Foxtail fern care is easy and ideal for newbie indoor or outdoor gardeners.
The foxtail fern or asparagus fern is also a great choice of plant as it offers a sight like no other!
This perennial evergreen (asparagus densiflorus) has cute, fluffy, and needle-like leaves and looks plush. Although it’s native to southern Africa, it’s globally cultivated today. It’s an awesome ornamental plant for pots and hanging baskets.
Despite its common name which includes the word fern, it’s not really a fern. It belongs to the Asparagus family.
Its leaves aren’t really leaves. They’re cladodes-flattened stems that serve as a leaf-like structure for photosynthesis. This plant reproduces through seeds, not through spores, as ferns do.
This beautiful feathery plant also develops red berries from its tiny white flowers in spring and enjoys growing in a bright light area. In winter, its lovely spikes will bring about such an abundant green atmosphere.
It can reach a height of up to two feet and a width of up to four feet.
A beloved sight both indoors and outdoors and excellent for cut flower arrangements because of its interesting texture and long-lasting greenery, it’s definitely worth checking out (they can remain fresh for two to three weeks!).
I love it for its air purifying properties and knowing it’s able to pull out toxins from the air. But, I wouldn’t recommend it for a home with pets and kids or at least, it should be placed out of their reach. According to the ASPCA, it’s toxic upon ingestion!
The common name is probably inspired by the plant’s clumping habit that’s also seen in ferns and because the fronds remind of a fox’s tail (long, soft, and lush).
How to Care for a Foxtail Fern
This plant loves bright and soft light. The ideal setting would be a lightly-shaded area.
They enjoy the morning sun but don’t do well in the hot afternoon sun, especially during spring and summer. Excessive exposure to the sun can burn its foliage!
My foxtail ferns thrive in my rooms on the east, but I’ve also seen beautiful foxtail ferns in shadier north gardens.
As the foxtail fern is native to South Africa, they grow happiest and healthiest when the temperatures are high, ideally between 65 degrees F and 70 degrees F.
Still, they’re quite good at tolerating colder weather, as long as they’re not allowed to freeze out. In fact, if you keep them where the temperature drops below 25 degrees F, they can get damaged.
Water & Humidity
My two foxtail ferns love to be watered thoroughly, but I only do it when the top three inches of their soil is dry. For potted foxtail ferns, proper drainage is essential because it’s a plant that doesn’t want soggy soil, but only moist one.
This plant has tuberous roots so it’s drought-tolerant to a certain degree.
I have to say that the foxtail fern adores humidity so it would prefer a boost of moisture which you can achieve with a tray with pebbles and water and regular misting. It loves being misted!
Foxtail fern is awesome for beginners and inexperienced gardeners because it’s not too demanding. This is shown through their soil needs, i.e., they’ll do well in various types as long as it’s optimally draining. However, it does prefer slightly acidic soil, if possible
Feeding a Foxtail Fern
Feeding your foxtail fern is a must if you want to prevent the foliage from yellowing. It’s best to start in the spring and then repeat it every month in the growing season.
For the fall and winter when the plant is less active, it’s best to avoid feeding. When choosing a fertilizer, a well-balanced one is the best option.
This plant also responds well to slow-release fertilizers. I personally use this one as well as liquid fertilizers, diluted to half strength. Using compost is also a great idea!
Repotting is recommended when you spot the roots coming out of the drainage holes. This is your signal to choose a slightly bigger pot and repot it or divide the plant into several smaller pots.
One important thing about foxtail ferns is that they dislike very big pots. The excessive soil will hold onto the surplus water and this may lead to root issues.
Foxtail Fern Propagation
Propagating foxtail ferns is something I enjoy a lot! I’ve shared it with several friends through a simple division of my maturer fern. If you also want to try it out, it’s best to do it in the spring during repotting.
Cut through the plant’s center vertically with a sharp knife and divide it into as many parts as you like. Check out the roots and make sure they’re healthy and good-looking. Set them up in the new pots with fresh soil.
Best Foxtail Fern Species
This is the most common type of foxtail fern and it’s not invasive. It has arching ‘fronds’ with dense light green needles. It creates an illusion of foxtails faced upright. It blooms and produces red berries.
Also known as the ground asparagus or emerald fern in South Africa, this one is classified as a weed in Australia, New Zealand, Florida, and Hawaii. Back in the 70s though, it was quite the popular potted plant.
Known as the bridal veil, this species is naturalized in certain parts of Australia and is a common houseplant. It’s also considered an environmental weed due to its invasive nature. It’s climbing or creeping with thornless and thin stems that die every summer. It produces flowers and fruits.
Other Foxtail Fern Care Tips
Pruning isn’t necessary to manage the growth of this plant. It’s only recommended when removing dead or dying stems to boost new growth and keep the plant healthy and thriving.
Always wear gloves with foxtail ferns because there’s sap inside their stems that may cause skin irritations.
The red berries of the foxtail fern are poisonous for cats and dogs if ingested. They can also cause mild discomfort in humans like gastrointestinal issues.
Trouble Shooting- Common Foxtail Fern Care Issues
Problem: foxtail fern leaves turning brown
Cause: Natural process if it happens occasionally; simultaneous browning may indicate very hot temperature.
Solution: The ideal temperature is between 65 degrees F and 75 degrees F. If it approaches 90 degrees F, it can contribute to foliage burn.
Problem: foxtail fern leaves turning yellow
Cause: Too much direct sunlight, insufficient sunlight, or overwatering.
Solution: Solve the problem by checking out if some of these three factors are causing the yellowing. If it gets too much sunlight, move it to a shadier area.
If it’s not getting enough sunlight, move it where it’s brighter. Reduce the watering if the soil is soggy.
Problem: cotton-like mass on the plant’s stems or the underside of the foliage
Cause: Tiny, white, and wingless insects known as mealybugs.
Solution: Soapy water or neem oil (a natural pesticide).
Like to see more indoor ferns?
Checkout these easy to care for beauties;
Rabbit Foot Fern: rabbit-foot-fern-care
Button Fern: button-fern-care
Birds Nest Fern: bird’s-nest-fern-care
Boston Fern: Boston-fern-care
Frosty Fern: frosty-fern-care
Maidenhair Fern: maidenhair-fern-care