- Asparagus Fern Plant – How To Take Care Of Asparagus Ferns
- Information on Asparagus Fern Care
- FOXTAIL FERN HAS OWNER CONCERNED.
- How to Grow Asparagus Fern
- An Evergreen Beauty Queen with Many Varieties
- Easy, Peasy Growing Tips
- Where to Buy
- Beauty and Braun
- Plants & Flowers
- Growing conditions
- Pests and diseases
- Asparagus Fern Overview
- Caring for Your Asparagus Fern
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.
FOXTAIL FERN HAS OWNER CONCERNED.
Q: I believe I can outfox you with a question about my foxtail fern. Why is one of the stems bright yellow? Makes for a pretty photo, but I’m worried that my whole plant will turn yellow.
A: You’re right: It does make for a pretty photo (makes us of think of a husked ear of corn in a field of green). But first, a bit about your foxtail fern. Known also as asparagus fern, it’s one of ArtisTree’s favorite “go to” plants for texture, hardiness and color. Stiffly upright stems can grow up to two feet, and the dense, plume-like foliage gives it a fluffy appearance not unlike the tail of its four-footed namesake. Color can range from a deep green to lighter chartreuse, and partial shade is its best friend (however, it can withstand a bit of bright light). Light freezes will kill foxtail fern to the ground, but recovery is swift once temperatures rise.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about your yellow stem. It’s just natural that a foxtail fern’s stems will eventually die. Not very often. But sometimes. Some foliage may turn brown or yellow; some may drop off. Just get your scissors and cut the stem as close to the plant’s base as possible to make way for new foliage. Don’t pull it or you could uproot the entire plant. If your entire fern turns yellow, you probably have it dark shade with no indirect light whatsoever (like inside your closet).
Bottom line: What’s happening to your foxtail fern is perfectly natural. The overall health and appearance of your plant look great, and we can assure you it will continue to thrive with very little oversight.
Filed Under:: Landscape Design
Tagged with: asparagus ferns, Ferns, Florida, foxtail ferns, landscape maintenance
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 Times-Picayune/NOLA.com Archive)
Last week, I mentioned how common names can be confusing. A good example is the asparagus fern.
Despite its common name, these plants are not ferns. Asparagus ferns will flower and produce fruit containing seeds, something ferns never do. They also will thrive in harsher growing conditions than shade- and moisture-loving true ferns.
Part of the common name is accurate, however. Asparagus ferns are closely related to edible asparagus (Asparagus officinalis). While asparagus ferns don’t produce anything we can harvest and eat, they are versatile, reliable, easy to grow and useful in a variety of gardening situations.
The most commonly grown asparagus fern is Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri.’ This asparagus fern produces a mound of shiny, bright green, finely textured foliage about 18 to 24 inches tall and somewhat wider.
The new growth looks remarkably like tiny spears of edible asparagus. When the new growth opens and matures, the fine, lacy foliage reminds people of ferns. So, the common name does make sense.
Although I use the term “foliage,” asparagus ferns do not possess true leaves. What appear to be small, needle-like leaves are modified, flattened stems called cladodes.
When the plants are old enough, tiny white flowers appear among the foliage. The resulting fruits are about the size of a pea, start off green and then turn an attractive red.
Asparagus ferns are fairly easy to grow from seed. Remove the large, tan seed from the ripe, red fruit and plant it immediately.
Simply press the seeds onto the surface of potting soil in a container and keep the soil moist. It is not at all unusual to see seedling asparagus ferns in a landscape where mature, fruiting plants are growing
Asparagus ferns are adaptable and will grow in full sun to shade. Their foliage, however, tends to look somewhat yellow when grown in full sun. Their growth and color tend to be better if they receive some shade for part of the day.
Asparagus ferns will grow in nearly any soil and will thrive in both moist and dry conditions. They flourish in the hottest summer heat.
Temperatures in the mid- to low 20s may burn back the foliage, and gardeners north of Lake Pontchartrain have seen some damage. When temperatures hit the upper teens, the plants will turn brown.
But these plants are still alive. Trim them now, and abundant new growth in spring and early summer will have the plants looking just fine again.
There aren’t any major insect or disease problems that attack asparagus ferns, so you never have to spray them. Fertilize them in spring and summer, when you fertilize other plants, and they will produce abundant, deep-green growth.
This plant is a sure bet even for novice gardeners. The fine-textured foliage and low mounding growth habit of ‘Sprengeri’ make it a good landscape choice. It’s excellent as a ground cover, as a specimen or in groups.
Because it handles poor growing conditions so well, it often will grow where few other plants will.
Since they tolerate more sun than true ferns, asparagus ferns are good choices where the fine texture of ferns is desired in fairly sunny locations. Their drought tolerance also lowers the need for supplemental irrigation during summer heat.
The long stems hang down gracefully, so it’s an outstanding plant for hanging baskets and containers.
Asparagus ferns are among the more drought tolerant plants in containers. That’s a real advantage since pots dry out so quickly.
The secret to their drought tolerance is the white fleshy structures attached to their roots. These structures store water to carry the plant through dry times. You may see these structures when transplanting or repotting the plants. They are normal, healthy and generally should not be removed (they cannot be used to propagate the plant).
An asparagus fern only needs to be repotted when the roots are cramped to the point of raising the soil level an inch or so above the pot rim. At this point, the rootball will look and feel like a solid mass of tough roots.
Either repot it into a larger container or divide it into two or more containers. To divide the clump, use a saw — yes, a saw — to cut the clump into two or more pieces. Don’t worry about severing the water storage structures in the roots. Use any well-drained potting soil to repot.
Asparagus ferns also grow well indoors. Place your plant by a bright window; some direct sun would be ideal. Keep the plant evenly moist and fertilize it with a liquid fertilizer in summer. I find that asparagus ferns are generally easier to care for indoors than true ferns.
Another locally popular asparagus fern is Asparagus densiflorus ‘Meyers.’ It’s called the foxtail fern.
A very different looking plant, it has a more formal appearance. The foliage is arranged densely along individual semi-erect stems that look remarkably like green fox tails. Together, the effect is like a spiky hairdo.
I find the foxtail fern somewhat slower-growing than the Sprengeri asparagus fern, but it’s just as tough and reliable. The foxtail fern’s growth habit is dramatic and looks particularly great in a container.
You also might occasionally see Asparagus myriocladus available. As a seedling, it resembles a small, delicate pine tree. It eventually grows into 4- to 5-foot arching spikes with dark green, very fine foliage. It’s commonly called the Ming fern.
Give asparagus ferns a try. The next time you think about asparagus, you just may be considering something for your landscape rather than your plate.
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
Plants & Flowers
Common name: Common Asparagus Fern, Lace Fern, Climbing Asparagus, Ferny Asparagus, Brides Bouquet Fern, Asparagus Fern
Synonymous: Asparagopsis setacea
Distribution and habitat: Asparagus setaceus is a vine plant in the genus Asparagus. It is native to Southern Africa and is grown elsewhere as an ornamental plant. It has become an invasive species in several locations where it has been introduced.
This species is found in native forests and scrub areas and is also found to occur in open coastal areas.
Despite its common names, this plant is not a true fern, but has leaves that resemble one.
Description: Asparagus setaceus is a scrambling perennial evergreen herb with tough green stems, which may reach 1m (3 feet) in length. It has wiry stems with an upright habit and and a flattened spray of bright green branchelets displayed horizontal. The leaves are actually tiny leaf-like cladodes, which arise in clumps of up to 15 from the stem, making a fine, soft green fern-like foliage. Occurring from spring to autumn, the small greenish-white bell-shaped flowers are followed by small green berries, which blacken with maturity. The flowers have no ornamental importance.
Houseplant care: Asparagus setaceus is a fast grower and are easy to grow indoors.
Light: Bright light is essential for Asparagus setaceus. But never subject them to direct sunlight, which can badly scorch the small leaves.
Temperature: Asparagus setaceus do well in normal warm room temperatures and they also tolerate temperatures which may be as low as 13°C (55°F).
Watering: During the active growth period water plentifully as often as necessary to keep the potting mixture moist, but never allow the pot to stand in water. During the rest period give the plants only enough water to keep the potting mixture from drying out. If the mixture dries out entirely at any time loss of foliage is the result.
Feeding: Apply liquid fertiliser every two weeks throughout the active growing period.
Potting and repotting: Use a soil based potting mixture. Move the plant every spring into pots one size larger until they are in the largest convenient pot size. After this size has been reached, top-dress annually with fresh potting mixture. Keep the level of the potting mixture well bellow the rim of the pot because the thick asparagus roots tend to force the mixture upward.
Propagation: Propagation in home is usually done by dividing overcrowded clumps just as growth starts in spring. Remove any excess mixture from the tuberous roots and separate them with a sharp knife. Plants separated clumps in 8cm (3 inch) pots of soil-based potting mixture and treat them as mature specimens.
Although, Asparagus setaceus can be raised from seed. Seed germinates in well warm room, but the growth is slow.
Problems: Problems appear usually as result of incorrect treatment.
Yellowing and falling leaves usually indicates conditions that are too hot and too dry.
Overwatering the plant or allowing it to stand with the roots in water may cause root rot.
Asparagus setaceus ‘Nanus’ is a dwarf form.
Asparagus setaceus ‘Robustus’ is an expecially viguros form of Asparagus setaceus. These plants do not climb when young, but as they mature they begin to send out climbing stems which can be as much as 1.5m (5 feet) long. These stems are often bare at first and purple in colour, but they will eventually produce the characteristic tiny, bright green branchlets.
Companion plants: Three species of Asparagus arranged together into an attractive hanging basket: trailing – Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’, Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myers’ and upright – Asparagus setaceus.
Toxicity: The fruit (berries) of Asparagus setaceus are toxic.
Uses: Asparagus setaceus looks lovely in porch pots and hanging baskets during the spring and summer months and makes a stunning indoor plant.
The attractive foliage is also used in floral arrangements.
Foliage – green
Shape – climbing and trailing
Watering in rest period – sparingly
Watering in active growth period – plentifully
Light – bright
Temperature in active growth period – min 13°C max 24°C (55-75°F)
Temperature in active growth period – min 16°C max 24°C (61-75°F)
Humidity – low
Hardiness zone: 9a-11
Cutting Flowers, Foliage Plants, Indoor Plants Asparagopsis setacea, Asparagus Fern, Asparagus plumosus, Asparagus setaceus, Asparagus setaceus Nanus, Asparagus setaceus Robustus, Brides Bouquet Fern, Climbing Asparagus, Common Asparagus Fern, Ferny Asparagus, Lace Fern, Protasparagus plumosus, Protasparagus setaceus
|Weediness:||Most species are weedy|
Asparagus is the name of a genus of plants, a member of the family Asparagaceae (formerly placed in the Liliaceae). There are up to 300 species, all from the Old World, introduced in many countries in both hemispheres and throughout temperate and tropical regions. Many species from Africa are now included in the genera Protasparagus and Myrsiphyllum. However, recent studies have shown that the taxonomic level genera may not be appropriate; instead, division into subgenera or no division at all may be more appropriate.
They range from herbs to somewhat woody climbers. Most species have flattened stems (phylloclades), that serve the function of leaves. Three species (Asparagus officinalis, “Asparagus schoberioides and Asparagus cochinchinensis) are dioecious species, i.e. with male and female flowers on separate plants. The others may or may not be hermaphroditic.
- Asparagus aethiopicus (= Protasparagus aethiopicus)
- Asparagus africanus (= Protasparagus africanus ?) – African Asparagus
- Asparagus asparagoides ( = Myrsiphyllum asparagoides) – Smilax, African Asparagus Fern, (Austr.) Bridal Creeper
- Asparagus cochinchinensis
- Asparagus declinatus – Foxtail Asparagus Fern, (Austr.) Bridal vein
- Asparagus densiflorus (= Protasparagus densiflorus) – Ground Asparagus, Asparagus Fern, (S. Afr.) Emerald Fern, Basket Asparagus
- Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’ ( = Protasparagus densiflorus ‘Sprenger’) – Sprenger’s Asparagus
- Asparagus falcatus
- Asparagus macowanii (= Protasparagus macowanii)
- Asparagus officinalis – Asparagus
- Asparagus officinalis officinalis – Garden Asparagus
- Asparagus officinalis prostratus
- Asparagus plumosus (= Protasparagus plumosus ?) – Asparagus Fern, Florist’s Fern, (Austr.) Climbing Asparagus
- Asparagus Plumosus Nanus is a greenhouse variety, bearing fern-like foliage.
- Asparagus racemosus
- Asparagus scandens
- Asparagus schoberioides
- Asparagus setaceus (= Protasparagus setaceus) – Fern Asparagus, Lace Fern
- Asparagus sprengeri – a greenhouse climber with light and elegant foliage.
- Asparagus umbellatus
- Asparagus virgatus
The best known member of the genus is the vegetable asparagus (Asparagus officinalis). Other species of asparagus are grown as ornamental plants. Some species such as Asparagus setaceus have branches that resemble ‘ferns’, hence they are often called “Asparagus fern” (though they are not true ferns). They are often used for foliage display, and as houseplants. Commonly-grown ornamental species are Asparagus plumosus, Asparagus densiflorus, and Asparagus sprengeri. Some other species have been introduced as weeds, such as Bridal Creeper, Asparagus asparagoides, which is a major weed species in southern Australia.
Division or seed.
Pests and diseases
Fusarium root and crown rot
- Fusarium monoliforme
- Fusarium oxysporium asparagi
- Asparagus rust, caused by the fungus Puccinia asparagi.
- Botrytis cinerea.
- Cotton Aphid: Aphis gossypii
- Asparagus Aphid: Brachycorynella asparagi
- Green Peach Aphid: Myzus persicae
- Citrus mealybug: Planococcus citri
- Garden Fleahopper: Halticus bractatus
- Tarnished Plant Bug: Lygus lineolaris
- Western Flower Thrips: Frankliniella occidentalis
- Onion Thrips: Thrips tabaci
- Asparagus Leafminer: Ophiomyia simplex
- Asparagus Fly: Platyparaea poeciloptera, a fruit fly.
- Asparagus Beetle: Crioceris asparagi (w:Asparagus Beetle)
- Spotted Asparagus Beetle: Crioceris duodecimpunctata (w:Spotted Asparagus Beetle)
- Coleophora amaranthella
- Saltmarsh Caterpillar: Estigmene acrea
- Redbacked Cutworm: Euxoa ochrogster
- Variegated Cutworm: Peridroma saucia
- Beet Armyworm: Spodoptera exigua
- w:Ghost Moth,
- The Nutmeg
- w:Small Fan-footed Wave
- w:Turnip Moth.
- Garden Symphylan: Scutigerella immaculata (feeds on roots)
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.