Asparagus ferns might be the most underrated of easy-care houseplants. Coupled with their delicate texture, fast growth and unusual appearance, there’s little to dislike about this low-light beauty. Our comprehensive guide will get you started off right with everything you need to know about asparagus ferns, including in-depth and easy to understand instructions for light, water, pest control, fertilizer and more.
Asparagus Fern Details
AKA foxtail fern, cat’s tail fern
Ease of Care: moderate
Light: dappled shade
Temperature: around 70 degrees Fahrenheit
Height: up to 6 feet
Growth Rate: fast
Pests: spider mites, scale insects, mealybugs
Diseases: rare, mostly due to lack of care
One of the most interesting things about growing an asparagus fern indoors is the fact that it isn’t exactly a common houseplant, which means that if you embark on this adventure, you will have a houseplant that not a lot of people own.
Another benefit of the asparagus fern consists of the different plant varieties, each of them being particularly useful for one thing. As you are going to learn later on in this article, some fern varieties are great for hanging baskets, while others have a shape and texture that makes them perfect for floral arrangements.
However, the asparagus fern doesn’t provide one with as many benefits as other plants because it isn’t that easy to care for. It is a heavy feeder and requires consistent watering and trimming, but we’ll talk more about these aspects in the upcoming paragraphs.
The asparagus fern isn’t a high-maintenance plant, but growing it indoors is a little more complicated than doing so outdoors, mostly because inside, it is susceptible to regular household plant pests, like mites. If you do decide you want to grow an asparagus fern, here are some care tips:
The plant doesn’t tolerate bright sunlight, so the best place for it is in a spot with dappled shade.
The plant prefers loose and well-drained potting soil if you’re going to plant it inside, in a container. Outside, it likes well-drained soil with a slight acidity. However, it is one of the most tolerant plants in terms of soil conditions.
As for the watering part, the plant is a little more demanding compared to some of the other indoor plants that are designed for beginners. It loves high humidity, and if the indoor air is dry, then you can see how this might take a little more effort on your behalf. The asparagus fern might require misting on a daily basis, a process during which you want to air for the arching stems. If it’s underwatered, the plant will turn brown and droopy.
What really interesting about the asparagus fern is that even if the plant looks dry and dead, it can be revived. All you have to do is keep it warm and humid air conditions and mist it every day. If you plant asparagus fern outdoors, you want to make sure the plant has water on a regular basis and never leave the soil to dry out completely.
The plant thrives on temperatures that are higher than 55 degrees Fahrenheit, but the ideal level is somewhere around 70 degrees. In fact, one of the best spots to achieve perfect growth conditions for the asparagus fern is inside a greenhouse, where temperatures are high.
In the warm season, the plant could demand being fed every week. You want to use either liquid fertilizer or water-soluble all-purpose plant food diluted to half its strength.
Unlike some other plants, the asparagus fern doesn’t need frequent repotting. When the plant is young, you should repot it about once every two years. When the plant grows, you can repot with even less frequency. You should be able to tell when the plant requires repotting because you will be able to feel the root ball of the plant bulging out of the pot. Remove the plant from its pot and place it another pot one or two sizes bigger. You want to press down soil around the root to make sure the plant is placed at the same height as it was in the previous pot.
Pruning Your Asparagus Fern
When you want to prune your asparagus fern, you can do so by cutting back individual stems to the soil. You can use pruning shears to do so. You will have to prune the plant when the foliage turns yellow or brown. If you notice that the stems of the fern turn yellow, it could mean that the plant requires a little more sun, so move it around.
If you’re interested in pruning the plant because you want denser foliage, you can pinch individual stem tips. You can also cut older stems to the base of the plant during the spring season in order to encourage new growth.
Varieties of Asparagus Fern
The asparagus fern is a plant available in different varieties, with the most common ones being:
Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myeri’
This type of asparagus fern can be recognized due to the dense foliage that’s visible on the upright stems. It is also known as the foxtail asparagus.
Live Asparagus densiflorus Myers
This unusual evergreen fern adds textural contrast to perennial beds and borders. Long, plume-like stems hold soft, needle-like leaves. Develops red berries in fall. An excellent choice for hanging baskets and containers.
Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’
Thanks to the fluffy form of this asparagus fern variety and its dropping stems, this plant is perfect for hanging baskets. It’s also a variety that can be kept out of the reach of children and pets this way, considering that asparagus fern is a mildly toxic plant to humans and animals.
3 Live Asparagus Densiflorus Sprengeri
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.
This particular asparagus fern variety can reach a maximum height of 10 feet and it is often used in floral arrangements because of its lacy foliage.
Live Asparagus setaceus
Often (incorrectly) referred to as a fern, this is an elegant indoor plant, with slender stems and near horizontal spreading frond-like branches. Initially bushy, the stems become more tendril-like as the plant matures, and it is then that you can see that it is actually a twining climber.
Propagating an Asparagus Fern
If you want to propagate an asparagus fern plant, you can do so by using the seeds found in berries. However, the fastest way to propagate this plant is through division. The best time to propagate is during repotting.
Specifically, when you’re ready to move your plant to a new pot, you can actually separate it into multiple new plants. You will notice that the roots of the plant are intertwined, which can discourage a lot of people from the propagation process, but they actually respond really well to division so you don’t have to worry about that.
Using your fingers, try to pry the root ball apart. You can use a sharp knife to cut the roots that you can’t separate with your hands. Each new plant should be added to a new container. Make sure that you add plenty of water so that the plants can settle.
If you’re looking to buy an asparagus fern for your home, Amazon is a great place to start looking, as they provide you with some neat options in terms of foxtail ferns. You can also find varieties of this plant on other specialty websites, like Waitrose Garden or Garden Goods.
Asparagus Fern Plant
We've been using these in our mixed annual flower planters for many years. You'll be amazed at how versitile these tough little plants are.
Steve’s Leaves is a small exotic foliage and begonia grower that often has a variety of asparagus fern on offer.
Asparagus Setaceus Pyramidalis
The shoots of this tropical grow straight up to form an upright pyramid like growth. The leaves are tiny little needles and give this plant the appearance of a fern. The overall look of this unusual plant is that of an upright evergreen.
Is the asparagus fern toxic?
While the cases of asparagus fern inducing death are rare, it is important to note that the plant is mildly toxic to both animals and humans. The berries of the plant will cause stomach-related problems, including vomiting or diarrhea. When touched, the berries can also cause skin rashes. Because of the texture of the foliage, the plant might also lead to skin irritation when touched, which is why trimming needs to be done with extra care. In the end, the asparagus fern might not be the best houseplant for those with children or pets, unless the plant is kept completely out of reach.
How do you get rid of asparagus fern?
If you have a garden and you notice that asparagus fern is growing out of control, you might be wondering how to get rid of it. You can do so by mowing it repeatedly, but you can also use pruning shears or a string trimmer. Cut the plant down to the soil level. Note that this is a process that needs to be repeated. When doing so, you are preventing the fern from making more seeds and berries, which should prevent it from spreading.
Can an asparagus fern plant get diseased?
The asparagus fern is a plant very resistant to diseases and when they do occur, it’s mostly because the plant isn’t cared for properly. If you notice that the leaves of the plant are dropping, you can remove the roots from the pot and place them into water. Wait until water bubbles stop appearing, replant, and make sure that you water the plant frequently after. Yellow leaves are usually a symptom of the plant not getting enough nutrients, which means that you will have to fertilize it more often. If you notice long and weak shoots, that means the plant isn’t getting enough light. To solve this problem, move the plant to a spot with brighter indirect sunlight.
How often should you water an asparagus fern?
When people consider buying a new plant variety, one of the things they always wonder is how often they will have to water it. The asparagus fern plant usually requires more water compared to, let’s say, some succulents. When you notice that the top layer of soil is starting to dry, it’s safe to water the plant. If you grow this plant outside, you will have to water it about once or twice per week.