How to Grow and Care for Foxtail Fern


Updated: 05 Sep, 2023

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The Foxtail fern, scientifically known as Asparagus densiflorus, is a perennial evergreen herb that captivates with its luxurious, fluffy stems adorned with pine needle-like leaves, creating an enchanting plush appearance. Despite its name, the foxtail fern is not a fern at all, as it reproduces through seeds rather than spores, placing it in the asparagus family.

This remarkable plant graces gardens and indoor houseplant collections alike, thanks to its elegant beauty and adaptability. Sporting delicate white flowers that give way to striking red berries, the foxtail fern adds a touch of visual allure to any outdoor landscape. Its versatility extends to the world of floral arrangements, where its feathery fronds can be incorporated, maintaining their freshness and charm for a remarkable two to three weeks.

The Foxtail fern is not merely a plant; it’s a living testament to nature’s artistry. Its lush foliage and vibrant berries harmonize seamlessly with various environments, making it a cherished addition for horticulturists and gardening enthusiasts. Whether gracing your garden, adorning your living space, or enhancing floral displays, the Foxtail fern offers an enduring blend of beauty and resilience. Join us as we delve deeper into the fascinating world of this captivating botanical wonder.

What is a Foxtail Fern?

The Foxtail Fern, scientifically known as Asparagus densiflorus, is a captivating botanical wonder celebrated for its unique charm and lush, feathery foliage. Despite its name, the Foxtail Fern is not a true fern; rather, it belongs to the asparagus family. This perennial evergreen herb has carved its place in the hearts of plant enthusiasts, adorning both outdoor landscapes and indoor living spaces with its striking appearance.

What sets the Foxtail Fern apart are its fluffy, pine needle-like fronds that elegantly cascade from sturdy stems, resembling a cascade of verdant foxtails. These striking fronds impart a sense of softness and sophistication, making it a sought-after addition to any garden or plant collection.

In the spring and early summer, the Foxtail Fern produces small, delicate white flowers that give way to vivid red berries, adding a touch of natural artistry to its allure. Its adaptability extends beyond aesthetic appeal, as it can thrive both indoors and outdoors, withstanding varying light conditions and climates with grace.

Common NameFoxtail fern, asparagus fern, plume asparagus, emerald feather, plumosa fern
Botanical NameAsparagus densiflorus
Family NameAsparagaceae
Plant TypePerennial
Mature Size2-3 ft. tall, 2-3 ft. wide 
Sun ExposurePartial
Soil TypeWell-draining
Soil pHAcidic, neutral
Bloom TimeSpring
Flower ColorWhite
Hardiness Zones9a-11a (USDA)
Native AreaAfrica
ToxicityToxic to humans and pets

How to Grow Fox Tail Fern From Seed

Growing Foxtail Fern (Asparagus densiflorus) from seed can be a rewarding but somewhat challenging process compared to propagating through division. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to grow Foxtail Fern from seeds:

Materials Needed:

  • Fresh Foxtail Fern seeds (harvested from mature berries)
  • Seed-starting trays or small pots
  • Sterile seed-starting mix
  • Plastic wrap or a plastic dome
  • Watering can with a fine spray nozzle
  • A warm and well-lit location (indirect sunlight)

Steps to Grow Foxtail Fern from Seed:

Harvest Seeds:

  • Harvest mature berries from your Foxtail Fern plant when they turn red and are ripe. Each berry contains a few small seeds.

Prepare the Growing Containers:

  • Fill seed-starting trays or small pots with a sterile seed-starting mix. Ensure the mix is well-draining.

Plant the Seeds:

  • Sow the Foxtail Fern seeds on the surface of the seed-starting mix. Do not bury them; they require light to germinate.
  • Gently press the seeds into the soil to ensure good contact.

Mist and Cover:

  • Lightly mist the surface of the soil to moisten it.
  • Cover the seed trays or pots with plastic wrap or place them in a plastic dome to create a humid microenvironment.

Provide Light and Warmth:

  • Place the seed trays or pots in a location with indirect sunlight or under fluorescent grow lights. Foxtail Fern seeds need warmth to germinate, so maintain a temperature of around 70-75°F (21-24°C).

Maintain Humidity:

  • Check the moisture level regularly. The soil should remain consistently moist but not soggy. Mist the soil lightly if it starts to dry out.
  • Keep the plastic wrap or dome on to maintain humidity. You can remove it briefly to allow for some air circulation if necessary.

Germination:

  • Germination can be slow and irregular, taking anywhere from several weeks to several months. Be patient and continue to maintain the growing conditions.

Transplanting:

  • Once the seedlings have grown large enough to handle (several inches tall with a few true leaves), you can transplant them into individual pots filled with standard potting soil.

Care for Young Plants:

  • Continue to provide bright, indirect light for the young Foxtail Ferns.
  • Water when the top inch of soil feels dry.
  • As the plants mature, you can gradually acclimate them to the conditions of their final growing location, whether indoors or outdoors.
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Growing Foxtail Fern from seeds is a labor of patience, as germination can be slow and unpredictable. However, with the right care and conditions, you can successfully grow these charming plants from seeds and enjoy the satisfaction of nurturing them from their earliest stages of life.

Foxtail Fern Care

The Foxtail fern (Asparagus densiflorus) is a charming and resilient plant that can thrive both indoors and outdoors. Its fluffy, pine needle-like foliage and vibrant red berries make it a favorite among gardeners and indoor plant enthusiasts. To ensure your Foxtail fern thrives, follow these care guidelines:

1. Light:

  • Indoor: Place your indoor Foxtail fern near a bright, indirect light source. Avoid direct sunlight, which can scorch the delicate fronds.
  • Outdoor: In the garden, plant your Foxtail fern in partial to full shade. It can tolerate some morning sun but should be shielded from harsh afternoon sunlight.

2. Temperature:

  • Foxtail ferns prefer temperatures between 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C) during the day and slightly cooler at night. They can tolerate brief temperature drops but are not frost-resistant.

3. Watering:

  • Keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy. Water when the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil feels dry.
  • Reduce watering in the winter when the plant’s growth slows down.

4. Humidity:

  • Foxtail ferns appreciate moderate humidity levels. Mist the plant occasionally, especially if you have indoor heating that dries the air.

5. Soil:

  • Use well-draining potting soil for indoor plants or amend your garden soil with organic matter for outdoor Foxtail ferns.

6. Fertilization:

  • Feed your Foxtail fern with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half strength every 4-6 weeks during the growing season (spring and summer).

7. Pruning:

  • Remove yellow or brown fronds regularly to encourage new growth.
  • Trim back any overgrown or leggy stems to maintain a bushier appearance.

8. Pests and Diseases:

  • Foxtail ferns are relatively pest and disease-resistant but watch for common houseplant pests like mealybugs and spider mites. Treat promptly if you notice any infestations.

9. Repotting:

  • Repot your Foxtail fern every 2-3 years or when it outgrows its container. Choose a slightly larger pot and fresh potting mix.

Propagating Foxtail Fern

Propagating a Foxtail Fern (Asparagus densiflorus) allows you to create new plants from the parent plant. Whether you want to share this delightful plant with friends or expand your collection, here’s how to propagate it:

Materials Needed:

  • Healthy Foxtail Fern plant
  • Pruning shears or sharp scissors
  • Potting soil
  • Small pots or containers
  • Plastic bags or plastic wrap
  • Rooting hormone (optional)

Propagation Methods:

Division:

  • Division is the most common and successful method for propagating Foxtail Ferns. It’s best done in the spring when the plant is actively growing.
  • Gently remove the Foxtail Fern from its pot or dig it up from the garden.
  • Use pruning shears or a sharp knife to separate the plant into smaller sections, ensuring that each section has both roots and healthy fronds.
  • Plant these sections in small pots filled with fresh potting soil.
  • Water thoroughly and place the pots in a location with indirect light.
  • Cover the pots with plastic bags or plastic wrap to create a mini-greenhouse effect, which helps maintain humidity.
  • After a few weeks, when you notice new growth, you can remove the plastic cover.
  • Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged as the new plants establish themselves.

From Berries (Seed Propagation):

  • Foxtail Ferns produce small red berries after flowering. You can propagate from seeds, but note that this method is less common and slower than division.
  • Harvest the berries when they ripen and carefully remove the seeds.
  • Plant the seeds in pots filled with potting soil.
  • Cover the pots with plastic wrap or place them in a plastic bag to create a humid environment.
  • Keep the soil consistently moist and provide indirect light.
  • Germination may take several weeks to several months, so be patient.

From Stem Cuttings (Less Common):

  • While less common, Foxtail Ferns can be propagated from stem cuttings.\
  • Take a cutting with a few inches of stem and a few healthy fronds.\
  • Dip the cut end in rooting hormone (optional) and plant it in a small pot with fresh potting soil.
  • Cover the pot with plastic wrap or a plastic bag to maintain humidity.
  • Keep the soil consistently moist and provide indirect light.
  • Once the cutting develops roots and new growth, you can remove the plastic cover.
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Propagation can be a rewarding way to expand your Foxtail Fern collection or share these charming plants with others. With patience and care, you can successfully propagate Foxtail Ferns using division, seed, or stem cutting methods.

Common Problems With Fox Tail Fern

Foxtail Ferns (Asparagus densiflorus) are generally hardy plants, but they can still encounter some common problems or issues. Here are several common problems you might encounter with your Foxtail Fern and how to address them:

Yellowing Fronds:

  • Cause: Yellowing fronds can be caused by overwatering, poor drainage, or insufficient light.
  • Solution: Ensure that the plant is in well-draining soil and that you allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings. Make sure it receives bright, indirect light. Prune yellowed fronds to encourage new growth.

Drooping or Wilting Fronds:

  • Cause: This is often a sign of underwatering or too much direct sunlight.
  • Solution: Water your Foxtail Fern when the top inch of soil feels dry. Ensure it’s in a location with bright, indirect light and protect it from harsh, direct sunlight.

Brown Tips on Fronds:

  • Cause: Brown tips can result from low humidity, excessive fertilization, or salt build-up in the soil.
  • Solution: Increase humidity around the plant by misting it regularly or using a humidity tray. Flush the soil periodically to remove excess salts, and reduce fertilizer if necessary.

Leaf Drop:

  • Cause: Leaf drop can occur due to stress, shock from environmental changes, or overwatering.
  • Solution: Ensure a stable environment for your Foxtail Fern, avoid drastic changes in light or temperature, and maintain appropriate watering practices.

Fading Foliage Color:

  • Cause: Foliage may lose its vibrant color if the plant is not receiving enough light.
  • Solution: Move the plant to a location with brighter, indirect light to help it regain its color.

Pest Infestations:

  • Cause: Common pests, such as mealybugs, spider mites, and aphids, can infest Foxtail Ferns.
  • Solution: Inspect your plant regularly and address pest problems promptly using insecticidal soap or a strong stream of water to remove them. Isolate affected plants to prevent the infestation from spreading.

Root Rot:

  • Cause: Root rot can occur when the soil is consistently too wet, leading to fungal growth in the roots.
  • Solution: Ensure the plant is in well-draining soil and allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings. If root rot is severe, consider repotting the plant in fresh soil.

Overcrowding:

  • Cause: Foxtail Ferns prefer slightly crowded conditions, but overcrowding can lead to reduced growth and vigor.
  • Solution: Divide or repot the plant if it has become too crowded, ensuring it has adequate space for growth.
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Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Foxtail Ferns (Asparagus densiflorus) are generally hardy plants that are not highly susceptible to pests and diseases. However, they can still encounter some common issues. Here are some of the common pests and plant diseases that may affect Foxtail Ferns and how to manage them:

Common Pests:

  1. Mealybugs: These small, white, cottony insects can cluster on the fronds and suck plant juices, leading to stunted growth and yellowing of leaves. To control mealybugs, use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove them, or apply insecticidal soap.

  2. Spider Mites: These tiny pests can cause yellow speckling on leaves and produce fine webbing. Regularly misting your Foxtail Fern can help prevent spider mite infestations. You can also use neem oil or insecticidal soap to treat them.

  3. Scale Insects: Scale insects appear as small, brown or black bumps on the fronds. They can weaken the plant by feeding on its sap. Remove them manually with a soft brush or cloth, and follow up with insecticidal soap.

  4. Aphids: Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects that cluster on the leaves and can cause curling and distortion. Spray them off with a strong stream of water or use insecticidal soap.

Common Plant Diseases:

  1. Root Rot: Root rot is typically caused by overly wet or poorly draining soil. To prevent root rot, ensure your Foxtail Fern is planted in well-draining soil and allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings. If root rot is suspected, trim affected roots and repot the plant in fresh soil.

  2. Powdery Mildew: Powdery mildew appears as a white, powdery substance on the fronds and can hinder growth. Increase air circulation around the plant, avoid overhead watering, and treat with a fungicidal spray if needed.

  3. Leaf Spot: Leaf spot manifests as brown or black spots on the fronds. Prune and remove affected leaves promptly to prevent the spread of the disease. Ensure the plant isn’t overcrowded to improve air circulation.

  4. Bacterial or Fungal Leaf Blight: This can lead to brown or black lesions on the leaves. Remove infected leaves, improve air circulation, and avoid overhead watering.

Preventative Measures:

  • Keep your Foxtail Fern in optimal health by providing the right light, watering, and humidity conditions.
  • Inspect your plant regularly for signs of pests or diseases, especially the undersides of leaves.
  • Isolate new plants for a few weeks to ensure they aren’t introducing pests or diseases to your existing collection.
  • Quarantine any infected plants to prevent the spread of pests or diseases.
  • Avoid overwatering, as this can create conditions conducive to root rot and fungal issues.

By maintaining good care practices and promptly addressing any issues you encounter, you can keep your Foxtail Fern healthy and free from common pests and diseases. Regular monitoring and quick action are key to maintaining the beauty and vigor of these charming plants.

Can Foxtail Ferns be grown indoors?

Yes, Foxtail Ferns can thrive as indoor houseplants. They do well in bright, indirect light and can adapt to indoor conditions.

How often should I water my Foxtail Fern?

Water your Foxtail Fern when the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil feels dry. Ensure that the pot has drainage holes to prevent overwatering.

Can Foxtail Ferns tolerate direct sunlight?

Foxtail Ferns prefer bright, indirect light but can tolerate some morning sun. Avoid exposing them to intense, direct sunlight, which can scorch their delicate fronds.

How do I propagate a Foxtail Fern?

Foxtail Ferns can be propagated through division, from seeds, or stem cuttings. Division is the most common method, best done in the spring.

Are Foxtail Ferns susceptible to pests and diseases?

Foxtail Ferns are relatively hardy but can be affected by common pests like mealybugs, spider mites, and aphids. They can also develop root rot and fungal diseases if overwatered.

Do Foxtail Ferns need fertilization?

Yes, Foxtail Ferns benefit from regular fertilization during the growing season (spring and summer). Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half strength every 4-6 weeks.

How often should I repot my Foxtail Fern?

Foxtail Ferns generally need repotting every 2-3 years or when they become root-bound. Choose a slightly larger pot and fresh potting mix for repotting.

Conclusion

The Foxtail Fern (Asparagus densiflorus) is a captivating and versatile plant that can thrive both indoors and outdoors. Its lush, fluffy foliage and vibrant red berries make it a cherished addition to gardens, landscaping, and indoor houseplant collections.

To ensure your Foxtail Fern flourishes, it’s important to provide it with the right conditions, including proper lighting, watering, and well-draining soil. Regular maintenance, such as pruning and fertilization, can help keep the plant healthy and vibrant.

While Foxtail Ferns are generally hardy, they can encounter common issues like pests, diseases, and environmental stress. Vigilance and prompt action are key to addressing these challenges and preserving the plant’s beauty.


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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