Foxtail Fern: Breeding this sly perennial

If foxes were green, you could bet their tails would look like this. Similar to the animal, foxtail fern fronds are long, lush and look soft enough to cuddle. The tails, also called spears or stems, are cylindrical shapes that rise and twist from the ground. The leaves are evergreen and look like soft pine needles. However, don't be fooled by the noble and delicate aesthetics. These plants are tough and dominant.

Foxtail ferns are easy to care for because they can take good care of themselves. It is all thanks to their root system. This plant has bulbous tap roots that grow into a fairly extensive system. It easily conquers other, less rooted plants underground. The tap roots also store water to prepare for the occasional drought. The plant itself is not too picky about its conditions unless it is cold.

You can use a foxtail plant to add texture to your landscape or to give life to the interior of your home. Foxtail ferns are even used in flower arrangements due to their long lifespan after cutting (2-3 weeks!). Regardless of what you grow it for, you need to know some details about how to help this vibrant plant thrive.

Good products for growing asparagus ferns:

quick start Guide

Foxtail fern is an incredibly beautiful ornamental plant. Source: Starr

Common Name (s): Foxtail Fern, Asparagus Fern, Myers Fern
Scientific name Asparagus densiflorus
Family: Asparagaceae (formerly Liliaceae)
Zone: 9-11
Height & spread: 2-3 & # 39; big and wide
light Partly sun or full of shade
ground Well draining
Water: Pour deep when the soil starts to dry out
Pests & diseases: Scale insects, meal bugs, root rot

All about foxtail fern

It may surprise you that the foxtail fern is not a fern at all. It is actually a member of the asparagus family and reproduces through seeds, not through spores. The fern reference probably comes from the lumpy way in which this plant, which resembles a fern, grows. At some point, it was classified as a member of the Lily Family, but has since been reassigned and no longer belongs to the Lily Family.

These beauties, also called myers ferns or asparagus ferns, produce tiny white flowers in spring. By autumn, the flowers had turned into inedible but showy red berries. The flowers also attract butterflies and bees.

A perennial plant, the foxtail fern is about 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. Since it comes from warm South Africa, it is evergreen only in mild winters. If you live in zones 9-11, you are one of the lucky ones who can grow it outdoors all year round. Don't worry if you live in a cold place as foxtail ferns grow well indoors.

Types of foxtail fern

Large piece of asparagus densiflorusAsparagus densiflorus tends to a tightly packed upright growth habit. Source: Starr

Asparagus densiflorus is what most people think of as foxtail fern. This is the plant we are focusing on today, which is characterized by thick, upright stems. It is mainly called foxtail fern, asparagus fern or myersfarn. Asparagus densiflorus "Myers" or "Myersii" is a popular variety. There are also a number of other varieties.

Asparagus aethiopicus is a slightly different species that is often mistaken for Myers Fern. Sprengers asparagus, like Myers, is referred to as asparagus fern and sometimes as foxtail fern. No wonder people are confused!

Sprenger's asparagus, also called asparagus grass, falls down instead of sticking out, making it a fun choice to hang baskets. It is not the same species, but comes from the same part of the asparagus family. Its care is similar to that of A. densiflorus, but is no longer considered part of the same species. The plant produces the same red berries and white flowers as its relatives. It is an excellent choice to form overlapping beds with your other foxtail fern plants.

Foxtail fern care

As already mentioned, the foxtail fern is fairly easy to care for. Once you understand their basic needs, we doubt you will have any problems!

Light & temperature

Asparagus fern stemsThe stems can develop slight curves that are visually very appealing. Source: Starr

Asparagus ferns sometimes need sun and shade. They tolerate the full sun in the morning, but not the direct heat of the afternoon. Bright, but indirect lighting indoors. If the light is insufficient, the foxtail fern may turn yellow.

The ideal temperature is 65-70 ° F. However, asparagus densiflorus can tolerate lower temperatures as long as they stay above freezing.

Foxtail plants can be damaged at temperatures below 25 ° F and should be brought indoors in winter. In some cases, however, ripe foxtails are known to survive the occasional frost.

Water & humidity

Because the taproot stores water, foxtail fern must be watered like a mild succulent. You should let the top three inches of the soil dry out before watering again, but no more. Depending on the climate, you will probably water at least once a week. Foxtail ferns can handle occasional drought, but this shouldn't be a normal thing.

Water your foxtail fern thoroughly so that the roots grow down as you hunt. Be careful about watering, which is a slight threat to this plant. The floor should be damp but not soaked.

If your asparagus fern lives indoors, it may need additional moisture. You can do this by placing the container on a tray filled with wet stones. This plant also loves to be sprayed with a spray bottle.


Foxtail fern is not too picky when it comes to soil. A well-drained soil is required to prevent the plants from being in the stagnant water. Otherwise it will tolerate most types of soil. Slightly acidic soil can help it grow better.


Your asparagus fern plants will appreciate fertilizer during the growing season. You can apply a balanced granular slow release fertilizer at the beginning of spring, summer and autumn to provide plenty of nutrients. Alternatively, you can apply a half-strength liquid fertilizer once a month throughout the growing season.

If you have compost available, you can use it as mulch or stir in at the time of sowing. Your plants will enjoy the added organic material. If it is rich compost, you may be able to use it instead of regular plant fertilizer.


Close-up of foxtail fern flower budsA close-up of the small, white flower buds of the foxtail fern. Source: Dinesh Valke

Asparagus ferns get quite large, so you may need to repot them if you grow them in containers. Slowly increase the size of the container with each new pot, as too much soil around the root system can hold back unnecessary water.

If the plant is root-bound, roots can grow out of the ground. You either have to enlarge the pot or divide the plant to make it smaller.


Splitting is how you propagate your foxtail fern. This process can be carried out quickly and easily.

Remove the entire plant, soil and everything. Remove loose soil that the root system does not cling to. Then cut the root mass with the plant on the side with a clean knife. You can split it into more than two parts as long as each segment has multiple leaves and it doesn't cause too much root damage. Place them in their new and separate containers with fresh potting soil.

If your plant is in the ground and is quite large, you don't need to dig it out to divide it. Cut through the center of the plant with a pointed spade. Loosen the floor around the part you want to remove and carefully remove it from the floor. You may need to separate the roots further to completely separate the section.

Once you've removed the split section from the ground, clean it up a bit by removing dirt, debris, and dead or rotten roots. If it's too big for the area you're planting it in, you may be able to split it a second time and get two new plants.

After dividing and transplanting, take care of your "new" foxtail as usual. It will take a few years before the new plant has really established itself. So don't move them and don't change their pot for a while.


As long as you give your foxtail ferns enough space, no trimming is necessary. However, cleaning once or twice a year can promote health and growth. Simply cut off any dead, dying, or unsightly leaves.

Sometimes foxtail ferns grow so densely that the new, lower growth is stifled. You can leave it that way if you want. Alternatively, cut the oldest stems so that they can be replaced with new growth.


Asparagus fern also known as foxtail fernFoxtail ferns (Asparagus densiflorus) have an upright growth. Source: Starr

Very few gardeners report pest or disease problems with asparagus fern plants. As long as you remove dead growth and remove deposits around the plant, you are on the right track for good plant health!

Growing problems

The tuber root system of this plant is extensive and strong. If the foxtail fern is planted too close to other plants, especially those with weak roots. Keep it at least a few meters away from other plants, especially small ones.

If your foxtail fern plant tans or drops leaves, there are two common causes: too much light or too little water. Fix this by moving the location of your plant or adjusting the irrigation frequency.


In the few cases where pests interfere with foxtail fern plants, this is usually the case scale-insects, These appear as ugly little clumps that stick to the leaves or stems of the plant. mealybugs, a common type of scale insect, is white with many short legs. They feed on the sap of the plant, which will eventually kill them. Most plants show the first signs of infection with discoloration or sagging.

Neem oil is an excellent organic insect repellent. If you only see a few dandruff insects on the plant, you can remove them individually with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol.


Like a succulent plant, the root of a foxtail fern stores water for potential droughts. Unfortunately, this makes it vulnerable to Pilzwurzelfäule if over-watered. Prevent over-watering by regularly checking whether the soil is well drained and usually dries out between waterings.

If the roots are already rot, you need to dig out the plant and cut off the diseased tubers. Otherwise, they become a breeding ground for putrefaction that can spread to the rest of the roots.

frequently asked Questions

Close-up of foxtail fern leavesThe individual tufts of asparagus fern are visible up close. Source: Starr

Q: Why do the stems of my foxtail fern turn brown?

A: It is normal for old stems to turn brown when they die. If more than a third of the plant turns brown, it will likely need water. After a drought period, not all of the foliage is revived, but most of it.

Q: Are the red berries on foxtail ferns poisonous?

A: For cats and dogs, yes. For humans, they only cause mild complaints such as gastrointestinal problems. The juice of the plant can also cause skin irritation in people with sensitive skin.

Q: Can foxtail ferns take the full sun?

A. Foxtail ferns tend to have problems in full sun conditions. They can easily turn yellow and suffer from sunburn. Partial shade conditions are best, especially if the only direct sunlight is in the early morning. Avoid the scorching heat of the summer sun by planting your ferns in a place with full shade in the afternoon.

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