Asparagus ferns (also known as Asparagus aethiopicus syn. Asparagus densiflorus) is often used as a decorative plant and is usually found in hanging baskets. In the summer months many will place this plant on an outdoor deck or patio.
In the winter, it’s usually brought indoors – both to protect the plant from the cooler weather and to help clean indoor air.
Basic care requirements
Despite its name; the asparagus fern plant is not really a fern at all. In fact, it’s a member of the Liliaceae family. When growing this specie of plant outside, for best results choose a location that boasts equal amounts of sun and shade. This environment will encourage healthy foliage growth – medium green, flowing foliage that will quickly fill a container can be expected.
In certain climates, the asparagus fern will produce small white flowers, however, even without these, it’s still an aesthetically pleasing plant. Although the frilly, feathery asparagus fern plant looks soft to the touch, it does have thorny spurs. With this in mind, it’s important to handle the plant with care.
Simply wear gloves when moving or touching the asparagus fern to avoid injury or damaging the plant itself.
Asides from the delicate white flowers that are sometimes found on this plant, it can also produce berries. An asparagus fern brandishing both berries and flowers is a happy plant and is extremely content in its location. Berries can also be planted to propagate the asparagus fern plant.
For propagation by division, you can quarter or half the root ball using a knife or scissors and pot into separate pots. These should be a little smaller in size to the initial pot. Another option includes pulling the tubers apart by hand.
To distinguish the good and bad seeds, simply place them in a bucket brimming with water and leave them for a few days – the good seeds will sink, while the bad seeds will float to the surface of the water.
Growing asparagus fern indoors
Growing asparagus fern indoors takes a little more effort than growing them outdoors. Indoor spaces are often dry because of the winter heat, when in fact it is humidity that this specie prefers.
For best results and to avoid the leaves turning brown and dropping, mist the plant daily and use a pebble tray. If the fern appears dead, this may not always be the case. Try placing the plant outside, as outdoor springtime temperatures will often revive them.
Asparagus fern care
Another tip to ensure good health includes keeping the plant well watered at all times and re-potting every few years. Indoor care of asparagus ferns includes misting the arching stems on a regular basis as this will create the effect of humidity – something this plant thrives in. If growing outdoors in the summer months, ensure your plant has plenty of water, and apply a good quality fertiliser to encourage healthy growth.
You may also wish to prune any dead stems to encourage new growth. These particular species of plant prefer to be pot bound, which means yearly division is not needed or necessary.
Light requirements for asparagus ferns
Asparagus ferns can withstand full sunlight, although too much sun can cause their leaves to turn a shade of yellow. For best results, plant in a location that enjoys morning sun and afternoon shade. Alternatively, choose a place that receives light shade for the entirety of the day.
The plants are also extremely tolerant of high temperatures, and as such, they can grow enthusiastically in the height of the summer, where many other plants will wilt. This makes them a great option for sun-drenched gardens.
In terms of temperatures, choose a location that offers a moderate temperature and use a humidifier to encourage moist air. If indoors, opt for a spot that has an average room temperature. If outdoors, temperatures of 50°F-75°F (c. 10°C-24°C) are good for the day, and 50°F-65°F (c. 10°C-18°C) is suitable for night.
Choose a place that boasts well-drained soil that is rich, light and slightly acidic. To ensure the soil is well drained, add a peat moss or a peat moss planting mix. To test the soil, simply dig a small hole, fill it with water and allow it to drain.
The perfect environment will ensure the water goes from six to one inches within the hour.
Before watering your asparagus fern, allow the soil to dry at a 50/50 rate – if the fronds of the plant are a healthy green, this is a sign you are giving it the perfect amount of water – not too little and not too much.
Fertilising your asparagus fern
Use an all-purpose, soluble liquid fertiliser for best results and dilute it to half strength. Fertilise the fern every three to four weeks during the initial growth period (between March and August) and monthly thereafter.
Asparagus fern types
There are a number of variants of asparagus fern to choose from, including Foxtail Fern, Plumosa and Sprengeri Fern – these are perhaps the most popular types. Foxtail Fern is slightly different to the others in that it boasts fluffy plumes of foliage.
The leaves turning yellow on an asparagus fern tends to be its most common problem, but why exactly does this happen? Too much light is the usual reason the leaves turn yellow – this is why the plant thrives better in filtered or indirect light.
If you need to move the plant to a new location, do so gradually as a harsh change can be detrimental to the fern’s health. Begin by moving it to a shaded area, and then to a place that receives slightly more light.
Another reason the leaves can yellow is due to the initial planting of the fern – place these plants too close together and they won’t receive enough nutrients, as they’ll be fighting against each other.
For best results, place in a space that allows for three feet of width to grow and four feet of height.
You may also notice the leaves turning brown and crispy, and this is a tell-tale sign that the plant isn’t receiving enough water. For best results, water the asparagus fern on a regular basis.
Regular watering is particularly important if you grow asparagus ferns in hanging baskets as they can wilt quickly if the little soil they have is too dry.
Asparagus ferns are lucky in that they rarely have problems with major diseases or insects, which means you’ll seldom need to spray them with pesticides. If you do notice any pests attacking the fern, use a gentle insecticide soap to remove these insects from the plant, as oppose to a harsh chemical solution.
Common pests to attack the fern include mealy bugs, scale insects and spider mites.
These only tend to attack if you are moving the plant from location to location, particularly when transferring from the indoors to the outdoors. If the infestation is too heavy to clean with soap, prune the affected area before transferring the fern inside.
Creating an attractive display
To create an attractive container, team this steadfast specimen with an array of summer blooms and foliage plants.
Place a spiky, shade-loving plant at the centre of the pot, and surround it with the gushing branches of the asparagus fern to create a pleasing display – one that is guaranteed to wow those who enter your garden.
Although there is a lot to consider when planting asparagus ferns in your garden, the end results mean it is plant that is easy for gardener’s to love. Not only can it accompany other species to provide a backdrop, but it can also be left to its own devices to create a spectacular wall of colour.