gardening partial shade shade

Hang a tillandsia xerographica and a staghorn fern from a tree

tillandsia xerographica on staghorn fern

A girlfriend gifted me a staghorn fern a couple of years ago. I hung it on an oak using wire. Since then, it’s had a pup that I also hung on an oak tree in the shade garden. Last month, I purchased a tillandsia xerographica at the U.S.F. Bromeliad Bash. As a stopgap, I set the airplant on top of the fern… until today.

The staghorn fern is actually pretty well anchored with its aerial roots. I helped it along by poking a wire through its basal fronds and wrapping the wire around the tree trunk. Today, I secured the momma with an extra piece of twine because the squirrels have been sitting on her in order to eat the peanuts from the feeder just above her.

Staghorns have two types of fronds… the green ones that stick out and the sterile/basal fronds that eventually dry up and turn the color of a paper bag. Pups grow off the base. This momma has three new babies starting. You can see one coming off the bottom.

staghorn fern
staghorn fern

I affixed some netting to the back and filled it with organic matter like peat moss and potting soil. Everyone once in a while, I feed it a banana peel. In the winter, I cover it with a towel on cold nights. As it got colder, I detached it from the tree and placed it on the ground (for geothermal heat) where I would throw a towel over it. Eventually, as it gets closer to freezing, I place it in the greenhouse. It definitely thrives when temperatures are above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Staghorn ferns, bromeliads, spanish moss, and air plants are epiphytes that simply anchor for support. They do not steal nutrients from the host tree and ARE NOT PARASITES. I have heard people complain that spanish moss kills their trees. This is not the case. My theory is that a dying tree may have more moss on it because the leaves have fallen off of an already dying tree. It’s like blaming the fire department for house fires because you always see firefighters during a burn.

I took some twine and tied the tillandsia xerographica with a simple knot to the oak. I didn’t wrap the string multiple times around the tillandsia…just once. It is really quite easy. I didn’t pull it too tight. It is positioned so that the cup faces upward, and it can trap water.

tillandsia xerographica air plant and staghorn fern
tillandsia xerographica air plant and staghorn fern in shade garden

Some people have absolutely ginormous staghorn ferns because they keep all the pups on the momma plant. They get so huge they need chains to suspend them. Here’s a photo I took of one at USF.

staghorn fern
staghorn fern at USF Botanical Gardens

Watch the video below for more details on how to tie a tillandsia xerographica and staghorn fern to an oak tree.

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