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The foxtail fern with its fluffy stems of pine needle leaves looks divine. Don’t you agree? Yes, it has a plush appearance that will add a luscious taste to your home. So, if you want to find out how to care and get this gorgeous plant indoors for yourself, keep reading.
What are Foxtail Ferns?
The foxtail fern plant or Asparagus densiflorus originates from South Africa. The evergreen perennial is part of the Asparagus family. Many get confused with the foxtail and think it is the asparagus fern (Asparagus aethiopicus).
Some gardeners call it the foxtail asparagus fern. Regardless of the name, there are differences between the two. You will see the asparagus fern drooping downwards and working well in a layered garden or grown in a hanging basket.
The foxtail fern stands straight and is not of the same species. Yet, they both produce white flowers with red berries. For reproduction, the foxtail fern uses seeds instead of spores. So, if you get one, it makes for a beautiful addition as an outdoor plant and houseplant.
Many florists use the plant in bouquet arrangements for lasting greenery and stay fresh for weeks.
Foxtail Fern Care Tips
Yes, foxtail fern plants look delicate but believe us, they are hardy specimens. It is a laidback plant with low maintenance.
The plant grows with tuberous roots and is quite forgiving if you forget to water them. The root system is strong but rememberss it can choke smaller fragile plants.
When grown in pots, foxtail ferns make for beautiful houseplants to bring some greenery indoors to your home.
Best Potting Mix for Foxtail Fern Plant
With the tuberous root system of the foxtail fern, it grows well in an all-purpose potting soil rich in organic matter to keep it moist.
To boost your mix, you can add some mulch around the base of the fern using decomposing humus, primarily when grown outside. Another must is it needs to be well-draining soil.
The water needs to run freely from the pot to prevent root rot that could result in the death of your plant. With some peat, vermiculite, or perlite added to the soil, it helps with drainage. It is not a fussy plant and thrives in neutral to slightly acidic soil.
If you are uncertain about the pH levels, you can invest in a kit to check that the reading remains 7.0 to 6.5.
Lighting Needs for Foxtail Ferns
Okay, gardeners, one thing you will be thrilled about having the foxtail fern is lighting. If you find it challenging to find the proper lighting in the garden or home, this plant fits in perfectly.
Asparagus densiflorus loves partial shade, making it a great plant to place near an east-facing window or garden.
Place your plant in bright indirect light but not direct sunlight as it will damage the leaves. If you see the leaves going yellow, move it back a bit more.
Or, you can place it standing behind some sheer curtains. Another great thing is growing foxtail ferns is easy as they can grow in full shade, but the leaves can grow in light green.
For gardeners that love fussing with plants, you can turn your house plants every week by 90° to provide all sides with brighter light.
Watering Your Foxtail Fern Asparagus
The only thing your houseplant is finicky about is watering. The plant is native to warm, damp forests and wants moist soil at all times. So if the soil dries out, your plant will show signs of wilting.
You can water your indoor plant once a week with a good drenching. Before watering, check the top a few inches to let it dry out a bit. Also, please keep checking the drainage holes to see that they are not blocked.
You do not want water accumulating at the base as it results in root rot. Another care tip is to water your plant with room temperature water to prevent it from going into shock.
If you can use rainwater even better, tap water tends to have a chemical building up in the soil. For foxtail fern growing outside, you can water them well to a depth of eight inches as it allows the root ball to grow deeper to make it more drought tolerant.
Temperature and Humidity
The foxtail fern with its needle-like leaves loves warm temperatures of 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C). Yet, while they can withstand cold temperatures of 50°F (10°C), they cannot withstand winter temperatures below this.
You can overwinter your container plant in colder climates and provide them with indoor heating devices. You may also find the foxtail fern growing outdoors dying down, but the roots remain hardy.
If you do not live in the USDA zones 9 to 11, grow them in pots so you can easily move them indoors. Neither is the plant frost tolerant nor happy in droughts that are too hot or cold. What the Myers fern loves is high humidity.
To help increase humidity, you can set this attractive plant on a pebble tray or do mist-spraying. The best way to achieve misting is using a mist room humidifier, but if you use this method, please prevent increasing the home’s dampness too much.
It can attract pathogen that is not good for you or your plants. You may also place your fern in the kitchen or bathroom, where it can enjoy the steam emitted for added moisture.
Fertilizing Your Indoor Plant
Like most houseplants, your foxtail fern enjoys a regular feed using an NPK ratio of 10-10-10. It is a balanced feed of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
You can feed your plants once a month during the growing season (spring and summer), reduce it in fall, and stop altogether in the winter months.
The most manageable feed to use is a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer that you dilute with water and pour onto the soil.
Please do not pour it over your plant and make sure the soil is very wet. When you pour fertilizer onto dry soil, it damages the roots.
You can also increase the nutrients in the soil using an organic fertilizer by adding compost.
Propagation of Foxtail Fern Plant
A great way to propagate your foxtail fern indoors or outdoors is by division. Here are some detailed steps for you to do this:
The best time to divide is in spring.
Work on a clean workspace and prepare a new container using all-purpose potting soil with some peat and organic compost added.
Clean all your tools by sterilizing them and cutting through the base of the mature plant’s rootball.
Dig up one part of your divided plant to lift the entire rootball.
Remove the excess soil and trim the roots to remove dead or damaged ones.
Place your new plants in the pot and fill them with soil and some mulch.
Water well and give it some fertilizer using a water-soluble fertilizer.
Foxtail Fern Varieties
When you look at the foxtail fern, you must agree that it looks gorgeous, right? Yes, it does, and the best part is there are other fern varieties you can add to the collection seen here:
Sprenger’s Asparagus Fern
The emerald fern is another evergreen perennial with arching stems covered with needle-like foliage. The stems trail with bright green leaves and is an exceptional ornamental plant.
While it is a fern, it does not belong to the true fern plant species. Yet, it grows well indoors, producing small white flowers and bright red berries.
Also, avoid planting it outside as it is an invasive species.
The fern is another plant that is not a true fern and belongs to the lily family. It also blooms tiny white flowers with eye-catching red berries and is confused with the foxtail fern.
They look great in hanging baskets inside; however, the plant is toxic to pets. We do not recommend eating the berries even if people say it is an edible asparagus fern as it can result in stomach aches.
The ostrich fern is another well–known name for this plant. It is an edible fern, but you need to cook the fiddleheads before eating them. It is an attractive fern with lacy fronds and loves dappled sunlight.
Foxtail Fern Diseases and Pests
The foxtail fern also gets pestered with insects and disease, as with most houseplants. Here it would be best if you kept an eye on the following:
The foilage can become the home of aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. You can remove them using natural pesticides or mist-spraying. A good alternative is neem oil to repel pests.
Leaves turning pale yellow is a sign of under-fertilizing, and feeding your plant once a month with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer in the growing season helps. Another cause can also be direct sunlight, and best to start by placing your plant in a spot with some dappled sun.
If your plant looks droopy, it is a good sign of root rot as the water is not draining out of the pot.
Frequently Asked Questions
The foxtail fern grows outside in winter if you live in the USDA zones 9 to 11. But if you live in colder climates, we recommend growing them in containers to move indoors as it is not frost resistant. In zones 9 to 11, they will die back in winter, but the rootballs remain growing.
A young foxtail fern will take some time to establish itself and takes up to three growing seasons to become mature plants.
The foxtail fern plant thrives in acidic soil. Adding coffee grounds can help achieve a slightly acidic soil. So, it’s good for your foxtail fern.
While you can buy foxtail ferns at a local garden centre, there is no need for you to get up from your chair. Plantlyhas the foxtail fern available to buy for your comfort, and you get it delivered at your door. So, check it out now and make it part of your indoor plant collection.
Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!