Foxtail Fern botanically known as Asparagus densiflorus (a-SPARE-uh-gus den-see-FLOR-us) is a native of the Cape of Good Hope area in South Africa.
This herbaceous perennial is in the genus Asparagus and a member of the lily family – Liliaceae.
The species name densiflorus, refers to the tiny white flowers which grow densely along the stem of the plant. It may also refer to the plants’ dense foliage.
Common names include:
- Sprenger’s asparagus fern
- Asparagus fern plant
- Asparagus meyeri
- Fox Tail Fern
- Emerald Fern
Asparagus Foxtail Fern Care
A. densiflorus is an ornamental plant and not an edible asparagus.
Size & Growth
The densiflorus plant can attain a height of 2′ to 3′ feet and a spread of 3′ to 4′ feet.
Evergreen needle-like leaves on attractive arching stems and fern-like, but this plant is not actually a true fern.
When kept in deep shade, the foliage is very pale green. In partial shade, it is a dark green.
Full sun is not recommended as it tends to cause the foliage to turn yellow. Asparagus fern has tiny thorns that are not problematic.
Flowering & Fragrance
Asparagus fern is a seasonal bloomer which produces very small white flowers that transition into bright red berries.
The flowers are small and insignificant, but quite fragrant. The foxtail blooms from late in the spring to early in the summer.
Following this, the flowers become small, attractive, bright red berries which ripen in the autumn.
Light & Temperature
Foxtail ferns do best in partial shade with bright indirect light.
The plant is tolerant of cold temperatures down to 25° degrees Fahrenheit.
It may die back at this low temperature, but the tuberous root system will remain alive below the soil.
Lower temperatures will kill the plant entirely.
Watering & Feeding
The plant is somewhat drought tolerant.
During the growing season, water plants regularly and reduce the watering schedule somewhat as an indoor plant for the winter.
It does not go through a dormancy, but it does rest during the cooler months of the year.
Soil & Transplanting
Soil should be well draining and consistently moist for best results.
How to Care for an Asparagus Fern
Grooming & Maintenance
Asparagus fern is an easy-care, attractive house plant.
It can spread and ramble quite a bit and should needs pruning or pinching back to help maintain its growth and shape.
You can also promote complete regeneration by cutting the plant back to the ground and giving it the opportunity to start over again.
How To Propagate The Foxtail Asparagus
This attractive plant can be propagated by seed or by division.
Gather berries from mature plants in autumn. Split them open and you will find a few black seeds inside.
Scar these with a nail file and soak them in warm water for several hours. Sow the seeds in a pot of moistened soil and cover lightly with plastic wrap.
Place the container in a warm area (75°-85° degrees Fahrenheit) in bright, indirect light.
Keep the soil moist until the seeds begin to sprout, then remove the plastic.
To propagate by division, simply split the root ball when repotting the plant.
Pests or Diseases Of Foxtail Densiflorus
Generally speaking, asparagus fern is not subject to any serious disease or insect problems.
In damp settings outdoors, you may have problems with aphids, mealybugs, mites and slugs.
Dampness may also cause leaf spot and leaf rot.
Are Foxtail Plants Toxic or Poisonous?
This plant is a true member of the asparagus family, but it is not an edible plant.
Asparagus fern is mildly poisonous in that the sap can cause skin irritation.
Additionally, berries can cause gastrointestinal distress if eaten.
Adverse reactions to the sap and berries are typically mild, but it is best to wear gloves when handling this plant and wash up afterwards.
Naturally, since this is not an edible plant, you should not eat the berries.
Is The Plant Considered Invasive?
Outdoors, birds will eat the seeds and spread them randomly. Seeds are safe for birds to eat.
In USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11, this heat-loving, salt tolerant plant will quickly naturalize.
For this reason, the plant is considered somewhat invasive in tropical and subtropical areas such as Hawaii and Florida.
Uses For Foxtail Asparagus Ferns
In USDA zones 9 – 11, it does well as a naturalized garden plant or as a border plant.
It also makes an interesting groundcover and potted specimen.
In all other hardiness zones, it makes an excellent houseplant even in a bathroom. It can be kept outdoors during the growing season (spring through fall) and brought in for the winter.
The plant does not require high humidity, so it does well in a heated indoor setting in the wintertime.
As a container plant, the Foxtail fern makes a nice potted plant, and the Emerald fern is excellent for hanging baskets or to be placed as a specimen plant on a pedestal.
The stems make a nice backdrop to floral arrangements.