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Guide to Asparagus Fern: How to Grow & Care for “Asparagus Aethiopicus”

Read our guide to Asparagus Aethiopicus for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for planting & caring for Asparagus Ferns
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Are you looking for a plant that is friendly and very easy to care for? The asparagus fern is a great companion for every household, no matter when, how, and where they are growing.

Asparagus Aethiopicus, commonly known as Asparagus Fern, Foxtail Fern, Sprenger’s Asparagus, Emerald Feather, or Asparagus grass, is a perennial herb in the Asparagus genus. These plants have their native habitat in the coastal scrubs and rocky shale slopes regions of the Northern Provinces of South Africa and the Cape Provinces.

The Asparagus Fern species was first described in 1767 by a Swedish botanist, zoologist, and physician named Carl Linnaeus. In Europe, it became a popular ornamental houseplant thanks to botanist Carl Ludwig Sprenger which is why these plants are often referenced to as “Sprenger’s Asparagus”.

About Asparagus Fern

  • Despite their appearance and popular name, asparagus ferns are not ferns at all. They are relatives of lilies and belong to the Liliaceae family.
  • This species is grown in urban gardens, containers, and rockeries as an ornamental herb, but it can also be grown in cooler regions as an ornamental houseplant.
  • The most common cultivars around the world are Asparagus Densiflorus Sprengeri and Asparagus Densiflorus Meyeri. The Sprengeri’s foliage is sparser than usual, but Meyeri has denser foliage and larger stems up to 28 inches (70 cm).
  • Asparagus ferns do well in areas with dappled shade, but they can also tolerate some periods of bright light. Make sure you protect them from direct sunlight, as it could damage the foliage.
  • They require regular watering both indoors and outdoors. Although they will not mind if you forget to water them sometimes, it is better to maintain the soil damp.
  • Warm and humid environments are excellent for optimal growth. Mist your Asparagus Aethopicus plant once a day or use a humidifier to improve the air conditions around it.
  • If ingested, the berries of Asparagus Ferns can cause digestive problems. It is suggested that you place your plant in a safe spot where pets and children cannot touch or consume it.
Asparagus Fern
Asparagus Fern

Asparagus Fern Features: An Overview

  • Asparagus fern can be found in Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, and many Australian urban areas like Sydney, the Central Coast, Adelaide, Wollongong, and Southeastern Queensland.
  • The most common cultivars around the world are Asparagus Densiflorus (Sprengeri) and Asparagus Meyeri. The Sprengeri’s foliage is sparser than usual, but Meyeri has denser foliage and larger stems up to 28 inches (70 cm).
  • Asparagus fern is a relatively small branching plant that can reach up to 2 feet (60 cm) tall and 6 feet (1.8 m) long when it reaches maturity. It has tough, aerial stems that are slightly covered with spines.
  • Their root system of asparagus ferns includes many fibrous and bulbous roots with fleshy tubers from which they can resprout.
  • These plants have green, oval, and leaf-like cladophylls that grow grouped as four or more on a stem. The cladodes measure between 0.3 and 0.7 inches (0.8-2 cm) long and 0.03 to 0.07 (0.1-0.2 cm) broad.
  • If Asparagus Fern plants are happy in their growing environment, they can produce clusters of tiny white or pink-white flowers in early spring.
  • During the summer season, the bloomings are followed by small green berries of 0.1 inches (0.5 cm) wide. The fruits turn red in winter when they reach maturity.
  • This species is considered a weed in New Zealand, Florida, and Hawaii. Their seeds are easily spread around the world by fruit-eating birds such as the pied currawong from Sydney.
Asparagus Aethiopicus
Asparagus Aethiopicus

Growing Asparagus Fern

Asparagus Ferns are dwarf plants that can be grown both indoors and outdoors. They are pretty easy to care for, but if you want to grow them indoors, you need some extra effort.

These plants thrive in sunny places, as bright light will encourage growth. When planting them in your garden, choose a spot that allows them to enjoy bright, partial sunlight in the morning and dappled shade during the rest of the day. Indoors, they will do well near a south or north-facing window, as long as they get enough indirect light. If you notice yellow leaves, your plant might not receive enough light. On the other hand, leaves that turn brown may be a result of over-exposure to bright sunlight.

They love mild temperatures around 70 °F (21 °C) or average indoor temperatures. Make sure you keep the temperature above 55 °F (12 °C), as they cannot withstand frost for too long. If you live in a cooler region, it is better to grow your asparagus ferns indoors. During summer, you can place them in a greenhouse for optimal growth.

Leaves of Sprenger’s Asparagus
Leaves of Sprenger’s AsparagusLeaves of Sprenger’s Asparagus

This species is tolerant of soil mixes that aren’t particularly nutrient-rich. If you want to grow your asparagus fern indoors, you should plant it in a container filled with loose potting soil that has good drainage. However, when growing them outdoors, these plants prefer a slightly acidic and well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter.

Asparagus ferns will benefit from a monthly feed with water-soluble or liquid all-purpose fertilizer at ½ strength. During their growing season, in summer, your plants will need fertilizer on a weekly basis.

Asparagus Aethiopicus plants do not mind being slightly crammed into their containers, so you don’t have to worry about repotting them frequently. Generally, these plants can grow healthy without being transplanted for about two years. To ensure efficient repotting, split your plant into large clumps and take multiple roots. You can plant the divisions in containers that have the same size as the current one, as this will allow your plants to get pot-bound again.

When you want to bring your plant indoors, make sure you check it for pests beforehand. These plants are very prone to mealybugs, spider mites, and scale insects. If you notice any kind of infestation on your plant, you can trim off all the infected stems and use an organic pesticide, such as neem oil, to prevent future attempts.

Prune your Asparagus Fern every time you feel like giving it a fresh look by cutting its withered stems. Due to their later tendency to develop woody foliage, regular pruning may be necessary when the Asparagus Ferns are old. Also, they have thorny spurs on their branches, so you should wear gardening gloves while trimming them.

Growing Wild
Growing Wild

Watering Asparagus Fern

Asparagus ferns are thirsty plants, but over-watering them may result in root rot. They are not very tolerant of drought, so you should not leave their soil dry out for too long. Make sure you check the top 2 inches (5 cm) of soil in-between waterings and keep it as moist as possible.

When you grow your Asparagus fern outdoors, it will need more frequent watering than other garden plants. Water the soil thoroughly until it is damp to the touch.

Usually, if you live in a region with mild temperatures, you can water your plants once a week. In warmer and dry areas, you may need to increase the frequency of watering. However, finding the right moment to water these plants is pretty simple, as they are not very hard to please.

Asparagus ferns thrive in humid environments. If you want to grow these plants inside your home, you need to provide them with high levels of humidity. You can maintain the ideal humidity levels using a humidifier or by simply misting your plant daily with water spray.

Propagating Asparagus Fern

If patience is your middle name, you can propagate Asparagus Fern using the seeds from their berries. But! The easiest and most efficient way to get more of these tiny herbs is by dividing the tuberous roots.

Make sure you water your plant thoroughly the night before propagating, as this will help you remove the excess soil. In the morning, dig out your plant and use a sharp knife to divide it into equal sections. The divisions should contain a part of the root with growing shoots.

Plant each piece in distinct spots from your garden or in its own pot. It is better to keep them in a shady place until new growth occurs. Water these baby Asparagus ferns regularly and you should notice new growth in several weeks. Propagating these beauties is a simple process that can be successfully carried out even if you don’t have a lot of experience.

In Conclusion

 Give these easy-going ornamental plants a chance, as they can fill any empty spot in your garden or home with their gorgeous foliage. To grow healthy and happy, Asparagus Ferns require the basic skills of a loving owner.

All you have to do is to keep them in a place with indirect light or dappled shade, feed them regularly with proper fertilizer, and take some time to water them when you notice that their soil is starting to dry out. Also, they are pretty fast and easy to propagate, so you can surprise a friend with their adorable flowers in the summer.

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Miruna Secuianu

Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact miruna@gardenbeast.com

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