Asparagus fern is a sprawling shrub native to coastal southeastern South Africa. Despite the common name, it is not a true fern, but is in the asparagus family (Asparagaceae) or the lily family (Liliaceae, which includes plants such as amaryllis, daylilies, hosta, and tulips) depending on the classification system used. It is in the genus Asparagus, which includes the edible A. officinalis, along with about 300 other species. The exact classification of this species is a bit confused, with most references to Asparagus densiflorus, but the names A. aethiopicus, A. sprengeri, and Protasparagus densiflorus are also used as well by some.
‘Meyeri’ asparagus fern in a container
This tender evergreen perennial with bright green, ferny foliage is commonly used as an outdoor ornamental plant or houseplant. In mild climates it is planted outdoors as a groundcover or in containers. It is hardy in zones 9-11, but the roots will often survive to zone 7 if protected. In more temperate climates it is used as a seasonal annual or container plant. In its native habitat, asparagus fern is found in shady, sandy sites, including coastal dunes, open rocky places and woods. Where it has escaped from cultivation, it is generally found along shady roadsides and invading woodlands or rainforests where it displaces native vegetation and prevents native species from reestablishing. It is considered an invasive weed in some locations, including Florida, Texas and Hawaii in the US.
Asparagus fern produces long, upright or trailing, branching stems sparsely covered with sharp, stiff spines in the axils. The rounded stems, up to 6 feet long, are green to brown in color and have a shallow indentation along their length. What appear to be leaves are actually leaf-like cladodes (short, flattened stems that look and function like leaves). These needle-like “leaves” arise in groups of four to eight from the nodes along the stem. The true leaves are barely visible scales near the base of the cladodes. Plants have a dense fibrous root system as well as creeping rhizomes and numerous fleshy white bulbous tubers.
The trailing stems (L) have groups of leaf-like cladodes (LC) that arise from the longitudinally ridged stems (RC). Sharp spines (RT) and the true leaves are barely visible at the base of the cladodes (RB, where arrow is pointing).
Small white or pinkish-white flowers are produced in elongated clusters (racemes) along the stems from spring through fall on mature plants with sufficient light. Each flower has six tepals (3 petals and 3 sepals similar in appearance). Although fragrant, they are small enough not to be very noticeable – and plants grown in temperate climates often do not bloom. Plants are dioecious. If pollinated, female flowers are followed by small round berries up to ¼ inch in diameter. The green fruits mature to a glossy red, and each contains one to three black seeds. Many birds are attracted to the fruits, and are responsible for unintended seed dispersal in mild climates. The berries can cause dermatitis when in contact with skin and gastrointestinal upset if ingested, and are toxic to cats and dogs.
Small, pinkish-white flowers (L) are followed by red berries (C and R).
Plant asparagus fern in full sun or light shade; plants grown in full sun are more compact and dense than those grown in shade. It does best in moist soils rich in organic matter, but tolerates almost any conditions and is fairly drought tolerant once established.
Asparagus fern can be used as an annual foliage plant for textural contrast.
Asparagus fern is valued as an ornamental for its bright green, arching stems and airy foliage. Its fine foliage gives a soft or fluffy appearance and can be used to good effect for textural contrast in combination with plants having medium or coarse-textured foliage or very large leaves. It can be planted in the ground with other annuals as a bedding plant after the last frost in cold climates. This plant makes a great filler plant in containers, especially in hanging baskets or large urns where the delicate foliage can cascade down. It has a tropical feel when combined with elephant ears, canna lilies and hibiscus. The foliage can also be incorporated as a filler with cut flowers in arrangements.
Asparagus fern is a great houseplant for novice gardeners as it doesn’t require any special care. It grows well in direct or bright indirect light (the brighter the light, the faster it will grow) and because of the tuberous roots which store water, it can tolerate periods of neglect. It does best with consistent moisture, although plants should be kept drier in the winter and any fertilization stopped during that time. The foliage will yellow and drop if the soil is too dry or there isn’t enough light. Old or yellowed stems should be cut out at the base and the ends of stems can be trimmed back to keep the plant shaped.
Asparagus can be planted in the ground to use as a seasonal annual in cold climates
In the spring trim out old growth and begin fertilizing monthly for lush new growth. These plants can quickly outgrow their containers, so need frequent repotting to keep them growing vigorously. The roots are also quite strong and can break pots, so larger, thicker containers may be desireable. Repotting is best done in early spring before new growth starts. Indoor plants can be moved outdoors seasonally (bringing them back inside before frost), but should be acclimated to the stronger light outside before being moved to a spot in full sun. This plant has few pests, indoors or out, but occasionally become infested with aphids, mealybugs, spider mites or whiteflies.
Asparagus fern can be propagated from seed and division. Seeds will germinate in 3-4 weeks at room temperature. Scarify the seeds and soak in water for a day before planting to hasten germination. Plants can be separated into smaller pieces or the tubers will regenerate plants. Spring is the best time for division, but these tough plants can be propagated at almost any time of the year.
The cultivar ‘Meyeri’ has denser foliage that makes an interesting focal point.
The two most common varieties are ‘Sprengeri’ and ‘Meyeri’. The latter, commonly called foxtail asparagus fern, has more upright stems with denser foliage, resembling a fluffy animal’s tail, radiating outwards from the center of the plant. This cultivar is especially nice as an upright focal point in the ground or a container surrounded by lower plants. It does not produce seed as readily as the species so does not have the same invasive potential in mild climates. ‘Cwebe’ has graceful, upright, arching stems and copper-colored new growth. It does best in light shade. ‘Sprengeri Nanus’ and ’Sprengeri Compacta’ are more compact forms.
– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison
- Asparagus Fern
- Asparagus Fern
- Garden Plans For Asparagus Fern
- Colorful Combinations
- Asparagus Fern Care Must-Knows
- More Varieties of Asparagus Fern
- How to Grow Asparagus Fern
- An Evergreen Beauty Queen with Many Varieties
- Easy, Peasy Growing Tips
- Where to Buy
- Beauty and Braun
- Asparagus Fern Overview
- Caring for Your Asparagus Fern
- Asparagus Fern Plant – How To Take Care Of Asparagus Ferns
- Information on Asparagus Fern Care
- High Desert Plant Finder & Guide
- Asparagus fern going yellow?
- How to Cure Wilting Asparagus Ferns and Other Problems
Versatile asparagus fern is an attractive herbaceous perennial that is easy to grow, though not actually a fern. Plant asparagus fern in garden beds where it is used as a creeper in warmer climates. It can be invasive, so keep an eye on it. You will more often find asparagus fern growing indoors as a dense, bushy houseplant with lace-like foliage that forms an incredible mound.
Garden Plans For Asparagus Fern
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The soft texture of this plant’s small needle-like leaves adds an airiness to plants in mixed combinations. Asparagus ferns will delight you with dainty white blossoms followed by red berries that attract birds. In garden beds, they spread vigorously by their fleshy roots as well as when birds eating the berries deposit seeds.
Asparagus Fern Care Must-Knows
Asparagus ferns perform best in an organically rich, well-drained soil. Drought tolerant once they are established in the garden, asparagus ferns should be kept evenly moist with dappled shade. As potted houseplants, asparagus ferns should be placed in indirect or filtered light for best results. During warmer months you can move asparagus ferns outdoors to a shaded porch. Asparagus ferns prefer warm and humid climates (about 70 degrees F) and cannot withstand temperatures below 55 degrees F for very long periods of time. Asparagus ferns do not require periods of winter dormancy but will appreciate a resting period and reduced watering during the winter months.
To promote dense plant growth, pinch back the stem tips. If plant shape becomes too sprawling, the stems can be cut back close to the soil to regenerate and encourage new growth. During their active growing period, apply a weak liquid fertilizer about once a week. You’ll know when asparagus fern needs to be divided or repotted. Watch for fleshy bulbs to push the plants out of the pot. At this point, you can repot in a slightly larger container or divide the plant. When dividing, be sure to take several of the underground bulbs. Mature asparagus fern plants can become quite woody with sharp spines on the branches. This is something to keep in mind when trimming older plants.
More Varieties of Asparagus Fern
Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myers’ has dense, bottle-brush-like stems that grow more upright. It makes a better tabletop plant than hanging basket.
Asparagus setaceus looks the most like a true fern. The spreading layered stems are covered with tiny soft needles. Older stems can grow several feet long. Cut them back to promote denser growth.
‘Sprengeri’ Asparagus Fern
Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’, the most widely available variety, has arching stems with 1-inch-long dark green needles.
Asparagus fern is a member of the lily family, and the Asparagus genus. However, it bears no resemblance to either, and as a matter of fact, isn’t even a true fern.
This is because it sets seed rather than producing spores.
Another contradiction is that what we would typically call leaves are actually “cladodes” in the case of this plant, or flattened stem portions, while the true leaves are tiny scale-like protrusions you may not even notice.
Furthermore, this evergreen has two sides to its personality: in zone 9 to 11 gardens, it tends to grow so vigorously that it has become invasive in Florida, Hawaii, Texas, and abroad.
But as a potted houseplant, it’s a gem! Read on to learn how to cultivate some exceptional varieties of this ornamental South African beauty in your home.
How to Grow Asparagus Fern
- An Evergreen Beauty Queen with Many Varieties
- A. densiflorus
- A. retrofractus
- A. setaceus
- Easy, Peasy Growing Tips
- Where to Buy
- Beauty and Braun
An Evergreen Beauty Queen with Many Varieties
Cascading, feathery leaves so airy and light they have an ephemeral quality characterize the many varieties of this plant.
Photo by Allison Sidhu.
But beware! Beneath mature wispy layers of green are sharp spines to remind you that the dreamy texture is more of an attractive facade.
Note that this plant is also toxic to pets, and should be kept away from small children.
A. densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’ with white flowers and brown spines.
There are numerous species growing in the wild, but you won’t generally find them on the market, including medicinal A. racemosus, and climbing A. africanus.
I consulted the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder to get the details on several types most likely found when houseplant-hunting, and here they are:
There are two common cultivars of the species A. densiflorus, Myeri and Sprengeri.
When shopping for these types, you are likely to come upon variations of their standard species and cultivar names, like A. densiflorus ‘Myers,’ A. densiflorus ‘Myersii,’ A. densiflorus ‘Sprengeri,’ and even A. sprengeri.
Unfortunately, corruptions of the proper botanical names abound, but don’t let them confuse you.
Foxtail plumes of A. densiflorus ‘Myeri.’
In addition, per the horticulturists in the Master Gardener Program Division of Extension at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “the exact classification of this species is a bit confused, with most references to Asparagus densiflorus, but the names A. aethiopicus, A. sprengeri, and Protasparagus densiflorus are also used as well by some.”
Also known as foxtail fern, A. densiflorus ‘Myeri’ has a characteristic conical plume shape.
Each stem is densely packed with leaves resembling pine needles and stands distinctly away from the others like the fluffy tail of a fox, hence the name. White flowers may appear in the summer, followed by red berries in the fall.
Mounding A. densiflorus ‘Sprengeri.’
Often called emerald fern, A. densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’ has a mounding habit, and airy foliage that resembles small pine needles on gracefully arching stems.
Mature specimens become almost woody. They may bear white blossoms followed by red berries, depending upon gender, a characteristic that’s seldom known in advance by the purchasing consumer.
Also known as A. myriocladus, A. aethiopicus cv. ‘Myriocladus’, or A. macowanii, this is a lacy kind frequently used in cut floral arrangements.
A. retrofractus is sometimes called pom-pom asparagus fern because needle-like leaves appear in clusters sporadically along slender stems.
Pom-pom clusters of A. retrofractus.
It’s also referred to as zig-zag fern, because of the interesting back-and-forth arrangement of its branches. White blossoms leading to orange berries that mature to black may appear.
Also known as Protasparagus setaceus or A. plumosus, A. setaceus is a twisty climber bearing the closest resemblance to a typical fern, in my opinion. Leaves like the finest pine needles adorn stems in a triangular pattern.
Feathery layers of A. setaceus.
It grows in a shrub-like upward fashion, with layer upon layer of delicate branches. White blossoms and deep purple berries may appear.
As we’ve mentioned, asparagus fern is not a true fern. As a matter of fact, it has more in common with edible asparagus, A. officinalis. Both are herbaceous perennials that require moist, organically-rich soil, but the similarities don’t end there.
Like asparagus fern, the vegetable is also dioecious, meaning they produce both male and female plants; both types flower, but only the females set fruit.
In addition, both display nondescript scale-like “leaves,” although with asparagus fern they are actually not leaves, but cladodes, as described.
And finally, while the two species may be grown from seed, it is less challenging and more common to start both from tuberous root cuttings.
Easy, Peasy Growing Tips
Cultivation is easy once you know how. Wear gloves to avoid being nicked by thorns, and the rest is smooth sailing.
Compactly pruned A. densiflorus ‘Sprengeri.’
Choose a container that is sturdy, as the root system of this species is vigorous enough to burst right through a thin plastic pot. Use an organically-rich potting medium that is slightly acidic, and be sure your pot has adequate drainage holes.
During the growing season, keep the soil evenly moist, but not drenched. Fertilize lightly with an evenly balanced slow-release houseplant fertilizer if desired. In winter, growth slows down, and less water is required.
Some folks let the soil dry out between waterings, but you run the risk of causing stress that may result in leaf browning or leaf drop. However, if cladodes should turn yellow, water less often.
Provide bright, indirect or filtered sunlight. Direct sunlight may burn the leaves. Avoid drastic temperature changes and inadequate light, which may cause the cladodes to drop.
Repotting a vigorous grower.
Spring is the time to evaluate your plant. If you find you need to trim away some yellow or brown needles, or a stem that is throwing everything off balance, prune at the base of a stem, not at the tip or mid-section. Periodic pruning of “old wood” keeps stems youthful and fresh.
Then, decide if you need to repot. While some argue that asparagus fern likes to be potbound, I recommend repotting when it becomes so rootbound it begins to burst through its pot.
Choose a container that is a few inches wider and taller than the diameter of the rootstock to allow for room to grow. You may also ease your rootbound plant out of the pot and divide it before repotting it. The divisions make nice gifts for friends.
If you decide not to repot, refresh the old pot with the addition of some fresh potting medium worked into the existing soil.
As the growing season gets underway, begin to fertilize once a month. Discontinue application as fall approaches and growth slows down.
Photo by Allison Sidhu.
Plants grown outdoors are treated similarly. Spring is the time to prune and begin fertilizing. Work some organically-rich compost into your soil, and be vigilant about maintaining even moisture throughout the growing season.
Plants have a tendency to become invasive outdoors, so divide bed and border plants as needed. As an alternative to in-ground planting, consider setting pots of asparagus fern out among specimen plantings to contain their spread.
If you’re lucky enough to have blossoms, watch for berries so you can save the seeds to start new plants. When the berries soften and begin to decay, pick them and remove the seeds. Be sure to wear gloves, and keep the harvested berries and seeds away from children and pets.
Photo by Allison Sidhu.
Wipe off all the berry pulp and allow the seeds to dry thoroughly in a cool, dry location. When you’re ready to plant your seeds, scrape them gently with sandpaper and soak overnight before sowing.
Propagating by this method may be challenging, as there are only one to three seeds per berry, and they don’t always germinate.
It’s always a nice surprise to find berries. I’ve had a few on indoor plants. And while there’s no visual way of determining if you have a female plant when you purchase it, you can provide the best possible conditions for fruiting with abundant sunlight and a consistently moist environment.
Outdoor plants in warm climates are the most likely to set fruit, and may produce clusters of red or orange berries.
Photo by Allison Sidhu.
Most varieties that grow to maturity reach at least two feet in length, but some types may grow several more feet under optimal conditions, rewarding you with 10 or more years of lush growth.
Barring temperature extremes, and with proper light and water, you should experience few disease or pest issues.
Stress from over- or under-watering may create the right environment for aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and whiteflies to infest the plants.
Use an insecticidal soap or neem oil to remedy the situation, and don’t hesitate to fertilize lightly and prune hard for a fresh start.
Where to Buy
Now that you’re acquainted with varieties and cultivation, let’s shop!
Please keep in mind that vigorously growing asparagus ferns planted outdoors may become invasive in certain climates. Also, most won’t perform well in temperatures below freezing.
In addition, we never know if we’re getting a male or female plant, and while both may produce blossoms under optimal conditions, only females set fruit.
A. Densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’ 6-Inch Hanging Baskets
A. densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’ is available from Amazon in six-inch hanging baskets. Cascading stems of delicate, needle-like leaves sometimes produce white or pink flowers, and produce green berries that turn red in winter.
1,000 A. Sprengeri Seeds
A. sprengeri seeds are available from True Leaf Market. Each package contains 1,000 seeds. Delicately arching stems may produce white or pink blossoms, and berries that turn from green to red in winter.
A. Densiflorus ‘Myers’ Live Plants in Containers
A. densiflorus ‘Myers’ is available from Nature Hills Nursery. Choose a 1-quart or #1 container (2.3-3.7 quarts). Fuzzy plumes adorn sturdy stems that reach two feet tall at maturity.
100 A. Densiflorus ‘Myerii’ Seeds
A. densiflorus ‘Myerii’ seeds are available from True Leaf Market. Each package contains 100 seeds. Texturally-rich foxtails top out at two feet tall.
P. Setaceus in 4-Inch Containers
A. plumosus is available from Amazon in four-inch pots. Feathery stems make graceful arches of evergreen.
100 A. Plumosa ‘Nanus’ Seeds
A. plumosa ‘Nanus’ seeds are available from True Leaf Market. Each package contains 100 seeds. This variety is a more compact form that makes an eye-catching ground cover.
A. Macowanii in 6-Inch Pots
A. macowanii is available from Amazon in six-inch pots. Plants may produce white flowers and achieve a mature height of two feet.
Beauty and Braun
It’s time you added an asparagus fern or two to your indoor decor. Despite its delicate appearance, it’s a powerhouse plant that provides years of vigorous growth and textural appeal.
Delightfully fresh decor.
Display it in hanging containers for a cascading effect, or let it trail across a shelf or accent table. No matter where or how you feature this sturdy, low-maintenance ornamental specimen, it is sure to delight you and visitors to your home with its gentle beauty.
For more indoor gardening ideas, try these articles:
- The Best Tips for Cultivating Showy Garden Croton Indoors
- The Top 11 Mushroom Growing Kits for Home Gardeners
- How to Become a Succulent Pro
Photos by Allison Sidhu, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via True Leaf Market, Nature Hills Nursery, Hirt’s Gardens, and Florida Foliage. Uncredited photos: .
About Nan Schiller
Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!
The name ‘Asparagus Fern’ is quite misleading, as this plant is neither an asparagus plant nor a fern. In fact, it is quite the opposite of asparagus, as asparagus is obviously edible, while the asparagus fern is highly toxic. It is poisonous to both humans and most household pets, and if ingested will cause vomiting, diarrhea, and tummy pain. The plant can also cause skin irritation, so it should be handled with care and kept away from curious children.
The asparagus fern also fails to fit into the category of ‘fern,’ though it was likely named as such because the feathery foliage does resemble that of a fern. This is a fairly uncommon houseplant and actually is categorized as a weed, but it works well indoors in containers or hanging pots and is very hardy. It can also be grown outside as an annual or perennial, depending on the climate. It has a spreading habit, which makes it suitable for ground coverage, though in some regions, it is listed as an invasive plant, such as in Hawaii, Florida, and Texas (Royal Horticultural Society).
Asparagus Fern Overview
|Scientific Name||Asparagus aethiopicus|
|Type||Evergreen houseplant or shrub|
|Common Names||Asparagus fern, Feathery asparagus|
|Height||Up to 6 feet|
|Toxicity||Toxic to people and pets|
|Light||Bright indirect light, partial shade|
|Watering||Moist well-draining soil|
This variety of asparagus fern has a very delicate look, with fine feathery foliage. Although the plant has a soft appearance that almost begs to be stroked, it actually features lots of tiny spikes, and so, should be handled with care. It can be trained to have a climbing or trailing habit and can grow to lengths of 10 feet. The bright green lacy foliage is popular in bouquets.
Asparagus densiflorus sprengeri
This asparagus fern has an upright growth habit when young, but the stems begin to arch when longer and heavier. As it ages and grows, the plant forms a draping mass of feathery foliage, which works well in indoor hanging baskets or looks equally good tumbling over the side of a shelf. It heavily relies on humidity to thrive and will need regular misting. The foliage has more of a pine needle look than other varieties of asparagus fern, in an attractive bright green shade.
Asparagus densiflorus mysersii
Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myersii’ – Credit toTraumrune
This variety of asparagus fern has dense foliage that forms a fluffy tail like appearance, giving it the common name of ‘foxtail’ or ‘cats tail.’ It can be grown outdoors and is hardy to temperature lows of 25 ºF (Missouri Botanical Garden).
Caring for Your Asparagus Fern
The asparagus fern likes to be kept in moderately moist soil. It doesn’t like to become completely dried out, but it also does not like soggy soil, so you will need to aim for a balance somewhere between the two. When kept as a houseplant, water the plant thoroughly and then allow the top inch or two of the soil to dry out before you water it again.
The frequency with which you need to water the plant will depend on the season and how much light the plant is getting, so water it according to its conditions rather than on any schedule. When kept outside, the plant is more likely to be susceptible to drying out, especially in hot summers, so water it regularly to keep the soil from drying out.
Whether planted indoors or outdoors, the asparagus fern needs a well-draining soil to avoid waterlogged conditions. It also prefers acidic soil but is quite tolerant of a range of soil types.
This plant enjoys bright indirect sunlight or dappled light. When grown indoors, it needs a good amount of bright light in order to thrive but should be kept out of direct sunlight where it will scorch. It can be acclimated to more light, but you should do this gradually.
When grown outside, position this plant in an area where it is semi-shaded. It will do well in a spot that is protected by the shade of other nearby shrubs and trees but still gets some light coming through at different times of the day. If you do decide to plant the asparagus fern in a sunny position, ensure that it is shaded during the afternoon when the sun is at its strongest. The tiny needles of the fern are susceptible to drying out or being burnt by too much light,
This plant is hardy to USDA zones 9 to 11. When grown outdoors, it thrives in warm climates and will respond especially well to greenhouse conditions. The asparagus fern is ideally suited to life as a houseplant as it enjoys temperatures in the range of 70 ºF, which is typically the temperature that many homes are kept at.
In the case of this plant, you can be confident that if you are comfortable with the temperature of your home, then your asparagus fern will be comfortable too. It can tolerate drops in temperature as low as 50 ºF, but it will not respond well to consistently low temperatures. Be sure to keep it in warmer rooms in the house during winter and not leave it in disused rooms where the heating isn’t turned on.
This plant thrives in moist air, so it’s essential that it lives in a humid environment. The plant will appreciate being grown in an outdoor climate, which is naturally humid, but if grown indoors as a houseplant, you will need to artificially create humidity, especially during the winter, when air typically becomes very dry due to indoor heating systems.
There are several ways you can increase the humidity around the plant, and probably the most popular method among plant lovers is to mist the plant with a water spray. The asparagus fern will need a daily misting to be kept happy, and while some plant owners enjoy doing this, others may find it too laborious. In this instance, you may prefer to use an electric humidifier that you can simply plug in and forget about until it needs refilling. An electric humidifier disperses tiny particles of water into the air to increase humidity in the whole room.
A cheaper way to achieve higher humidity for your plant is to use a pebble tray. Simply sit the plant on a tray of pebbles that are bathed in water. As the water evaporates from the pebbles, the air around the plant will become moister. Always be sure that the water level sits lower than the tallest pebbles to ensure water does not come into contact with the base of your plant pot; otherwise, the water may be absorbed by the soil through the drainage holes, and your plant may inadvertently become overwatered. You will need to keep track of the water level in your pebble tray, making sure it gets refilled frequently to ensure the humidity level remains consistent.
If your asparagus fern begins to droop or look as though it is drying out, it can usually be revived with a good misting. If you keep the asparagus fern outside in a greenhouse, it will respond well to the high humidity provided in this type of environment, and you will likely witness an abundance of growth.
This plant can be propagated by division, which is best done during repotting. When your plant becomes too big for its pot, you can remove it from the pot and separate the plant into two or more new plants. The roots of the plant will likely be heavily intertwined, and it can seem quite daunting, but the roots are robust and will respond well to being divided.
Try to gently ease the root ball apart with your fingers, and use a sharp knife to cut apart any remaining roots that you are unable to separate by hand. Set the newly divided plants into fresh potting soil in new pots and water them generously to help them settle, then continue care as normal.
Asparagus ferns respond well to being root bound and should not need repotting very frequently. When young, they should be repotted every two years, but as they get older, they will be able to go longer between repotting.
When the root ball of your asparagus fern feels like it is bulging out of the pot, you know it’s time to repot it. Ease it out of its pot and place it into a new pot just one or two sizes bigger. Press new potting soil around the edges of the root ball, ensuring the base of the plant is at the same height as it was in its previous pot.
This plant is a heavy feeder, especially during the summer, when it tends to undergo periods of rapid growth. To sustain all of the new growth, the asparagus fern may need to be fed as frequently as every week or at a minimum of once a month. Use an all-purpose liquid fertilizer diluted to half of its recommended strength. Cease feeding during fall and winter, then begin again when spring rolls around.
Asparagus Fern Plant – How To Take Care Of Asparagus Ferns
The asparagus fern plant (Asparagus aethiopicus syn. Asparagus densiflorus) is normally found in a hanging basket, decorating the deck or patio in summer and helping to clean indoor air in winter. The asparagus fern plant is not really a fern at all, but a member of the Liliaceae family. When growing asparagus ferns outside, place them in a part sun to shady location for best foliage growth. While the asparagus fern plant may sometimes flower, the tiny white flowers are small and not necessary for the beauty of growing asparagus fern.
Information on Asparagus Fern Care
Growing asparagus fern is easy. The frilly, feathery asparagus fern plant appears soft and fuzzy, but when taking care of asparagus ferns you may be surprised to find they have thorny spurs. This, however, is no reason not to grow asparagus ferns, simply wear gloves during asparagus fern care.
Asparagus fern can provide small flowers and berries when it is happy in its location. Berries can be planted to propagate the asparagus fern plant. Medium green, cascading foliage that will quickly fill a container can be expected when growing asparagus fern.
Growing asparagus fern indoors takes a little more effort. Humidity is necessary and indoor areas are often dry because of winter heat. Mist the plant daily and provide a nearby pebble tray to keep the tiny leaves from turning brown and dropping. The fern may dry out to the point it appears dead; however, outdoor springtime temperatures generally revive them.
Keep the plant well watered in all situations and repot every few years. Care of asparagus ferns indoors involves misting the arching stems to provide humidity to the plant. When you grow asparagus ferns outside in summer, asparagus fern care involves watering, fertilizing to encourage growth and occasionally pruning out dead stems. Asparagus ferns prefer to be pot bound, so yearly division is not needed or desirable.
Combine this reliable specimen with summer blooms and foliage plants for an attractive container. A spiky, shade loving plant does well at the center of the pot, surrounded by the cascading branches of the asparagus fern.
High Desert Plant Finder & Guide
Sprengeri Asparagus Fern foliage
Sprengeri Asparagus Fern foliage
(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)
Height: 24 inches
Spread: 30 inches
Hardiness Zone: 8
Other Names: Emerald Fern; Basket Asparagus
Feathery and soft, this variety of asparagus native to South Africa creates great visual interest when massed; flowers are short lived and are hidden behind foliage, therefore not very noticeable; the showy bright red berries each carry one seed
Features & Attributes
Sprengeri Asparagus Fern’s attractive tiny needle-like leaves remain light green in color throughout the year. The flowers are not ornamentally significant.
This is a dense herbaceous houseplant with an upright spreading habit of growth. Its extremely fine and delicate texture is quite ornamental and should be used to full effect. This plant may benefit from an occasional pruning to look its best.
Planting & Growing
When grown indoors, Sprengeri Asparagus Fern can be expected to grow to be about 24 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 30 inches. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 15 years. This houseplant performs well in both bright or indirect sunlight and strong artificial light, and can therefore be situated in almost any well-lit room or location. It does best in average to evenly moist soil, but will not tolerate standing water. The surface of the soil shouldn’t be allowed to dry out completely, and so you should expect to water this plant once and possibly even twice each week. Be aware that your particular watering schedule may vary depending on its location in the room, the pot size, plant size and other conditions; if in doubt, ask one of our experts in the store for advice. It is not particular as to soil pH, but grows best in rich soil. Contact the store for specific recommendations on pre-mixed potting soil for this plant.
There are many factors that will affect the ultimate height, spread and overall performance of a plant when grown indoors; among them, the size of the pot it’s growing in, the amount of light it receives, watering frequency, the pruning regimen and repotting schedule. Use the information described here as a guideline only; individual performance can and will vary. Please contact the store to speak with one of our experts if you are interested in further details concerning recommendations on pot size, watering, pruning, repotting, etc.
— THIS IS A HOUSEPLANT AND IS NOT MEANT TO SURVIVE THE WINTER OUTDOORS IN OUR CLIMATE —
Asparagus fern going yellow?
It is almost certainly dying of hunger and thirst.
It appears to be still in the pot in which you bought it, so will have no remaining nutrients, and it is likely that the pot is full of roots and so congested that water just runs off instead of doing any good.
Add to that. that it is trying to survive in a warm, dry atmosphere, even if it doesn’t get direct sun, and you may understand why it is struggling.
It needs repotting into a larger pot, with suitable fresh compost. Loosen up the rootball a little so the roots grow outwards rather than in circles. Water it in well, and if you have to leave it where it is, then stand its pot inside a larger conrtainer, with a layer of gravel at the bottom, which you can keep moist to provide a better micro climate. Be careful not to overwater the plant itself, they don’t need a lot of water if the air is sufficiently moist.
Mine lives quite happily in a North facing porch, with only the heat that leaks through the front door. Whenever I go in or out, which is fairly often, it gets a blast of whatever weather is going on outside, which is generally cool and damp, but it only gets watered when I remember or when I see the first signs of yellowing if I have forgotten. They are quite forgiving plants though and soon send up new stems if they are happy.
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Thank you so much! I’ll get to it! I found a my books were quite contradictory in their advice, so I appreciate experienced advice!
How to Cure Wilting Asparagus Ferns and Other Problems
J Hatch of Arlinton writes:
What shall I do with my asparagus fern? It has turned yellow and dry almost entirely. Is it dead? It was very large. Can I divide it?
A. Low relative humidity may make Asparagus sprengeri drop needles or cause the stems to turn yellow. Cut off the yellow stems at soil level – a matter of good grooming. Increase humidity by setting the port on a pebbles in the bottom, and keep water on the pebbles.
The soil should be kept moist all the times. A large sprengeri may need water two or three times a week.
Since your plant is very large, the pot may be filled almost entirely with roots with very little soil remaining to contain water. If that the case, the plant should be repotted.
Asparagus sprengeri is usually only repotted when it literally bursts its pot. Sometimes it will fill the pot with roots until the plant rises an inch or move above the rim of the pot, any the thick roots are clearly visible. The roots adhere to the inside of a clay pot so that it is necessary to pry them loose. You may have to break the pot.
Cut off the fronds in preparation for repotting. It may seem like a drastic measure, but with a sharp knife you can cut an inch from around the root ball and across the bottom, thus reducing the overall size. Then return the plant toa clean pot of the same size with some fresh potting soil well tamped in around it.
If you want to divide the plant, cut the fleshy roots apart with a sharp knife and install the separate pieces in individual pots.
After repotting or dividing the plant, water it thoroughly and keep it in a shady place for several days.
Ronald Ward of the District:
My asparagus fern is loaded with red berries. Can i plant them, and how?
A. The red berries on Asparagus sprengeri contain ripe black seeds.
Mature asparagus ferns flower during the summer. Pea-size green berries follow the flowers. Sometimes these berries remain on the plant for many months, turning red indoors during the winter when they can be harvested for planting.
Seeds can be sown as soon as they are ripe or at any time of year, provided the seeds are kept dry and in a cool place until sown.
For planting, remove the red pulp and let the seeds dry for a day or two.
Place potting mix in a relatively shallow container with holes in the bottom. Set the container in water until the soil surface is damp, and then drain. Plant the seed about one-quarter inch deep. Cover the container with a pane of glass or plastic wrap to retain moisture, and place it in modest light and warmth. Germination of these hard seeds may take 2 to 3 months. If you can provide bottom heat of about 70 degrees – you can use a heating cable – that may speed up germination. They will come up if you don’t givd up. Plantlets resembling tiny Pine trees sometimes spring up in the soil around a pot of sprengeri from berries produced on a plant being summered in the garden.
Mr. Eunice Weston, Laurel:
My miniature rose bush got a couple of buds on it, but they dropped off and it isn’t getting any new leaves. The buds drop off my gardenia and the leaves are turning yellow.
A. Miniature roses require at least four hours of full sunlight per day. Insufficient light and lack of humidity may be your problem.
The gardenia is really not a satisfactory houseplant under ordinary circumstances. Lack of humidity is the main cause of bud drop. Gardenia needs high humidity, moist soil, cool nights and bright light.
One means of increasing humidity is by grouping plants together. Or set plants on a water-proof tray of pebbles in an inch of water. Do not set pots in water. Misting helps in some situations but is only temporary way to speed up the process.