Can you eat asparagus fern

Edible Landscaping – Edible of the Month: Asparagus

Mature asparagus plants send up multiple spears that can be cut for up to 6 weeks.

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is a member of the lily family and has been grown and eaten since 1000AD. It’s thought to have originated in the eastern Mediterranean region as a wild plant and modern varieties have been selected for larger and tastier spears. Asparagus is unique, because, unlike most home garden vegetables, it is a perennial, coming back year after year. A well-maintained asparagus bed can produce spears for 20 years. Therefore, it’s important to spend extra time and energy preparing the soil in the bed and planting it correctly.

The young shoots (spears) are what we eat. The spears are only available in spring for a 6- to 8-week period. (There has been some experimenting with forcing asparagus to send up new spears in summer and fall, too. See the article link later on). Once the asparagus spears are allowed to grow into ferns, they can top 6-feet tall, making a beautiful barrier or wall of green in your garden. Asparagus can be used as an edible hedge, backdrop to flowers or shrubs, or a visual barrier. The ferns turn yellow in fall and should be cut back to the ground in winter.

Asparagus is a great spring treat steamed, roasted, or sautéed in butter and garlic, or served along with other spring vegetables such as peas, spinach, and spring potatoes. It’s high in fiber, vitamins A and C, and minerals, such as iron.

Cut asparagus spears at the ground level with a sharp knife.


Asparagus is a hardy (USDA zone 4), cool- loving crop that sends spears out of the ground when soil temperatures are above 50 degrees F. Since asparagus evolved around a salty sea, it likes a well-drained, slightly alkaline soil. One key to selecting the right variety of asparagus is making sure you get one adapted to your soil and climate conditions. The other is to choose a variety that is predominately male. Asparagus plants are either male or female, that is, male and female flowers are produced on separate plants. The females produce red berries in summer. The flowering and fruiting reduces the amount and size of spear production. Another problem with female asparagus plants is the berries drop and germinate in the row creating many small asparagus plants. These can overcrowd an asparagus bed and become weeds.

Breeders have created “all-male” hybrid varieties which are mostly male. They produce up to 3 times more asparagus spears and fewer berries than older, open pollinated varieties that are a mix of males and females. Many of these all-male hybrid varieties come from research done at Rutgers University so they often have “Jersey” in their name.

Here are some of the best asparagus varieties to try. They are best purchased as 1-year old crowns for spring planting. Asparagus seed is not widely available and takes longer to produce mature plants.

‘Jersey Knight’ – One of the best performing Jersey hybrid varieties, it’s a vigorous plant that’s resistant to rust, crown rot, and fusarium wilt. It is especially adapted to growing in clay soils and in warmer climates.

‘Jersey Giant’ – One of the first in varieties the Jersey series, this hybrid is best adapted to colder climates and produces spears 7 to 10 days before ‘Jersey Knight’.

‘Jersey Supreme’ – The latest variety in the series this variety produces more uniform-sized spears and is earlier than previous Jersey hybrids. The plants are disease- resistant and best adapted to lighter, sandier soils.

‘Purple Passion’ – This uniquely-colored asparagus is widely adapted and produces purple colored spears that fade in color when cooked.

‘UC 157’- This California hybrid is adapted to warmer climates with mild winters and produces high yields of uniform spears. It does have some female plants.

‘Viking KB3’ – An open pollinated variety that has a mix of male and female plants. It is a better producer than the traditional ‘Martha Washington’ open- pollinated variety.

Asparagus beetle adults attack young spears and older ferns reducing yields.


Choose a sunny, well-drained site with neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Since this is a perennial crop, it’s important to remove weeds and amend the soil well. It’s easier to amend the soil now than trying to do it after the asparagus is growing. Till the soil and dig a trench 1-foot deep and as long as you desire. Each crown can produce 1/2 pound of spears when mature. For most families, you can estimate planting 15 to 20 crowns per person with crowns spaced 18 inches apart.


Plant outdoors 2 weeks before all danger of frost has passed and soils have dried out. Backfill the trench with 4 to 6 inches of finished compost and soil mixed evenly together. Form 4- to 6-inch high, volcano-like mounds with the compost every 18 inches in the trench and lay the spider-like crowns and roots over the mounds. Drape the roots evenly on all sides of the mound with the crown sitting on the top. Cover the crowns with soil and backfill the trench as the spears grown with more soil until the trench is filled and crowns are buried 3 inches deep.


Another key to growing asparagus is keeping the bed well weeded. Be careful using a hoe when weeding since the crowns are not deeply planted below the soil surface. Some people have taken advantage of asparagus’ tolerance to salt and spread salt on the bed to kill weeds. However, this practice is not recommended because eventually the soil gets too salty for even the asparagus plants. Fertilize the bed every spring with compost or a balanced organic fertilizer, such as 5-5-5. Keep the bed well watered and mulched with a 2- to 4-inch thick layer of bark mulch.

‘Purple Passion’ is an attractive ornamental, as well as edible, asparagus variety.

Asparagus has a few pests. Diseases such as rust and wilt can attack the crowns. Select disease resistant varieties and be sure the soil is well drained to avoid these problems. Asparagus beetles will attack the spears and ferns. These small, bright red beetles emerge as asparagus spears start growing in spring. They feed on the spear tips and eventually lay eggs on the ferns. The eggs hatch into soft bodied gray grubs that continue to feed on the fern fronds. Their feeding can defoliate the ferns and reduce the energy sent back into the roots, weakening the crown and lowering production. Control the asparagus beetles by hand squishing the adults and spraying the grubs with neem oil or Spinosad organic sprays.

Let the ferns naturally yellow in fall. Cut them down and remove them in winter to reduce populations of overwintering insects and diseases.


It’s important not get over eager in harvesting your asparagus spears. The first year after planting don’t harvest any spears: let them all grow into ferns. This will strengthen the crown for higher future production. The second year after planting harvest only those spears that are larger than a pencil’s diameter for 2 weeks in spring. The third year you can begin harvesting all spears larger than a pencil’s diameter for 6 to 8 weeks in spring.

Start harvesting as soon as large enough spears emerge from the soil by snapping off the spears with your hand at the soil line when they are 6 to 8 inches tall. You can produce the pale yellow, blanched asparagus in the grocery store by following this technique.

Other Asparagus Stories:

For information on growing and harvesting asparagus spears into the summer, .

6 Secretly Poisonous Plants We Eat All the Time

The tomato, of course, is not poisonous, but the Europeans were right to be wary of it. There are plenty of fruits, vegetables, tubers, and other plants that we heartily consume that are, secretly, dangerous to our health if prepared or eaten improperly. Here are some you may not have known about.

1. Tomato

I know, I just said the tomato isn’t poisonous. The fruit isn’t, but the leaves, roots, and stem (and, in limited doses, even some unripe fruit) are rich in tomatine, an alkaloid that’s mildly toxic to humans. It won’t kill you, unless you chow down pounds and pounds of it, but it is likely to cause you some gastrointestinal distress.

Flickr user Swong95765

2. Apples, Cherries, and Apricots

The seeds of all of these fruits are not considered edible; they’re hard, bitter, and unpleasant. That bitter flavor is a protective element: The plant puts it there to discourage animals like us from destroying them. And it comes from a substance called amygdalin, which turns into cyanide when it comes into contact with acids in the human digestive system. Cherries, apricots, peaches, and nectarines have the substance in much higher concentrations than apples, but all of the seeds and pits in these fruits are fantastically tough. Even if you swallowed some? No big deal. Your body will simply pass them out. That said, please do not pulverize and then consume cherry pits.

Flickr user Forrest and Kim Starr

3. Kidney Beans

Many legumes can cause mild gastrointestinal distress when undercooked, but red kidney beans (the kind almost always used in chili) are special. Kidney beans contain phytohaemagglutinin, a chemical compound that I will always have to copy and paste because, are you kidding me with that word? Ingestion of even just a few undercooked kidney beans can cause serious diarrhea and vomiting. According to the FDA, it’s not fatal and rarely results in hospitalization, but it’s fairly common for people to end up sick after chomping down on some merely soaked beans.

Flickr user dominik18s

4. Rhubarb

Rhubarb, a springtime stalk most commonly used in the creation of America’s best pie, the strawberry-rhubarb, is a very strange plant indeed. Most often used in sweet applications, it’s a sour vegetable that looks like crimson celery. And its leaves are spectacularly poisonous. Rhubarb leaves are very high in oxalic acid, which quickly causes kidney failure in humans. About 25 grams of pure oxalic acid is the average amount needed to kill a human. That said, rhubarb leaves aren’t pure oxalic acid, and it would take around 11 pounds of the leaves to secure that much. But still! I’d stay away.

Flickr user Emma Forsberg

5. Asparagus

Like the rhubarb, the part of the asparagus plant that we love – the young stems – are perfectly safe to eat. But the asparagus hides a deceptive, nasty secret: Its fruit, which are bright red berries, are toxic to humans. Just a handful can cause vomiting and diarrhea, though a bit of charcoal will clear that right up, according to the excellently named Asparagus Friends site.

Flickr user Harry Rose

6. Cashews

Cashews are another delicious product that should never, ever be eaten raw. (When you buy them, they’ve usually been roasted.) Native to the Amazon, the cashew is not really a nut, but rather a seed that protrudes oddly from the bottom of a fruit (also edible, though rarely seen outside the tropics) called the cashew fruit. You may have noticed that cashews are never found in their shell as almonds or peanuts are, and that’s because when raw, they’re covered with anacardic acid, closely related to the acid that makes poison ivy so irritating. It’s much worse when you eat it.

Flickr user Abhishek Jacob

Ever since the second half of the 19th century, Asparagus Fern has been considered as one of the most popular plants which you could grow and take care of in your own house.

People were even then asking questions on how to propagate asparagus fern or can you start growing it from cuttings.

It is relatively easy to take care of and it is not that demanding at all, compared to some other indoor plants, which is relatively important to people who don’t have a lot of time to spend on growing their herbs, but who would still like to have some nice plants in their homes.

Asparagus Fern is not exactly a type of fern, but it belongs to the category of Lily plants.

It has small, white flowers that bloom from summer to autumn, with the addition that it could also produce very tiny red or blackberries.

The plant originates from South Africa and it is very useful to use it as a visual plant in containers or as a groundcover.

It is also not possible to propagate it with cuttings.

But, don’t worry!

That is why I am here today, to show you how you could take care of and propagate asparagus fern, so let’s get into it!

Preparation For Propagating Asparagus Fern

Before you start propagating your Asparagus fern, you will need to prepare a bit, since there are different methods of growing it, so you will have to decide which one you want to use.

Two main methods of propagating Asparagus fern are:

  1. By using the seeds and
  2. By dividing the plant

Both methods are slightly different, so in order for you to decide which one you would want to use, I will explain in details how to apply each of these methods.

But first, let me tell you what more will you require in order to do this because you do have to prepare some tools and materials that will be needed for propagating the asparagus fern.

  • Pots – the first thing you need to do is find some pots in which you intend to grow and propagate asparagus fern. For the start, you could use 3-inch starter pot, but later you would want to get 4 or 6-inch square pots;
  • Seed compost and germination mat – next thing you need to do is get some seed compost and germination mat, so you could put your plant in and grow it;
  • Plastic wrap – you will need to find some plastic to cover the plant up if needed;
  • Spray bottle – of course, you will need to water the plant, and the fern likes to get water as a spray;
  • Knife – you would need some kind of knife or scissors in order to properly take care of the plant itself;
  • Potting mix – and last, but not the least, you would need a proper potting mix to grow your plant in right conditions.

Now that you have everything you need, you are ready to start propagating your asparagus fern by yourself, so let’s get down to the business.

Propagating Asparagus Fern from Seeds

The first way of propagating asparagus fern is by using the seeds to do it. It is very important to follow certain steps, so the plant would grow as it is supposed to.

1. Prepare the Seeds

The first thing you need to do in order to propagate asparagus fern properly is to make asparagus fern seeds a bit softer. To do that, put them in the water and leave them there for around 24 hours.

It is important to be prepared once you want to pull the seeds out of the water, so they wouldn’t dry out. So, make sure to prepare the pots and everything else before you do start the sowing process.

2. Prepare the Pots

For starters, use a 3-inch starter pot and put the sterile seed compost inside.

After that make sure to make the compost moist and wait for around 15 minutes for the water to drain off.

Once that is done, you can start creating holes for seeds to be sewn into.

The holes should be 1/4 inch deep. After you do that, put two seeds inside the hole and make sure to cover them with more compost.

3. Set the Environment Right

Next thing to do is to prepare germination mat and put the starter pot on it.

Pots should be covered with some plastic sheets.

Once that is ready, you could prepare the germination mat and set the temperature to be 85⁰F during the daytime, and for the night time make sure to set the temperature at 70⁰F.

That should be enough to keep the plant happy and help you propagate your asparagus fern.

4. Watering

Watering needs to be done very carefully since it is not good for seed compost to be neither too watery nor to dry, so you will need to balance that properly.

You should use a spray bottle to water the plant and you can check if the plant needs water by touching the compost and see if it is almost dry. If it is dry on the touch, then water it.

5. The Waiting Game

Germination process should last around 3 to 4 weeks at the most.

If you notice that one of the seedlings is getting weak, you should remove it, so it wouldn’t affect the other plants in the same pot.

It could also happen that all of the seedlings will manage to get through without any problems, which would be the ideal situation for you.

6. Location and Transplantation

Asparagus fern really likes bright locations.

So, make sure to put it near a very big window if you can, since there it would get enough light and it would be able to receive the right amount of temperature as well.

You should keep it there until it gets two or three sets of leaves that looks grown and mature.

After that, you could transfer the plant to a larger (4-inch) pot and add some potting mix with the acidic component.

Propagating Asparagus Fern from Division

Another way of propagating asparagus fern is by dividing the plant.

In other words, by using an already grown specimen, called parent plant, to propagate another herb.

As with the previous method, there are some specific steps you would need to follow.

1. Preparing the Plant for Division

Before you start the division process, you need to prepare the plant for it.

The first thing you need to do is water the soil until it seems completely saturated in the first 3 inches, then leave it there during the night and make sure that roots are being very well hydrated.

2. Starting the Division Process

Now that your plant is ready to be moved, you can take it away from the pot.

And take half of the soil from the root part. After that is done make sure that you divide the fronds to be as equal as possible.

Once you managed to do that, you will need to use something, like a tie or string to make each portion secured.

3. Securing the Plants During Division Process

For this step, that knife we mentioned would be a useful tool. Now you will need to cut straight through the root ball, which is located between each portion and don’t forget to sharpen and clean your knife before the process.

This is done to make sure that each division has the same amount of frond and roots because every division needs to have a proper amount of everything in order to survive.

4. Soil maintenance

Your plant should be ready to be put in a 6-inch pot by now if you have followed the steps so far.

So make sure to do that and add potting mix which is very light and has acidic properties.

Now, in order to let the soil settle, you should use the water instead of your hands, because it is a more natural and better way to do it.

5. Location and Watering

As for the possible location, this method is the same as the previous one.

Since the plant is the same and it requires the same conditioning.

It should be put in a warm and very bright location where it would be happy.

When we talk about watering, you should water the plant when you notice that first 2 inches of the soil seem dry enough.

But make sure not to use too much water, because roots could suffer and rot.

6. Transplantation

Same as with the last method, the transplantation is done once the plant shows regular signs of growth mentioned above.

What you need to remember though, is to put the plant in a pot which is not bigger than its original pot for more than 1 inch.

As you can see, to propagate asparagus fern is quite easy and you can do it in the blink of an eye!

Related Questions

1. Why do I have to tie my plant in order to secure the growth?

Because with division method you are using already grown plant.

If you would just leave it like that, it probably wouldn’t grow as it is supposed to.

Therefore, it is better to tie it and control the growth until the plant is stable enough.

2. Do I need to water the plant every day?

Depends on how fast the soil dries out. You should water it once first 2 or 3 inches (from the top) are dry.

Is it easier now to propagate asparagus fern? Try doing it and let us know it the comments below!

Asparagus fern (Asparagus virgatus)

Also known as: broom asparagus

Asparagus fern is an erect herb or shrub originally introduced as an ornamental plant. It is an emerging environmental weed over a wide range of coastal and sub-coastal habitats.

This weed belongs to the group Asparagus weeds

This plant should not be sold in parts of NSW


How does this weed affect you?

Asparagus fern has the potential to invade a wide range of coastal and sub-coastal plant communities, in areas north from Sydney.

It competes with native ground cover and understorey plants by forming dense infestations that smother other species and prevent their germination and establishment.

It can form very large, continuous infestations.

Where is it found?

Asparagus fern is a native of eastern and southern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

It was introduced into Australia as an ornamental plant and is still found in older gardens. Its foliage is still used world-wide in the cut flower industry.

It now occurs in coastal and sub-coastal Queensland and is especially common in the south-east of that state. In New South Wales it is not widespread, but occurs mostly in the Sydney district.

How does it spread?

Asparagus fern primarily reproduces from seed, but can also spread vegetatively from rhizomes.

Green foliage is usually present year-round. The main growth period is from autumn through to spring. Flowering occurs mostly in spring. Fruit set occurs from spring to summer, but fruit can be present year-round.

Fruit are spread by birds, foxes, reptiles and other animals that can deposit seeds far from the parent plants. Fruit are also spread in water and garden waste.

Short distance vegetative spread is by rhizomes.

What does it look like?

Asparagus fern is an erect herb, climber or shrub 0.4-0.8 m tall, usually with year-round foliage.

The root system consists of long, narrow rhizomes and fibrous roots that lack tubers.

Each plant has a small number of erect, spineless, wiry stems.

Leaf-like cladodes (modified stems) and branches are spirally arranged.

Cladodes are borne in groups of mostly 3-6 (rarely 1-7) at each node along the stems. They are soft, hairless, thread-like, cylindrical and relatively small (3-15 mm long and about 0.5 mm wide).

Flowers are small, bisexual (both male and female parts present), greenish-white and borne singly in the axils of the leaves.

Berries are 1-seeded, 4-6 mm in diameter and bright orange at maturity. Fruit are borne year round.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Asparagus fern prefers shady, well-drained locations, but will grow in full sun to greater than 80% canopy closure.

It is primarily found in riparian areas, near forest margins, or in disturbed sites and wasteland near habitation, however it is a potential weed of many habitats.


Text compilation: Harry Rose.

Technical review: Rod Ensbey.

Editing: Elissa van Oosterhout.

Hosking JR, Sainty GR, Jacobs SWL & Dellow LL (in prep) The Australian WeedBOOK

Office of Environment and Heritage (2013) Asparagus weeds management manual: current management and control options for asparagus weeds (Asparagus spp.) in Australia. Office of Environment and Heritage (NSW)

Plant Database (2014) Asparagus virgatus. Available at

More information

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For assistance with the control of this weed, please contact your local council weeds officer.

The main methods of control include excluding plants from uninfested areas, physical removal of all plant parts, and herbicide application, depending on:

  • size and density of the infestation
  • accessibility
  • time and resources available
  • habitat infested.

Continued follow-up and re-treatment is essential for all control methods.

Physical control

Seedlings or small plants can be hand-pulled in small-to-medium sized infestations.

Plants can be dug out, but the entire root system needs to be removed.

Physical removal can be difficult, due to the way the root system can spread beneath the roots of nearby vegetation or objects such as rocks, logs and other structures (e.g. fences).

Removal should be done in autumn and winter when soils are moist, prior to flowering or fruiting, and when plants have foliage on them.

Slashing above-ground foliage can be undertaken under some circumstances. However, it will not kill the plants and is not suitable for natural areas. It is usually undertaken around 6 months prior to treatment with herbicides (foliar spraying).

Herbicide control

Herbicide applications are recommended for medium-to-large infestations, but can also be used for small infestations.

Suitable methods are cut and paint, basal bark spray and foliar spot spray. Apply when plants are actively growing.

Foliage often mingles with desirable vegetation, making off-target damage from foliar spraying problematic. The foliage also provides little surface area for chemical uptake.

Other methods

There are currently no biological control agents for asparagus fern.

Herbicide options

Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website

See Using herbicides for more information.

PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Fluroxypyr 333 g/L (Starane™ Advanced)
Rate: 300 to 600 mL per 100 L of water
Comments: Spot spray application
Withholding period: 7 days.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate

PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Roundup®)
Rate: 1 part glyphosate to 50 parts water
Comments: Spot spray application, best done between flowering and berries forming.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate

PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Roundup®)
Rate: 1 part glyphosate to 1.5 parts water
Comments: Cut stump / stem scrape application
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate

PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Metsulfuron-methyl 600 g/kg (Brush-off®)
Rate: 1 -2 g per 10 L of water plus a non-ionic surfactant.
Comments: Spot spray application, best done between flowering and berry formation.
Withholding period: Nil (recommended not to graze for 7 days before treatment and for 7 days after treatment to allow adequate chemical uptake in target weeds).
Herbicide group: B, Inhibitors of acetolactate synthase (ALS inhibitors)
Resistance risk: High

Picloram 44.7 g/kg + Aminopyralid 4.47 g/L (Vigilant II ®)
Rate: Undiluted
Comments: Cut stump application
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate

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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.
Greater Sydney
Exclusion zone: all lands in the region, except the core infestation area of: Central Coast local government area.
Regional Recommended Measure*
Whole region: Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. The plant or parts of the plant should not be traded, carried, grown or released into the environment. Notify the Local Control Authority if found. Exclusion zone: The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. Core infestation: Land managers should mitigate spread from their land. Land managers should reduce impacts from the plant on priority assets.
Exclusion zone: whole of region except Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. Core infestation area: Newcastle and Lake Macquarie.
Regional Recommended Measure*
Whole of region: Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. Plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment. Within exclusion zone: The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. Notify the Local Control Authority if found. Land managers should mitigate spread from their land. Within Core infestation: Land managers to reduce impacts from the plant on priority assets.
North Coast
Exclusion zone: Whole region excluding the core infestation area of Nambucca Valley Council, Kempsey Shire Council, Port Macquarie Hastings Council, Richmond Valley Council, Ballina Shire Council, Lismore Council, Kyogle Council, Byron Shire Council and Tweed Shire Council.
Regional Recommended Measure*
Whole region: The plant or parts of the plant should not be traded, carried, grown or released into the environment. Exclusion zone: The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Core infestation area: Land managers should reduce impacts from the plant on priority assets.
*To see the Regional Strategic Weeds Management Plans containing demonstrated outcomes that fulfill the general biosecurity duty for this weed

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.
For further information call the NSW DPI Biosecurity Helpline on 1800 680 244 or send an email to [email protected]

Reviewed 2019

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