Although the Asparagus Setaceous is known as the Asparagus fern, it’s actually not a part of the fern family at all (nor is it edible!) and is more closely related to a Lily. Found growing in both North and South Africa in damper areas, they are often seen climbing other species of plant to get closer to the light, using their hooked spines to attach themselves. As a houseplant they can reach heights of up to 2.5m and because of their climbing nature, can be trained up a pole to keep them upright.
Unlike a fern they prefer a spot with bright but indirect light, even tolerating direct light so long as it’s only from the afternoon sun. Housing them in a shadier spot will usually cause the feathery spines to go yellow and drop. They also prefer to be have a bit of humidity, especially if near a radiator over winter. A good misting or placing a dish with stones and water below the plant should do the trick!
Warmth is also a key factor in keeping this Asparagus fern healthy – the temperature around your plant shouldn’t drop below 10 degrees over winter.
Asparagus Setaceous like to be kept a little damp, but never saturated, throughout the growing seasons (spring and summer). Surprisingly they can tolerate a fair amount of drought if the humidity is kept high, you just won’t see any new growth. Watering should be dropped over winter whilst the plant is dormant (only watering just before the soil dries out completely) but keep the humidity high to combat the dry air caused by central heating.
To maintain healthy growth and strong green foliage, be sure to feed your Asparagus with a houseplant fertiliser over spring and summer. We would also recommend re-potting yearly in spring to give room for new growth. This can be done with a regular multipurpose compost and into a pot approximately 2 inches wider and taller. Asparagus Setaceous do best when planted low in their pot – add about an extra inch of compost above the base of the plant to let its tuberous roots grow towards the surface.
Any overgrown, dried, or sparse stems can be cut back at the base of the plant (which will encourage new growth) but beware of the sharp spines on their stems!
Asparagus Setaceous are best propagated by division. To do this, take your plant out of its pot and gently separate the roots by pulling them apart from the centre until you have two plants. Repot as described above and watch them grow!