.” My mom’s an artist so she’s always coming up with clever ideas like that. I don’t know how I got so lucky (for my mom and for what I’m about to tell you), but I happened to already own an empty frame that was…the exact size I needed. I popped it over the board Philomena was mounted on and it fit–just like that. I know, right? (Note: Frame was former garage sale find. One of those items I had no idea what I’d do with it, but for $2, I knew I would come up with something. And that, is why, garage sales are worth getting up early for.)

 

 

Stag Horn Fern Framed

Lookin’ good Philomena! 

 

Before I go, I feel like I must impart some of my new-found knowledge about stag horn ferns. Allow me to boil my hour of internet research into a palatable few factoids. If you happen to have a giant stag horn fern, like my friend Tim, and should separate it into smaller pups (yes, that is stag horn fern lingo; you read it here) so the weight of one doesn’t make your tree topple over and so you can pass the pups on to a dear friend who really loves stag horn ferns and can think of a few other place she (eh hem!) would like to put them, you can watch a great video on how to do that here.

 

 

Stag Horn by House

 This is my friend Tim’s stag horn fern. I think it needs dividing…

 

 

 

Hanging Stag Horn

Tim is the lucky owner of this beautiful monster, too. Which also looks in desperate need of dividing…(in my biased opinion).

 

 

 

Stag horn fern cluster

I’d turn it into this.

 

And now, a bit of advice…

 

Stag Horn Fern Facts (try saying that 5 times fast!):

 

1. SHFs are epiphytes or “air plants” which means they do not need to have direct contact with the soil. They take their nutrients from the air.

 

 

Stag horn ferns on patio

 

 

2. And banana peels. To feed your SHF a banana peel, stick it behind the mound of the plant.  (See photo with my hand, above.) The decaying peel will feed the plant–and a few fruit flies, so watch out. The potassium in the banana peel helps offset sodium and SHFs, like many humans, try to avoid sodium. If you don’t want to attract fruit flies with decomposing banana peels, place two Gro Now tablets in the back of the plant (where the banana peels would otherwise go) once or twice a year. As the plant is watered, the nutrients will be released.

 

3. There are 17 species in the SHF Platycerium genus. One of them is known as “Hula Hands” and has fronds that appear to curl and wave in the breeze, much like the hands of an actual hula dancer.  Note: Alas, this is not the variety I have.

 

 

Stag horn fern office

 

 

4. If the root ball looks dry or it is hot and dry outside (like it is now; 86 degrees in March, by gosh!) water the plant twice a week by drizzling water into its mound or submerging it in a bath or bucket of water. When it is not hot, watering once a month should suffice. (Keep an eye on that root ball!) Mist your SHF, using clean water, as often as you’re trigger finger can handle–they love it!

 

5. The plant forms it’s own mounding backdrop from what are called base shields. As new ones form, old ones die and decompose allowing the plant to feed itself.

 

 

Stag horns Elle Decor

Image via Elle Decor

 

6. As one site said, they like “bright shade”. Yes, that’s a bit of an oxymoron, but they went on to clarify saying, “filtered sun.” If you keep yours indoors, SHFs prefer natural light from a south or east facing window. They don’t want to get chillier than 55 degrees so if you have yours outside, like mine, you may want to hang it so you can bring it in at night during the winter.

 

7. Don’t wipe the soft fibers when cleaning the leaves.

 

 

Stag horn ferns on walljpg

 

 

8. Name your SHF. Bucky? Fernalicious? Staggy? I’ll leave this part up to you.

 

 

Do you have any tips on taking care of stag horn ferns? Do you love them as much as I do? (Hard task, as I love them a lot!)

 

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2 Comments on Decorating with Stag Horn Ferns: Meet Philomena!

  1. Chloe
    August 11, 2014 at 2:32 PM (5 years ago)

    absolutely delightful article on stag horn ferns. I have one and needed ideas of how to mount it. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Kisha Gianni
      August 11, 2014 at 10:33 PM (5 years ago)

      Thank you! Besides looking at Philomena (my stag horn fern), the best part of owning a stag horn fern is feeding her banana peels once a month. The novelty has not worn off!

      Reply

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