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Asparagus ferns — not just outdoor plants

The common asparagus fern grows from fleshy rhizomes which will often be visible on the soil surface.

There are hundreds of varieties of ferns and luckily for us gardeners many of them are easy to grow in an ordinary indoor environment. One group of ferns that are dependable and beautiful houseplants are the ferns in the asparagus fern family. These are common plants, and one of them is familiar to many gardeners because it is often used as a “basket stuffer” in outdoor summer containers.

The common asparagus fern (asparagus sprengeri) is used both as an indoor plant and as a hanging basket plant in the outdoor summer garden where it combines well with other plants and makes a great addition to an arrangement of plants in a tall container or urn. Its finely cut, bright-green foliage is quite sturdy which increases its suitability to being used outside because it will not be damaged by wind as more delicate ferns would be.

The common asparagus fern grows from fleshy rhizomes which will often be visible on the soil surface. Its fronds can easily reach a metre in length and it is a rampant grower, so it is best suited to a large container – either a hanging basket or a container which has substantial height. It has a good, pendulous growth habit and will provide cascading foliage tumbling from any container in which it is planted.

Another variety of asparagus fern, asparagus densiflorus, more commonly referred to as the foxtail fern, is also an attractive plant for use both inside and outdoors. It has finely cut foliage similar to other asparagus ferns, but the tiny leaves are arranged all around the stems to create a roundish effect and hence its name to describe the round-shape fronds. The fronds do in fact resemble the shape of a fox’s tail. As its Latin name indicates, its foliage is denser than that of the common asparagus fern.

The fronds are more upright in growth habit than its asparagus sprengeri cousin, so it can be used as a tabletop fern as

opposed to a hanging basket plant. Its foliage is the typical bright green of the asparagus fern family and its fronds also are tough and wiry.

Although I have seen this plant used outdoors, I think it is best suited for indoor use, where its structural beauty can be admired, but if used outdoors, it is best planted alone in a container as opposed to being combined with other plants in a larger container.

The asparagus fern family is an interesting one. The common asparagus fern and the slightly more exotic foxtail fern are just two examples. These ferns make great additions to any houseplant collection.

– Albert Parsons writes from Minnedosa, Manitoba

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