How to Grow and Care for Asparagus Fern

closeup of light green asparagus fern leaves and stems growing in light green ceramic pot

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Asparagus fern is a lush, attractive houseplant that's easy to care for and maintain. This plant is not a true fern but gets its name from its delicate, frond-like leaves— and although it isn't edible, it's related to the type of asparagus we eat. Here's everything you need to know to grow asparagus fern at home.

  • Botanical Name: Asparagus densiflorus, Asparagus aethiopicus, Asparagus setaceus
  • Common Name: Asparagus fern, lace fern, Sprenger's asparagus, cat's tail asparagus
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Mature Size: Up to three feet tall by three feet wide
  • Sun Exposure: Part sun to part shade
  • Soil Type: Moist, well-drained soil
  • Soil pH: 6.5 - 6.8
  • Toxicity: Toxic to dogs, cats, and humans

Plant Care

Water your asparagus fern when the top of the soil dries out. Keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy. Cut back watering in winter when the plant goes dormant, then resume in spring when the plant is actively growing.

Plant your asparagus fern in well-drained potting soil. These plants don't require much fertilizer, but you can give them houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength once per month during the growing season, then stop feeding when temperatures cool in the fall.

To create a bushier look, pinch back the tips of your asparagus fern. The plant will grow back fuller. If your asparagus fern is especially leggy, you can cut the plant back to just above the soil line and it will regrow.

closeup of asparagus fern with bright green spiny leaves

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Best Growing Conditions for Asparagus Fern

Asparagus fern is adaptable to a range of conditions, but it will grow best in a warm place with bright, indirect light, such as an east-facing window. Harsh direct light, such as from a south-facing or west-facing window, can damage the plant.

Types of Asparagus Fern

We use the name "asparagus fern" for similar plants that are actually different species. Foxtail fern, sometimes called plume asparagus, has long, arcing stems covered with dense, soft, needle-like leaves. Another, sometimes called lace fern, is smaller, with thin stems tipped by fine sprays of flat, leaflike stems called cladophylls. Another type, Sprenger's asparagus, has larger, wider-spaced leaves growing along lengthy, trailing stems.

How to Propagate Asparagus Fern

Unlike many houseplants, asparagus ferns can't be propagated by rooting stem cuttings, but it's easy to propagate them by dividing and replanting mature plants. The best time to do this is in the spring. Here's how to propagate asparagus fern.

What You'll Need

  • Healthy, mature plant
  • Gardening gloves
  • Clean, sharp serrated knife
  • Fresh potting soil
  • Plant pots

Step 1: Gently remove the mature asparagus fern from its pot and examine the root ball. Massage the roots with your fingers to remove old soil and loosen the root ball.

Step 2: Look for any black, slimy roots and cut them away. You can cut away up to an inch of the bottom of the root ball without damaging the plant.

Step 3: Separate the fronds at the soil surface to create a line down the middle of the root ball. Use the knife to cut through the dense roots into two or more pieces, ensuring that each piece has a substantial portion of the root ball as well as foliage.

Step 3: Fill as many pots as you have divisions about halfway with fresh potting soil. Place one division in each pot. Add more fresh soil so that the crown of each division is about one inch below the rim of the pot.

Step 4: Water your divisions well. Put them in a warm place with bright, indirect light and care for them as usual.

full frame of light green foxtail asparagus fern fronds growing outdoors

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Common Problems With Asparagus Fern

Too much harsh sunlight will cause the leaves of your asparagus fern to turn yellow, while overwatering can cause root rot and kill the plant. Keep an eye out for signs of common houseplant pests like mealybugs and aphids.

Note that in zones 9-11, asparagus ferns can live outdoors year-round as perennials, but their highly invasive habit in these climates means they're better kept indoors.

FAQs

Are Asparagus Ferns Easy to Care For? 

Yes. Once established with the proper light and moisture levels, asparagus ferns are easy to care for.

What’s the Difference Between Asparagus Fern and Asparagus the Vegetable?

Asparagus ferns are in the same genus as Asparagus officinalis, the edible asparagus you see in the grocery store. However, asparagus ferns are not edible and have thin, fibrous stalks, unlike the fleshy, tender veggie we eat.

Can Asparagus Fern Grow Indoors?

Yes, asparagus ferns grow well indoors as houseplants with the right care and conditions.

Article Sources
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  1. Asparagus Fern. ASPCA.

  2. Asparagus densiflorus (Sprengeri group). North Caroline Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox