Fixer Upper's Joanna Gaines Swears By This One Long-Living Plant

Perennial plants can live and grow for decades under the right conditions. Some examples are peonies, irises, and ferns, which are one of the oldest plants on earth and one plant Joanna Gaines loves to have around. She took to Instagram to show off the collection of plants she keeps in her home, featuring a small staghorn fern displayed on a coffee table. But her love for these plants doesn't stop there. In another post, Gaines shows Magnolia Market receiving a 26-year-old staghorn fern fondly called Earle. "One of my favorite moments when you walk into the shop is the first thing you see straight ahead. You've got this little potting moment with a sink, but right behind it is this hanging staghorn fern," she says (via Facebook).

Staghorn or elkhorn ferns (Platycerium spp.) are a unique and fascinating group of ferns that get their name from their distinctive fronds, which resemble the antlers of a stag. They are epiphytic plants, which means they don't grow their roots in the ground; instead, their roots latch onto other surfaces, commonly other plants. Because of these qualities, it's no surprise that staghorn ferns are so popular among plant enthusiasts and collectors.

Why you should consider this plant

This long-living plant makes an excellent ornamental display indoors or in sheltered outdoor spaces. You can hang staghorn ferns up on walls, mount them on wooden boards, or keep them in hanging baskets as Gaines does in her Magnolia Market. If you're just starting out with gardening, staghorn ferns are a great option. They can be easily propagated and don't need a lot of maintenance. To maintain their health and appearance, trim dead or brown fronds and monitor them for pests so you can prevent infestations. Staghorn ferns can also outgrow their mounts over time, so remount them onto a larger surface when this happens. 

They can be propagated through division by carefully separating the rooted sections or by spores by collecting some from the underside of mature fronds and sowing them on a growing medium. This makes it easy to grow them in other places or share the plant with others.

Care and feeding requirements

To keep staghorn ferns alive as long as possible, they need the right conditions and care. They thrive in indirect light; avoid direct sunlight, as it can scorch their fronds. They also prefer warm temperatures and thrive in high humidity levels. If kept indoors, regular misting or placing a humidity tray nearby can help maintain adequate moisture levels.

Staghorn ferns are often mounted on things like trees, rocks, and man-made structures, which is why Earle was mounted on a round structure and hung up in the air. They are to be fed with liquid food and a balanced fertilizer. However, the Instagram post shows Joanna Gaines dropping a banana peel on its fronds. This is because they are a great source of potassium for this long-living plant. When it comes to watering, the frequency depends on the environment and size of the plant. Water once a week when it's hot and dry and every two or three weeks in the winter, and be careful not to overwater so the roots don't rot.