Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > May 2014 > DON'T EAT THAT ASPARAGUS...FERN!

DON'T EAT THAT ASPARAGUS...FERN!

Just like those yummy green spears that your mother fed you from a can (and which you now broil, grill, or roast fresh), the new “fronds” or spears of the asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus cv. ‘Sprengeri) come straight out of the soil forming plume-like branches with needle-like foliage.  It makes a beautiful accent plant for summer containers, tolerating both sun and shade, and is also used as a hanging basket plant or pot plant for a sunny window inside. 

Asparagus densiflorus is native to South Africa, and is a member of the lily family.  While ‘Sprengeri’ is the most commonly grown cultivar, other popular asparagus includes Foxtail fern (A. densiflorus cv. ‘Myers’), with more stiffly erect dense foliage, and Ming fern (A. retrofractus), with long branches of soft plumes of smaller needles.  The Asparagus plumosus is used more as a houseplant.  It has very fine leaves and long twining stems.

While all of the asparagus look “fluffy”, beware of the inconspicuous sharp spines at the axils which help these plants to climb or scramble about.  You may also notice small white flowers followed by tiny red berries on your asparagus ferns.  The edible asparagus (A. officinalis) spreads by rhizomes, but if you inspect the root ball of your asparagus fern, you will find little tubers, and you can propagate new plants from divisions.

In strong sunlight, asparagus ferns will grow more densely, and they have even been pruned as a very low “hedge” in southern Florida.  In lower light, the plants will stretch out and may yellow.  Water regularly, allowing the soil to dry partially between waterings.  Severe drought will result in a very messy needle drop.  If the plant becomes unsightly, you can cut all of the growth off at the soil line and wait for the new “spears” to appear.

Posted: 5/29/2014 by Margot | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: MargotGunn, TheGreatIndoors
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