Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Indoor Asparagus Fern Plant - Asparagus densiflorus "Sprengeri"

This drooping form of Asparagus fern (Emerald Feather), needs a haircut each spring. It's beginning to thin at the top and get rather bushy at the base. This is a great plant for a hanging basket or in a raised planter.

I see so many different treatments of pruning for this plant, so I thought I would show you how I manage to keep its natural pendulous form.

This room gets moderate light and because it lives happily on a raised plant stand, we still enjoy the long stems to nearly reach the floor.

Wear GLOVES, please!
Before beginning any pruning, please be aware: Asparagus fern plants have spiny thorn like barbs - especially on older woody growth. WEAR GLOVES when handling this plant. Or ouch!

Can you see them? Tiny. Be careful!

First, get a good look from all angles. Get your gloves on and peak beneath those long trusses of growth.

With your gloves, pull back to reveal dead wood, browning stems and leaves that are dry and falling off. Comb with your gloves downwards to get rid of the dead bits. Be thorough. And don't worry, breaking a few stems in the process isn't going to hurt the plant. Prune out any yellowing stems or stems that are weak and not robust.

You want to avoid cutting younger growth. One trick to recognize them from the old is their lack of thorny barbs. See, no gloves to prove a point.

Another way is to see the colour variation.

The older stems are thicker and darker green.

I recommend cutting a third of the old stems back right from the base of the soil.

Go back to the top of the pot. You'll see brown, woody stems that emerge from tuber nodules (lumpy bumps) at the soil level. Don't damage those bumps by pruning the woody stems.  Just cut above.

From the base, gently tease the stems you cut out from the mass of growth and doing this will help generate younger growth to emerge from the top.

Next, figure how long you want to reduce its length.

Grab all the stems and gather them into a pony tail. Cut right above your grasp.

Don't stop there...

The healthy stems remaining need a trim as well. First look for bud axils along each stem. Find really healthy robust joints and start to thin out. Select 1 in about 10 stems like this and give them a cut back.

To show you better contrast, I've laid the cut stem on my jeans so you can see where to cut. Those buds just nestled in the joint of stems and leaves will become new stems.  Cutting some of this lengthy growth in half will bulk up the centre of the plant, as well as force new growth to emerge from the soil. This is key, or you will always have a bulky base and thin top to your hanging plant.

There, a little more even. No more puddling of stems on the floor. No more dead wood or browning leaves. Healthier all around.

Try it yourself!


  1. How do you propagate asparagus ferns

    1. By dividing the plant. Asparagus fern has tuberous roots. It's is easily propagated by slicing the tubers and dividing them. You can also plant seeds harvested from red berries that develop on the plant from summer to winter.

  2. I recently sprouted some of my berries/seeds (I think it took over a month for them to sprout). After looking it up it, I found that they wouldn't be ready to plant out as an annual until 18 months later. Anyways, planting from seed is a option just not a quick one. :) Your plant looks exactly like mine, it's cool to find someone else that deals with this thorny beast as a houseplant too. People always comment on mine but I doubt they'd have any tolerance for the mess it makes.

  3. I know. I still love mine and prune it yearly. It wouldn't be home without it. Good for you - getting them started from seed. You certainly have more patience than me!! Good luck with them getting to mature size. Cheers.

  4. I have had my asparagus since a high school botany class over 40 years ago! It can get messy dropping dried fronds, but it is very hardy even when neglected periodically.

  5. I've had my plant for 30 years but now i only have 3 shoots coming out of the plant two are very long and woody n only got leaves at the bottom. Is there anything I can do to premot

  6. I have my mom's plant. It wasn't healthy when I got it, but is gorgeous now! Some of the shoots are 6' long. It looks like there's bulbs showing at the top of the soil. Idk much about this beauty, and don't know how to repot it since it's so huge. Any help would be very much appreciated! This plant is ,at least, 30 years old. Thanks!

  7. Find a pot that is 1-2 inches bigger in diameter, and a bit taller, so that the root ball has some room to expand, but not too much, that it swims in moist soil. Use free draining potting soil mix.

    You could try using a Hori Hori knife, or a bread knife to cut it in two, and then you can pot it into two planters. But, you'll lose a portion of each division. Also it will leave a lot of space in a new pot, where overwatering can cause root rot. If you have the space, find a slightly larger pot and repot.

  8. I used to have my grandma's plant. It did well on top of my speaker. I cranked Rock and roll from the 60's, 70's, etc. But, yes!!! The mess...


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