How to Grow and Care for Your Asparagus Fern

Known for its delicate and whimsical foliage, asparagus ferns, are growing in popularity as houseplants. They’re relatively easy to care for, making them a great option for beginners. They add a bright spot to any home and have unique feathery or fluffy-looking leaves that are soft to the touch.

Asparagus Fern in a pastel green pot

Image Source: iStock (SaskiaAcht)

Asparagus Fern Care Guide

Botanical name

Asparagus

Difficulty

Beginner

Growth Rate

Moderate

Sun Exposure

Bright Indirect Light

Water

Medium - 1-2x a week, likes consistent moisture

Soil Type

Houseplant Potting Mix

Propagate

Root tubers

Bloom Time

Varies

Bloom Color

White

Great For These Spaces

Hanging Baskets, Trellises, Offices, Shelves, Windowsill, Bathroom

Window Locations (Ideal)

West or South Facing Windows

USDA Hardiness Zones

9, 10, 11, 12

Companion Plants

Orchids, Succulents, Peperomias

Toxicity

Non-toxic to dogs and cats. Berries are toxic.

Pests

Aphids, Mealybugs, Scale, Spider Mites

Disease

Root Rot, Botrytis

Known for its delicate and whimsical foliage, asparagus ferns, are growing in popularity as houseplants. They’re relatively easy to care for, making them a great option for beginners. They add a bright spot to any home and have unique feathery or fluffy-looking leaves that are soft to the touch. 
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about caring for an asparagus fern from watering to pest prevention and repotting. Here, you’ll learn all about how to help your asparagus fern thrive, as well as our five best care tips and how to propagate your fern easily and effectively. 

What are Asparagus Fern Plants?

There are several different varieties of asparagus fern, none of which are actually true ferns. Some varieties are grown indoors as houseplants, others are more commonly found outdoors. The plant also has plenty of nicknames. You may hear it referred to as the foxtail fern or plumosa instead of asparagus fern. 
In this section, we’ll cover the different types of asparagus fern, as well as why they’re called ferns despite being a part of the lily family. 
Pro Tip
 Pro Tip: Asparagus fern is considered an invasive species when planted outdoors in Hawaii, Texas, Florida.

Asparagus Fern Varieties

The Asparagus fern goes by many names including Foxtail fern, Plumosa, Emerald fern, Pom-pom fern, and Sprenger’s fern, just to name a few. Most varieties are native to South Africa and are considered invasive species in some parts of the United States. 
Asparagus fern varieties can be grouped into two main categories: indoor and outdoor plants. It should be noted that even outdoors, asparagus ferns should be grown in pots and not directly in the ground. Left unattended, they can become a harmful invasive species. 
Outdoor Varieties: 
  • Foxtail Fern Meyeri (Asparagus densiflorus 'Meyeri') - This foxtail fern, has cone-shaped, fluffy branches. They can also produce small white flowers and red berries. 
  • Sprenger's Asparagus Fern (Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri') - Sprenger’s asparagus is a variety of foxtail fern with more needle-like leaves compared to fluffy clumps. 
Indoor Varieties: 
  • Plumosa Fern (Asparagus aethiopicus) - Also called the plumosa fern or setacus, this variety looks the most like a true fern with long, flattened leaf clusters. 
  • Ming Fern (Asparagus retrofractus) - also known as the ming fern, this variety can grow over two meters tall and does well in almost any light conditions, making it a great indoor tree. 

Not a real fern at all!

One of the most confusing things about asparagus ferns is that they aren’t actually ferns at all! In fact, they’re a part of the lily family. While asparagus ferns do look like ferns, with delicate, feathery fronds, they’re closely related at all. They are related to the asparagus we eat, though, leading to the name asparagus fern. 

How to Grow Asparagus Fern Plants

Asparagus ferns are an easy plant for beginners to take care of. In this section, we’ll break down all the essential care instructions so that you know the best way to grow an asparagus fern. 

Growing Asparagus Fern Plants Indoors

Asparagus ferns need enough light to thrive, but they don’t need direct sunlight like many other houseplants. A north-facing window normally works well. Watering should be done when the top inch of soil is dry, but keeping the environment humid is more important. 

Growing Asparagus Fern Plants Outdoors

Asparagus ferns make great outdoor plants, particularly as an addition to outdoor planters and mixed containers, and as large statement plants on a porch or yard. In most outdoor situations, it’s best to grow asparagus ferns contained in pots or planters so that they don’t become invasive. They thrive in USDA hardiness zones 9-12. They don’t do well in temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, so if it gets chilly, it may be best to bring asparagus ferns indoors. 

How to Care For Asparagus Fern Plants

Now that you know the basics, let’s go a bit more in-depth on the plant care requirements for an Asparagus fern. Here, we’ll go into detail about what lighting, watering, temperature, potting mix, feeding schedule, and repotting method is best for growing this low-maintenance plant. 

Water

Over or under watering can make or break a houseplant. Asparagus ferns are used to muggy, jungle-like terrain. Water this one when the top 2-3 inches of soil are dry. Generally, water your fern about 1-2x a week. Humidity is key to helping them thrive. Misting every few days or using a pebble tray and watering when the top inch of soil is dry should keep your asparagus fern happy. 
However, beware of overwatering which can cause yellowing leaves and root rot. The best way to prevent an issue like root rot is to make sure that your plant has good drainage holes and that the soil isn’t too dense. If there isn’t a good drainage system in place, the soil might become water-logged leading to rot. 

Sunlight

Just like watering, providing enough sunlight is key in caring for an asparagus fern. These delicate plants grow on forest floors in the wild, so they do not do well in harsh, direct sunlight. They prefer indirect light or even partial shade. While Asparagus ferns can be trained to do well in brighter light by slowly increasing the amount of sunlight they are exposed to, you should still avoid direct sunlight

Temperature and Humidity

Asparagus ferns are native to South Africa, so they thrive in warmer climates. Ideally, an asparagus fern should be kept at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. A little higher or lower is fine, but getting below 55 degrees Fahrenheit for long periods of time can damage the plant quickly. 
Like most plants, asparagus ferns slow or stop growing during the cold winter months. Overwintering is best done by bringing the plant indoors if it is normally outside and taking longer breaks between watering and fertilizing. Winter is a time for the plant to rest and store energy for new growth in the spring. 
Asparagus ferns need high humidity to stay healthy and happy. Make sure to mist the plant with a spray bottle regularly. Alternatively, you can use a humidifier or a pebble tray to create a humid environment around the houseplant. It’s also worth noting that if you live in a dry climate, an asparagus fern likely won’t thrive outdoors. 

Soil

The right soil or potting mix will make sure your asparagus fern has plenty of drainage space and room to grow without its tuberous roots getting damaged. Asparagus ferns need well-draining soil like a perlite mix. However, you don’t want the soil to dry out too quickly, so an ingredient like peat moss will help the soil retain moisture that can be released slowly.  

Fertilizer

Asparagus ferns aren’t picky about fertilizer. You can use just about any all-purpose plant food. Feed the plant up to once a week in the summer, and when the weather cools down, spread out the feedings to once a month at most. 

Cutting and Pruning

Asparagus ferns don’t require much pruning to look great. Many people prefer the slightly wild and shaggy look, but you may want to go in with a sharp pair of scissors to remove any brown or yellow leaves. You can also prune the ends of the leaves if you want a more uniform look. The best time to prune is in the spring before the new growth begins. 

How to Propagate Asparagus Fern  Plants

What’s better than one asparagus fern? Two asparagus ferns! Here, we’ll go over how you can propagate your asparagus ferns to grow several plants from one original root system. You won’t be able to propagate asparagus ferns from leaf cuttings as they won’t grow a new root system. 

Propagate from Tubers

Asparagus ferns have a tuberous root system, which means that propagation can get a bit messy. Here’s a step-by-step guide: 
  1. Dig up the plant
  2. Shake out the dirt from the roots
  3. Divide roots into two or more sections, each should have several tubers
  4. Replant each of sections into fresh soil

How to Prune Asparagus Fern  Plants

Whether you need to get rid of sun damage, yellow leaves, or just want to neaten up your asparagus fern, pruning is a necessary part of caring for these delicate plants. Here’s how to prune an asparagus fern safely and effectively: 
  1. Wear gloves - many varieties of asparagus fern conceal sharp thorn-like leaves. Always protect your hands from injury with a good pair of gardening gloves. 
  2. Use a sharp, clean pair of scissors. 
  3. Cut out any damaged or discolored fronds to make room for new growth. 
  4. Mature plants can be hard pruned (cut back) every few years 

How to Repot Asparagus Fern  Plants

Asparagus ferns will need to be repotted just like any other houseplant. Without repotting to keep up with growth, the plant can become rootbound. 
Take a look at our step-by-step guide to repotting: 
  1. Check root growth regularly - when roots are within ½ inch of the walls, it’s time for an upgrade.
  2. Fill the new pot - it should be ¼-⅓ of the way full with a good potting mix.
  3. Loosen the soil - squeeze the walls gently to loosen the roots for easy removal.
  4. Invert the pot - to remove the plant without damaging it, hold the base gently and turn the pot upside down, then pull up and away to take it off easily. 
  5. Place the plant in the new pot - the base should fall just below the rim of the pot.
  6. Use fresh soil to fill the pot until the plant is secure and supported, finish by watering generously. 

Common Asparagus Fern  Pests and Diseases

Even though they’re relatively low-maintenance, asparagus ferns do have some common problems. Luckily, most of them are easy to solve. Yellowing, dropping, brown, or crispy leaves can all be signs of an unhappy asparagus fern. 

Yellowing Leaves

One of the most common causes of yellow leaves is overwatering. Although the Asparagus fern requires more water than other plants, it can be easy to overwater your little one. If you sense that overwatering is the issue, this would be a good time to also check the root system to make sure it's healthy and you don't see any signs of root rot. To address overwatering, make sure to water this one when the top 2-3 inches of soil are dry. Generally, water your fern about 1-2x a week.

Leaf Drop

Asparagus ferns love humid, tropical environments. Low humidity can make the Asparagus fern drop its leaves. If there are any yellow stems, prune those off. Increase humidity by placing a small humidifier in your space. Alternatively, you can place the plant atop of a tray with pebbles and water. You want to keep the soil consistently moist.

Root Rot

Root rot is one of the most dangerous issues for houseplants. Left untreated it can cause plant death. Luckily, it can be caught early and stopped before it does serious damage if you know what to look for.  It’s usually caused by moist or waterlogged soil for prolonged periods of time. Symptoms can include rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and a rotten brown base. If you’re seeing these symptoms, here’s how to treat root rot.
  • Remove the plant from the pot and gently remove the soil so you can see the root system.
  • If the roots are brown and mushy, you must take action immediately.
  • Clean off the roots with sterile water.
  • Take sterilized scissors and trim any mushy roots.
  • You can use a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution to disinfect the roots.
Once cleaned up, repot your plant in a fresh houseplant soil mix.

Pests

Unfortunately, pests and insect infestations can affect any plant, indoors or outdoors. Asparagus ferns are susceptible to several types of common pests including spider mites and mealybugs. Most infestations can be treated with a mild insecticide, but some may require more intensive care. 
  • Spider Mites - cause yellowing leaves, treat with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
  • Mealybugs - check for white spots, treat by removing affected stems, systemic insecticide treatment, or a Q-tip dipped in alcohol.
  • Aphids - watch out for sticky substances on stems, control with a mild insecticide or neem oil.
  • Scale - check for brown spots on stems and stunted growth, treat with alcohol or malathion.

5 Care Tips For Asparagus Fern  Plants

There has been a lot of information in this article, but here are the key points of asparagus fern care: 
  1. Keep it humid - mist regularly and don’t let the soil fully dry out between watering. 
  2. Indirect light - avoid harsh direct sunlight, keep the plant in bright indirect light, or partial shade
  3. Make sure there is a good drainage system in place. 
  4. Keep and eye out for pests. Yellowing or browning leaves that aren’t fixed by changing the watering schedule and amount of sunlight may be caused by insect infestations. 
  5. Re-pot regularly - asparagus ferns can outgrow pots quickly so make sure to keep an eye on the size of the roots. 

Is Asparagus Fern Toxic?

Asparagus ferns are considered mildly toxic to both humans and pets like cats and dogs. However, it’s not the asparagus fern foliage that’s harmful, but rather the red berries that the plant occasionally produces. Regardless, this isn’t a plant that you’ll want to keep out of the way of pets and young children.

Where to buy Asparagus Fern  Plants?

Asparagus ferns are a great plant for beginners and experienced gardeners alike. Their delicate, feathery, lace-like fronds give a burst of green to any room, and they’re well suited to most indoor conditions. To buy your own, head over to Neverland today. Plants bring a lot of joy, so we strive to help you have the best plant-growing experience possible!

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