There are many amazing plants you can choose for your garden that don’t actually sit in the soil. Known as epiphytes, plants such as staghorn ferns (Platycerium superbum) and elkhorn ferns (Platycerium bifurcatum) happily grow in the wild – on tree branches and trunks, fallen logs or rocks – and simply live off the nutrients and water from the air and surrounds. Because of this characteristic, these marvels are popular for mounting on boards and hanging on walls to add flamboyant greenery to blank spaces.
What's the difference, anyway?
The staghorn is bigger than the elkhorn. It features a large central rosette of leaves below which pendulous fertile fronds hang down. Elkhorn ferns have multiple small rosettes, or nest leaves, from which slender, pendulous strap-like fronds cascade. Only elkhorns produce pups whereas stags must be propagated from spores.
Gather your supplies
• Staghorn or elkhorn
• Horizontal slats (5) 90 x 22 x 650mm treated pine decking
• Vertical battens (2) 90 x 22 x 450mm treated pine decking
• Galvanised hooks (2)
• Galvanised chain
Note: You may need to adjust the measurements and number of the treated pine battens and slats to suit the size of your fern.
You'll also need
PVC-coated tie wire; 40mm galvanised screws; galvanised staples; pruning saw; hammer; drill; secateurs; straightedge or ruler; bucket; tape measure; sphagnum moss.
Put vertical battens on a flat surface, about 300mm apart, making sure they’re parallel.
Place horizontal slats on battens, leaving a 80mm overhang on each end of slats.
Find centre of each batten. Rule a horizontal line through this point, across slats. Using line as a guide, screw slats to battens
On middle 3 slats, mark drill holes 10-20mm in from screws on each side – this is for threading the wires so they will evenly hold the weight of the fern. If necessary, adjust spacing to suit your fern. Drill a hole through each marking, all the way through the vertical battens.
Position fern on board. Insert 1 wire end into 1 hole and feed through enough wire to reach centre of back of board. Pull other end across fern. Trim wire, ensuring there’s enough excess to tie ends together at back. Feed this end of wire through corresponding hole at opposite end. Repeat twice.
Holding fern in place with 1 hand, stand board upright. Pull 2 wire ends so they’re firm, then twist together to secure. Repeat for remaining wire ends. Hammer in staples to secure wire to back of board.
If necessary, tidy up your fern by trimming off dead and browning par ts. Soak sphagnum moss in a bucket of water, then grab a handful, squeeze out excess water and use to fill gaps between board and plant. This will help the fern to retain moisture between watering.
Standing board upright, predrill and screw galvanised hooks into vertical battens. Attach a chain and hang.