How to Grow and Care for Asparagus Fern


Updated: 16 Jul, 2023

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The Asparagus genus encompasses several species, some of which are commonly referred to as asparagus ferns. Among them, A. densiflorus thrives in outdoor settings, while A. aethiopicus is often cultivated as a houseplant. Despite their classification, these plants bear striking similarities, sporting vibrant green foliage with a feathery texture.

Contrary to their name, neither of these plants belongs to the fern family. Instead, they are warm-weather perennials closely related to the familiar edible asparagus found in garden patches. In regions spanning zones 9 to 11, these hardy specimens flourish in outdoor environments, spreading and creeping along the ground. Simultaneously, they serve as captivating “thriller” elements when incorporated into mixed containers or hanging baskets as indoor houseplants.

Typically planted during the spring season, the asparagus fern exhibits rapid growth and boasts numerous desirable qualities. However, it is important to exercise caution when cultivating this species. In warm and humid climates, outdoor planting can result in the fern’s vigorous expansion, potentially posing a threat as an invasive species. To determine the invasive nature of asparagus ferns in your area, consult your local extension agent for guidance.

Indoors, a thriving asparagus fern necessitates attentive watering, fostering a lush and compact appearance. By maintaining a well-watered environment, the plant’s delicate lace-like foliage forms an enchanting mound, enhancing its visual appeal.

Common NameAsparagus fern
Botanical NameAsparagus aethiopicus, A. densiflorus
FamilyAsparagaceae
Plant TypeHerbaceous perennial
Mature SizeUp to 3 ft. tall, 4 ft. wide
Sun ExposurePartial (outdoor); bright, indirect light (indoors)
Soil TypeWell-drained potting mix
Soil pHSlightly acidic (6.5-6.8)
Bloom TimeSpring to fall
Flower ColorWhite; flowers are insignificant
Hardiness Zones9-11 (USDA)
Native AreaSouth Africa
ToxicityMildly toxic humans; moderately toxic to dogs and cats

What is an asparagus fern?

An asparagus fern is a plant that belongs to the Asparagus genus, which is known for its fern-like appearance. Despite the name, asparagus ferns are not true ferns but rather flowering plants that share some similarities in their foliage. There are several species within the Asparagus genus that are commonly referred to as asparagus ferns.

The most commonly grown species are Asparagus densiflorus and Asparagus aethiopicus. Asparagus densiflorus is typically grown outdoors in warm climates and is often used as ground cover due to its spreading and creeping growth habit. Asparagus aethiopicus, on the other hand, is often cultivated as a houseplant and is known for its delicate and feathery foliage.

Asparagus ferns have bright green, needle-like or feathery leaves that are arranged in clusters along arching stems. The foliage gives them a fern-like appearance, hence the common name. These plants can produce small flowers and berries, although they are primarily grown for their attractive foliage.

How to Grow Asparagus Fern

Growing asparagus ferns can be a rewarding experience, whether you choose to cultivate them outdoors or as houseplants. Here are some guidelines to help you successfully grow asparagus ferns:

Choosing the right location:
For outdoor cultivation, select a spot that receives partial shade or filtered sunlight. Asparagus ferns prefer well-draining soil with organic matter. If you’re growing them indoors, place them in a bright location with indirect sunlight.

Planting asparagus ferns:
If you’re growing them outdoors, dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball of the plant and place it in the hole. Backfill with soil, gently firming it around the roots. Leave enough space between plants to accommodate their spreading growth habit. When growing as houseplants, use well-draining potting soil and a container with drainage holes.

Watering:
Asparagus ferns prefer consistently moist soil, but they don’t tolerate waterlogged conditions. Water the plants thoroughly whenever the top inch of soil feels dry. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot.

Fertilization:
Feed outdoor asparagus ferns with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring and mid-summer. Indoor plants can be fertilized with a diluted liquid fertilizer monthly during the growing season.

Pruning and maintenance:
Remove any dead or yellowing foliage regularly to keep the plant looking tidy. If the fern becomes too dense, thin out some of the growth to maintain its desired shape. You can also trim back the stems to control its size.

Propagation:
Asparagus ferns can be propagated through division or by collecting and planting the seeds from the berries. Division is usually the easiest method. Simply separate the plant into smaller sections, ensuring each section has roots attached, and replant them.

Pest and disease control:
Watch out for common pests such as aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. Treat infestations with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Asparagus ferns are generally resistant to diseases but may occasionally face issues such as root rot if overwatered.

Asparagus Fern Care Tips

Taking care of asparagus ferns involves providing them with the right conditions and meeting their basic needs. Here are some care tips to help you keep your asparagus fern healthy and thriving:

Lighting:
Asparagus ferns prefer bright, indirect light. Place them in a location where they receive bright, filtered sunlight. Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight, as it can scorch the foliage.

Temperature and Humidity:
Asparagus ferns thrive in temperatures between 60°F (15°C) and 75°F (24°C). They appreciate moderate to high humidity levels. Mist the foliage regularly or place the plant on a tray filled with water and pebbles to increase humidity around it, especially in drier indoor environments.

Watering:
Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Asparagus ferns prefer slightly moist soil. Water thoroughly whenever the top inch of soil feels dry, allowing excess water to drain away. Avoid letting the plant sit in standing water, as it can lead to root rot.

Fertilization:
Feed your asparagus fern every two to four weeks during the growing season (spring and summer) with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength. Reduce or stop fertilizing in the fall and winter when the plant is in a dormant phase.

Pruning:
Regularly remove any yellow or dead foliage to maintain the plant’s appearance. If the fern becomes overgrown or unruly, trim back the stems to the desired size and shape. Pruning also helps promote bushier growth.

Potting and Repotting:
Asparagus ferns may require repotting every two years or when they outgrow their current container. Choose a pot with drainage holes and use well-draining potting soil. Repot in spring, gently separating and dividing any crowded sections of the plant.

Pests and Diseases:
Keep an eye out for common pests such as aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. If you notice an infestation, treat it with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Asparagus ferns are generally resistant to diseases but may develop root rot if overwatered.

Types of Asparagus Fern

There are several well-liked varieties of asparagus fern, which include:

  1. ‘Myeri’: This cultivar showcases dense foliage that grows on upright stems, earning it the nickname “foxtail fern.” It has a striking appearance.

  2. ‘Sprengeri’: Known for its long, cascading stems and full, almost fluffy mound-like shape, this cultivar is also referred to as an “asparagus emerald fern.” It adds an elegant touch to any setting.

  3. ‘Sprengeri Compacta’: Similar to its namesake, this variety boasts long stems and a full form but is a dwarf version. It retains the same characteristics but in a more compact size, making it suitable for smaller spaces.

  4. ‘Nana’: With its vibrant green foliage, this compact variety adds a pop of color to its surroundings. It features bright green leaves and maintains a smaller size compared to other asparagus fern varieties.

These cultivars offer unique characteristics and variations, allowing you to choose the one that best suits your preferences and space requirements. Whether you desire an upright, fluffy, cascading, or compact asparagus fern, these popular varieties provide options to enhance your greenery collection.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Asparagus ferns can face certain pests and diseases. Here are some common ones to watch out for:

  1. Aphids: These small, soft-bodied insects feed on the sap of plants, including asparagus ferns. They can cause stunted growth and distorted foliage. Treat aphid infestations with insecticidal soap or a strong stream of water.

  2. Mealybugs: Mealybugs are small, white, cottony insects that can infest asparagus ferns. They feed on plant juices and produce a sticky residue known as honeydew. Use insecticidal soap, neem oil, or rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab to control mealybugs.

  3. Spider Mites: These tiny arachnids can cause damage to asparagus ferns by sucking sap from the leaves, resulting in yellowing and a web-like appearance. Increase humidity around the plant and use insecticidal soap or neem oil to control spider mites.

  4. Scale Insects: Scale insects are small, round or oval insects that attach themselves to the stems and leaves of asparagus ferns, sucking sap from the plant. They can cause yellowing and wilting. Use neem oil or rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab to control scale insects.

  5. Root Rot: Overwatering or poorly-draining soil can lead to root rot in asparagus ferns. This fungal disease causes the roots to rot, leading to wilting, yellowing, and plant decline. Ensure proper drainage and avoid overwatering to prevent root rot.

  6. Leaf Spot: Leaf spot diseases can occur on asparagus ferns, causing dark spots or lesions on the leaves. Fungal pathogens are often the cause. Remove infected leaves and ensure good air circulation around the plant to prevent leaf spot.

Common Problems With Asparagus Fern

Asparagus ferns can encounter a few common problems. Here are some issues you may come across when caring for asparagus ferns:

Browning or Yellowing Foliage:
Browning or yellowing foliage is often a sign of underwatering or overwatering. Asparagus ferns prefer consistently moist soil but not soggy conditions. Adjust your watering routine to keep the soil evenly moist, allowing the top inch to dry out slightly before watering again.

Foliage Dropping:
If your asparagus fern is dropping foliage, it could be due to insufficient humidity or low light conditions. Asparagus ferns appreciate moderate to high humidity levels. Mist the foliage regularly or place the plant on a tray of water and pebbles to increase humidity. Ensure the plant receives bright, indirect light.

Lack of Growth:
Slow or lack of growth can occur if the asparagus fern is not receiving enough light. Ensure the plant is placed in a location with bright, indirect light. If growth remains stagnant, it may benefit from fertilization using a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength during the growing season.

Insect Infestations:
Asparagus ferns are susceptible to pests like aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and scale insects. Monitor your plants regularly and take action at the first sign of infestation. Treat the affected plant with appropriate insecticidal soap, neem oil, or other suitable treatments to control the pests.

Root Rot:
Overwatering or poorly-draining soil can lead to root rot in asparagus ferns. Symptoms include wilting, yellowing, and a foul odor from the soil. To prevent root rot, ensure the plant is in well-draining soil, and avoid overwatering. Adjust your watering schedule accordingly.

Insufficient Fertilization:
Asparagus ferns benefit from periodic fertilization during the growing season to promote healthy growth. If your plant is showing signs of nutrient deficiency, such as pale foliage or weak growth, consider fertilizing it with a balanced liquid fertilizer according to the recommended dosage.

Frequently Asked Question

How do I propagate asparagus ferns?

Asparagus ferns can be propagated through division or by collecting and planting the seeds from the berries. Division is the most common method. Simply separate the plant into smaller sections, ensuring each section has roots attached, and replant them.

How often should I water my asparagus fern?

Asparagus ferns prefer consistently moist soil. Water thoroughly whenever the top inch of soil feels dry. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot. Adjust your watering frequency based on the environmental conditions and the moisture needs of the plant.

Should I fertilize my asparagus fern?

Yes, asparagus ferns benefit from periodic fertilization. Feed them with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength every two to four weeks during the growing season (spring and summer). Reduce or stop fertilizing in the fall and winter when the plant is in a dormant phase.

Can asparagus ferns tolerate low light conditions?

Asparagus ferns prefer bright, indirect light. While they can tolerate some shade, low light conditions may result in weak growth and foliage decline. Place your asparagus ferns in a location that receives bright, filtered sunlight for optimal growth.

Do asparagus ferns require high humidity?

Asparagus ferns appreciate moderate to high humidity levels. To increase humidity around the plant, mist the foliage regularly or place the plant on a tray filled with water and pebbles. This helps create a humid microclimate.

How do I prune my asparagus fern?

Regularly remove any yellow or dead foliage to maintain the plant’s appearance. If the fern becomes overgrown or unruly, trim back the stems to the desired size and shape. Pruning also helps promote bushier growth.

What are some common pests that affect asparagus ferns?

Common pests that can affect asparagus ferns include aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and scale insects. Monitor your plants regularly and take appropriate measures, such as using insecticidal soap or neem oil, to control infestations.

Can I grow asparagus ferns outdoors?

Yes, asparagus ferns can be grown outdoors in suitable climates. They thrive in zones 9 to 11 and can be used as ground cover or incorporated into garden beds. Ensure they are planted in well-draining soil and provide them with the appropriate light and moisture conditions.

Conclusion

Growing and caring for asparagus ferns can be a rewarding experience. As versatile plants, they can thrive both indoors and outdoors, adding beauty and texture to any setting. By providing them with the right conditions, such as bright, indirect light, consistent moisture, and moderate to high humidity, you can ensure their health and vitality.

Proper watering, fertilization, and pruning are essential for maintaining asparagus ferns’ lush foliage and desired shape. Monitoring for common pests and diseases, such as aphids, mealybugs, root rot, and leaf spot, allows you to take prompt action and keep your plants healthy.

Whether you choose to propagate asparagus ferns through division or seeds, their propagation is relatively straightforward. With regular care and attention, asparagus ferns can thrive and provide you with the joy of their vibrant green foliage and graceful appearance.


Mary Lloyster

Mary Lloyster

Mary, the ultimate oracle of indoor gardening! With years of experience and a flourishing indoor expo, Mary has become our go-to expert for all things related to house plants and indoor gardening. Despite her background in Political Science, Mary has discovered a delightful way to blend her full-time job with a touch of relaxation through indoor gardening. Now, she eagerly shares her wisdom and experiences with our readers on a daily basis. If you have any inquiries about house plants, indoor gardening techniques, or caring tips, don't hesitate to leave a comment for Mary in the designated section below!

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