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How to Grow and Care For Foxtail Fern: Ultimate Care Guide

blog post authorVera Kutsenko
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Foxtail fern in a large cement pot.

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Foxtail fern (Asparagus densiflorus ' Meyeri') presents an exquisite appeal to indoor and outdoor gardens because of its beautiful foliage. This unique and evergreen plant is an excellent choice for tropical garden enthusiasts and houseplant owners. 
It is because foxtail ferns are easy to grow and do not need regular pruning like roses. This emerald green plant is low maintenance and can tolerate salt sprays.
Moreover, foxtail ferns add brightness to indoor spaces. The vibrant color of fern leaves uplifts the mood of their owners when they enter the home or their outdoor fern garden.
Many gardeners confuse the foxtail fern with its close relative—the asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus - its leaves droop downward and are best suited to layered or landscape gardening). Foxtail fern was previously classified as part of the lily family but has now joined the Asparagus family making the Foxtail fern a type of Asparagus fern. However, these two are different plants but produce similar flowers and fruits. Interestingly, the foxtail fern is an upright version of the asparagus fern.
Keep reading this article to learn how to grow the foxtail fern plants, their care guide, and prevention from pests and other environmental problems.

What is a Foxtail Fern?

Foxtail fern plant, also known as Plume Asparagus or hound’s tail, is an evergreen herb. This graceful plant is an excellent addition to your garden for its tiny white flowers, red berries (though they are toxic but attract honey bees), and bright green feathery leaves.
These perennial plants add elegance to landscapes and water-wise gardens due to their layered texture and fronds. Foxtail fern is popular among gardeners and indoor plant lovers because of its easy care and low maintenance.
In outdoor spaces, it has excellent use as a foil for ornamental grasses and other perennial shrubs. The slender appearance of the foxtail fern and small grass-like growth habit make it an outstanding choice for rock gardens and border edges.
While in houseplant collections, the delicate-looking leaves of Asparagus densiflorus 'Meyeri' make their perfect use in hanging baskets (also useful for outdoor gardens). The year-round green foliage of foxtail fern is also used as greenery in flower arrangements and remains fresh for one to two weeks.
Pro Tip Icon
Note: Foxtail fern can be an invasive species in certain areas!
 In many regions of the world, the foxtail fern plant is considered an invasive herb. On the other hand, it is cultivated as an evergreen houseplant for its vibrant plumes.


Is a Foxtail Fern a True Fern?
Foxtail fern is not a true fern but has a fern-like appearance and needle-like leaves with a dense growth habit. It grows up to 2 to 3 feet tall with a 3 to 4 feet spread and a fluffy, frond-like appearance. During summertime, foxtail ferns produce small white flowers turning red berries (fruit of these unique ornamental plants). Moreover, it does not reproduce through spores but propagates by seeds and division.

Foxtail Fern Care Guide

Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myersii’ or Asparagus meyeri
Foxtail fern, feather fern, hound’s tail, Plume Asparagus
Asparagaceae (previously members of Liliaceae)
Herbaceous perennials, evergreen
Leaves appear as narrow, needle-like structures with bright green color 
Small white flowers are prominent during spring and summer, fragrant
Small and globose turns green to red when mature. Red berries
Ornamental foliage plant all year round in indoors, offices, hallways, and outdoor gardens
Up to 2-3 Feet tall
Up to 3-4 Feet
9, 10, 11
Part-shade | will not tolerate direct sunlight. Learn more.
Moderate water requirement - 1x a week
By Division, From seed
Toxic to pets, birds, and humans
Botanical Name
Common Names
Family
Plant Type
Foliage type
Flowers
Fruits
Desirable plant features
Height
Spread
USDA Hardiness Zones
Sun Exposure
Water
Propagation Methods
Toxicity
Where To Buy
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How to Grow Foxtail Fern

Growing foxtail fern indoors and outdoors is relatively easy because it is a fast-growing plant with aggressive nature. However, it needs regular trimming to keep the evergreen houseplant tidy looking.
There are many ways to grow this drought-tolerant asparagus fern, and these are by division and seed propagation methods. Remember to perform the division propagation method in spring and always use a sharp knife to cut a small root ball from a healthy plant part. Place the root ball in a new pot with fresh potting mix. Ensure to bury the roots in the soil entirely.
Then, water thoroughly and spread compost or any other garden mulch around the plant base after two days to support and feed the fern.

Growing Foxtail Fern From Seed

Another best and most effective method to grow foxtail fern plants is through seeds. This process involves:

01

Harvest the red berries (fruits) of foxtail fern and soak them in a water container for 24 hours during winter. The next day, collect the seeds at the bottom of the container because these seeds have higher chances of germination.

02

Prepare the pot with a new mix and mist it with water.

03

Make two holes per pot, sow seeds in them, and mist the soil. Position the pot in the window, receiving the indirect sunlight. 

04

Regularly mist the pot until the seed germinates (it takes one month to germinate). Once the seedlings are 3 to 4 inches tall, shift them outdoors during the day and bring them inside at night. 

Growing Outdoors

This evergreen shrub flourishes and thrives well in warm and  USDA hardiness zones nine through eleven. Foxtail ferns produce lush green leaves throughout the year, adding a stunning ground cover to your outdoor garden.

How is Foxtail Ferns used in Landscaping or the Garden?

The lush green appearance of foxtail ferns makes them perfect for front yards (perennial borders) and layered gardening. The texture and artsy of its fronds are best for indoor and outdoor decorations in hanging baskets.
Foxtail ferns are great for flower arrangements in interior spaces for their evergreen leaves. They can also be used as ground cover and small specimens in rock gardens. Another best use of these perennials is to attract pollinators in parks, such as butterflies and honey bees.


Can foxtail ferns grow in pots?
Yes, foxtail ferns can grow in containers - indoor and outdoor! We even recommend doing so in colder hardiness zones (outside of recommended USDA 9-11)
Do foxtail ferns grow fast?
Foxtail Ferns can tolerate temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. They are resilient and can come back after freeze in hardiness zones 9 to 11.

How to Care for Foxtail Fern?

The Foxtail Fern is an easy-care plant with much more visual appeal than its other relatives (Asparagus fern). It stays green throughout the year and produces attractive needle-like leaves and small white flowers during the growing season.
With little care, this plant continues to grow new growth and add beauty to indoor houseplant collections and outdoors. However, the well-draining soils and partial shade play a critical role in their healthy development.
When these two essential growth requirements are met, the foxtail fern plant adds a pleasant touch to indoor and outdoor spaces with its emerald green leaves.
So, feather fern plants are perfect for beginners and expert gardeners to add to their indoor and outdoor collections, but it requires the following conditions at optimum levels.

💧 Water Needs

Foxtail fern plant is not your typical houseplant because the plant is drought tolerant due to its tuberous root system. The taproots can store extra water like the thick leaves of succulents. Therefore, foxtail ferns do not need frequent water applications like other houseplants.
It is vital to avoid overwatering the foxtail fern plant because overly moist soil can cause root rot which can cause the plant to die due to a weaker, mushy root system. Allow the topsoil to dry between each watering process indoors.
For indoor foxtail ferns, watering once a week is perfect during the growing season during spring and summer. While during the wintertime, foxtail ferns require less water (generally on a bi-weekly or monthly basis).
Outdoor foxtail asparagus fern needs once a week watering when there is not enough rain during the growing season. Water the outdoor foxtail ferns less often in the winter. 
Do not allow the soil to dry out outdoors; otherwise, the leaves will start to yellow and fall. Never water this forest plant with hot or ice water and tap water (which contain harsh chemicals) to prevent root shock.
Pro Tip Icon
Note: Keep soil moderately moist around the foxtail fern.
Keep the soil moderately moist around the foxtail fern roots but not soggy or oversaturated for their healthy growth. The best practice is to heavily water foxtail ferns until water drains from the pot's bottom. It will also prevent salt buildup and suffocation in the root zone.


How often do you water foxtail fern?
For both indoor and outdoor foxtail ferns, general rule of thumb is roughly once a week during growing season in spring and summer. In colder winter months, we recommend roughly bi-weekly to once a month.
How much water do foxtail ferns need?
Unlike other houseplants, foxtail ferns have taproots that store water (similar to succulents), so they need less water than other houseplants.
Why is my foxtail fern turning yellow?
If your foxtail fern is turning yellow it's likely a sign of overwatering. If indoors, make sure you planted in well-draining soil and a pot with a drainage hole. Reduce watering and let topsoil dry.

☀️ Sunlight

Foxtail fern is a low-maintenance and long-lasting perennial. Also, its narrow and pointed leaves give plenty of visual appeals. This forest fern grows best in indirect light to low light or partial shade and does not do well in full sun. Even in their natural habitat, these ferns need protection from direct sunlight. We recommend placing it in a spot where it can receive 2-6 hours of bright, diffused light.
For indoor foxtail ferns, the east or west-facing window locations are best, where they receive indirect sun throughout the day. In the case of bright sunny days, filter the direct sunlight through sheer curtains or other material. They can also survive near north-facing windows that typically receive the slightest light in the home.
When these ferns are in outdoor gardens, the ideal spot is where they receive the gentle morning sun and partial shade for the rest of the day.
Most importantly, protect the foxtail fern from the afternoon sun during late summer because it will scorch their leaves.
Pro Tip Icon
Pro Tip: Foxtail fern can start to wither when exposed to direct sunlight.
Foxtail fern plant is not for full sun and starts withering when exposed to direct sun. Be cautious whether you grow your emerald fern in indoor or outdoor layered gardens. Yellowing of the leaves is the first sign that your foxtail is receiving insufficient light and in need of an ideal location.


How much light does a foxtail fern need?
Outdoor foxtail ferns prefer partially shaded areas that receive morning sun rather than afternoon sun especially in hotter zones. Indoors, place near west or east facing windows that receive bright light for half of the day.
Can foxtail ferns take full sun?
Foxtail ferns can tolerate some full sun (max 4 hours), but overexposure to full sunlight can cause foxtail ferns to wither and turn yellow.

🌡️Temperature

Foxtail ferns are native to Africa and remain evergreen in warm climates. The perfect temperature for this beauty is between 65 to 70 °F (18 – 24 °C). They are the hardiest plants and can survive temperatures as low as 24°F; however, anything below 50 °F harms foxtail ferns and risks their survival.
In tropical and subtropical climates (USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11), foxtail ferns can be grown throughout the year in outdoors. These areas are Florida, Texas, California, and Louisiana. However, be aware that the high temperatures and humidity may turn this ornamental plant into invasive species.
While in colder climates, they can be grown and maintained outdoors during the summer. As the winter months approach (temperature drops to around ten °C), bring the foxtail ferns indoors to avoid frost injury.


Can foxtail fern survive winter?
Foxtail ferns can tolerate temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit and are hardy in USDA zones 9-11. Outside of these zones, we recommend overwintering the plant.
Is foxtail fern drought tolerant or drought resistant?
Foxtail ferns are hardy plants because they can tolerate drought, thanks to their tuberous root system. It has extensive roots with large tubers that store water and food to combat drought conditions like succulents. These plants have big fleshy leaves to hold water and survive the harsh climate of tropical regions.
Foxtail fern foliage in Salinas, Ca
Image Source:Photos by laladelgado2016 from GettyImages.Foxtail ferns need moderate to high humidity to grow and survive. Although they are dry tolerant, consistent moisture helps with healthy growth.

🚿Humidity

This plant needs moderate to high humidity levels to grow and survive. When the foxtail fern plants are indoors or in dry climates, provide them with a constant moisture source to keep the humidity levels at an optimum. For example, the regular misting and pebble tray with water is ideal. Or you can create a humid microclimate for them by grouping all tropical houseplants through transpiration.
On the other hand, when grown outdoors in tropical or semi-tropical climates, the humidity levels are not a big concern.

🌱 Soil

Foxtail fern plants prefer organically rich and well-draining soil to thrive. They need a slightly acidic and potting soil mix with good drainage. Because a well-draining soil will prevent root rot and facilitate the healthy growth of emerald green plants.
On the other hand, the organically rich soil provides all essential nutrients to flourish while helping drainage.
Pro Tip Icon
Pro Tip: When growing foxtail indoors, use a well-draining potting mix with perlite.
Always remember that foxtail ferns survive on various soil types but use a loose well-draining potting mix for indoor containers.
The potting mix with equal amounts of peat moss and perlite is perfect for indoor and outdoor containers. It is because peat moss is slightly acidic and retains moisture (do not let the soil dry out). At the same time, the perlite ensures a good oxygen supply to roots through the potting mix.
When growing the foxtail fern in outdoor gardens, select a location with healthy and rich soil. If the soil in your preferred area is unhealthy, then the easiest way to amend the ground is with compost and organic material.

🌻 Fertilizer

Foxtail ferns need low fertilizer applications during their whole life. However, in outdoor gardens, adding compost or organic mulch improves soil nutrition and, as a result, enhances foxtail fern growth by constant nutrient supply. While in outdoor or indoor containers, they need the houseplant-specific fertilizer with half strength during the growing season from spring to summer, such as NPK with 10-10-10 power.
Similarly, slow-release fertilizer is best for these delicate-looking plants because it continuously adds nutrients to garden soil and feeds their roots from summer to fall. For this purpose, use compost as a soil drench in outdoor gardens and indoor plant containers for a healthy nutrient supply. Compost tea, seaweed, worm castings, fish emulsion, and plant extract are the best slow-release houseplant fertilizers.
Do not use salt-based fertilizers because they may lead to salt buildup and harm the plant root and nutrient absorption.

😎 Pruning and Maintenance

Foxtail ferns are low-maintenance plants and do not need much pruning in terms of controlling their growth. These foxtail plumes need pruning to support new and healthy growth. Trim off the old and dead leaves and stems to encourage new growth and maintain their health throughout the season.
Foxtail ferns grow tall under the right conditions. Therefore, pruning should be performed timely to prevent the plant from becoming very tall and invasive. Cut off the yellow, weak, and dying stems and leaves with the help of a sharp knife once a year or during spring. Pinch off the one-inch stem tips to stimulate new growth.
Use shears or snips as pruning tools based on stem thickness.

How to Repot Foxtail Fern

As foxtail fern is a fast-growing perennial and needs repotting every spring. This practice aims to give this ornamental plant a fresh potting soil mix to grow healthy and produce more tuberous roots. Following are the steps involved in repotting the foxtail fern plant:

01

Gently remove the foxtail fern plant from its old container and shake off as much of the old potting soil around the root ball.

02

Prune off the weak, damaged, and discolored roots (healthy roots are white with tiny hairs, while unhealthy roots appear dark brown, black, and slimy and restrict the growth of aboveground plant parts).

03

After removing the damaged roots, treat cuts with a fungicide to avoid infections or root rot.

04

Carefully transfer the plant into its new container with fresh potting mix. The new pot should be 1 to 2 inches larger than the previous pot to give the roots more space to grow and expand.

05

Thoroughly water the repotted foxtail plant to give it proper moisture for a new start. 

Common Foxtail Fern Problems and Pests

Foxtail ferns are very easy plants!
Image Source:Foxtail ferns are generally resistant to most pests, but they can develop issues usually due to overwatering.

In their outdoor environments, the foxtail ferns are resistant to most pest problems. However, indoors, they may get sap-sucking insect infestations and develop unusual growths on leaves. With applications of organic neem oil and insecticidal soap, you can keep foxtail plant disease and pest free.
The following are the main problems; impacting this forest fern growth:

Yellowing Leaves

Foxtail ferns are usually drought-related. However,  water stress (too much or less water) leads to defoliation and withering of the plant. To avoid this problem, do not let your potting soil dry, and ensure you are watering your foxtail ferns properly.
Also, keep them in suitable locations where they can get optimum light exposures; otherwise, the insufficient light turns the leaves yellow.

Root Rot

Like succulents, foxtail ferns store water in their tuberous roots to combat drought. As a result, they are more prone to fungal and bacterial infections when overwatered. These pathogens cause root decay and plant death. One of the early signs of root rot (usually due to overwatering) is foliage discoloration, drying, and plant wilting.
You can read our in-depth guide on how to prevent and treat root rot here.

Pests

The most common pest infestations of foxtail ferns are mealybugs, scale insects, and spider mites. On infested plants, they appear as white cottony fuzz and secrete sticky, sugary substances for secondary pests.
Regularly monitor and handpick these sapsuckers to prevent severe damage. You can use insecticidal soap or neem oil to treat many of these infestations. Make sure to always quarantine your plant if possible on first sign of a pest infestation.

📚 Foxtail Fern Care Cheat Sheet - Care Tips

  1. Always use a good quality potting mix combined with peat moss and perlite to maintain acidic soil pH levels and a good air supply.
  2. Maintain proper space among tropical indoor houseplant collections for good air circulation and create a humid microclimate for their healthy growth.
  3. Avoid overwatering this stunning fern-like plant because it has strong tuberous roots to survive and thrive well without much water.
  4. Feed your indoor foxtail fern with water-soluble houseplant fertilizer while soil drenches the natural fertilizer (compost) for outdoor asparagus ferns.
  5. Maintain the temperature of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit for healthy growth of the foxtail fern plant.

Where to Buy Foxtail Fern?

Foxtail ferns are beautiful plants with long, soft, and lush green fronds. They are easy to care for and low maintenance like succulents because of their tuberous root system and can successfully be grown as indoor houseplants, rock gardens, and landscapes.
Buy these evergreen perennials from Neverland along with complete care and propagation guide for these plants.

Companion Plants for Foxtail Fern

A landscape needs more than one plant (foxtail plant) to create more visual appeal. So, the following plants do well alongside foxtail fern:

Other Common FAQs on Foxtail Ferns


Is foxtail fern safe for dogs?
Foxtail fern plants poison humans, dogs, and cats, including flowers and red berries. The small part of this plant can cause death in dogs upon skin contact.
Can foxtail fern take full sun?
Foxtail fern plants can handle only full morning sunlight because it is gentle, while the extended full sun exposure or afternoon sun can burn the delicate foliage of ferns. Try to provide them with a mix of bright and indirect sunlight.
How long does it take a foxtail fern to mature?
Through seeds, the foxtail fern plants are slow to establish and take two to three growing seasons to fully mature. On the other hand, by the division method, foxtail fern matures rapidly.
Can you grow foxtail ferns indoors?
It is easy to grow and maintain foxtail ferns in colder climates indoors. Keep them in partial shade to bright indirect sunlight with a well-draining potting soil mix.
How are foxtail ferns used in landscaping or the garden?
The lush green leaves of foxtail ferns make them an excellent choice for indoor and outdoor gardens. Grow them along the edges of your garden to create an evergreen environment of ornamental plants. You can plant them in hanging baskets (looks beautiful indoors and outdoors) in an outdoor garden to attract pollinators, such as honey bees.

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