When it comes to home decorating, I’m a “less is more” kind of person. Maybe it’s due to having moved three times in two years and wondering, as I pack and unpack endless boxes of stuff, “why do we even have this!?” So in an effort to streamline, we’ve pared down on our possessions in the last couple years. Then earlier this month, we moved from a 500-square foot apartment to an 800-square foot one and found we had a shortage of things to fill it with.
Enter plants! I love how houseplants make a room feel instantly brighter and more homey. Unlike most decor items that add clutter but no utility to a room, plants are functional. They purify the air and are even said to improve focus, reduce stress and promote well-being. I’m not sure of the science behind some of those benefits, but having something green in every room makes me feel happy, and that’s reason enough for me to have lots of them around.
I picked up this staghorn fern for our bedroom, where it basks all day in bright, filtered light. Like air plants, staghorn ferns are epiphytic, meaning they grow on the surface of other plants rather than in the ground, and absorb moisture and nutrients through their fronds. Because of their shallow, rot-prone root systems, staghorn ferns kept as houseplants don’t do well in potting soil. Instead, a staghorn fern should be mounted on a plaque, which mimics its natural environment and doubles as a truly impressive art piece!
- a staghorn fern (of course!)
- a few handfuls of sphagnum moss
- a plaque; this can be a piece of driftwood, some pallet board, or any other wood surface
- a hammer and several nails (preferably with a wide head)
- fishing line or twine
- a picture hook or mounting hardware of your choice
- Start by picking a healthy plant; avoid ones with black or yellow areas at the tip or base of the fronds, or fronds that look wilted.
- Prepare your plaque. I used wood glue to connect four pieces of driftwood for mine. Install whatever mounting hardware you have to the back of the plaque. Using a large mug or a bowl, trace a circle in the center of the plaque. It should be just a bit wider than the roots of the plant. Hammer several nails into the circle you traced, about 2 inches apart.
- Carefully remove the plant from its container and remove as much of the soil as possible, while trying not to tear the roots. Fit a layer of moss within the circle, then set the plant on top of it. Make sure it's facing the way you it want it to hang.
- Take large pieces of moss and wrap them around the base of the plant, snugly covering the roots but not smothering small fronds at the base. Wrap a couple layers around the plant until you can't see any soil or roots through the moss.
- Now tie a piece of fishing line to a nail, leaving a tail of a few inches, then stretch the line taut across the plant diagonally, hooking it around a nail head. Criss cross the plant several times until the plant and moss are held securely in place. Make you way back to the first nail and tie off the line using the tail you left.
- Finish by watering the staghorn fern well before hanging.
- Your staghorn fern will do best in bright light, but avoid harsh and direct sun. It appreciates some humidity, good air circulation, and won't do well right next to a heater, vent or fan.
- Watering consists of soaking the plant occasionally, and misting it in the interim. Once a week in the summer, and once every 2-4 weeks the rest of the year, lay the plaque face down in room temperature water until the plant is thoroughly soaked. Gently shake off excess water, then hang to dry. Give the staghorn fern a light mist once a week, or twice if it's especially hot. You can probably skip misting if you live somewhere humid. Postpone watering if the plant still feels wet, or if you notice black spots on the fronds; these can be a sign of too much moisture.