Asparagus fern is well-suited for use on a patio as a hanging plant, with feathery fronds that spill out over the edge of the container. This plant is neither asparagus nor fern, but comes from the lily family instead. Asparagus fern grows both indoors and out.
The young shoots of asparagus fern look like miniature versions of the vegetable. The canes grow up, then arch down from the centre. The feathery fronds are not really leaves but branchlets and stems called cladophylls. They are bright green and can grow 18 to 24 inches. Small white flowers may appear in late summer and turn into red berries in late fall to winter.
Asparagus fern is native to South Africa. In 1890, the Dammann Company, an Italian seed distributor, began to sell them and they caught on because of their beauty and adaptability.
Asparagus fern can withstand temperatures down to -6.67 degrees Celsius, but will die to the ground in colder temperatures. They sometimes grow back in spring in moderate climates and if plants in the ground are covered with a layer of mulch. The fern tolerates extremely hot temperatures as well. The plant grows in full sun to shade, but fronds tend to yellow with too much sun. Use potting soil to plant in containers and regular garden soil with some organic matter added in the ground. Asparagus fern is drought tolerant; it can hold water in the white tuberous areas just under the soil line attached to the roots.
Plant asparagus fern in hanging baskets or place in planters or pots. The fronds will trail over the pot or edge of a wall to soften the hardscape. The fern works well as a ground cover, but tends to be a little bit invasive and hard to get rid of.
Asparagus fern needs little care. Repot when roots become bound. The roots are very tough and can become a solid mass. Divide the plant by using a saw to cut them in pieces and replant. Trim back old fronds in spring if any remain and fertilise once a month during the growing period with liquid houseplant fertiliser per package directions. Plants moved indoors for the winter enjoy morning sun and evenly moist soil.
Asparagus fern comes in several different types. Asparagus sprengeri is the original and the one most used in home gardens. Asparagus meyeri, also called foxtail, has a different appearance. Stems are erect to 3 feet and they look like big plumes. Asparagus plumosus climbs and is also called feathery fern. The fronds are fine and hairy. Asparagus denudatus has relatively bare stems that grow in a tangle with a few green needles. Asparagus cochinchinensis is low to the ground, fluffy and resembles a clump of grass.
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- University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service; Asparagus Fern; Gerald Klingamen; 2006
- Texas A&M University Texas Agrilife Extension Service; Asparagus Ferns; Cynthia W. Mueller; October 2008
- LSU Ag Center: Consider Growing Asparagus Ferns; Dan Gill; January 2009
- Botanical Journeys Plant Guide: Asparagus Ferns -- Care of Asparagus Fern Plants