The Foxtail Fern: Perfect for Pots

The Foxtail fern is actually a perennial herb, not a fern, native to Africa. Asparagus densiflorus is an easy-to-grow, indoor fern with a lush, upright growth habit. While Foxtail plants can be grown outside, the plant makes an excellent houseplant as well.

The Foxtail Fern: Perfect for Pots

Foxtail Fern Appearance

The Foxtail asparagus fern features feathery foliage that, at first glance, resembles the Asparagus fern, but growing upright. The thin, light-green leaves look similar to pine needles and grow on the multiple stems the fern produces. The plant reaches a mature height of 2 to 3 feet (61 cm to 0.9 meters) tall and wide. The small blooms are white, which turn into red berries once the flower expires. Flowers appear in the spring.

Light Requirements of Foxtail Plants

Provide bright, indirect sunlight when growing the Foxtail fern indoors. Avoid full sun exposure as the foliage will scorch. If moving your fern outside for the summer, find a spot with dappled shade. Some morning sun, followed by afternoon shade, is also acceptable.

Watering Your Foxtail Asparagus Fern

The Foxtail fern has tuberous roots that store water, even when the soil feels dry. Avoid overwatering your fern by letting the top 3 inches of soil dry between watering. Water once per week, on average, but increase the frequency if the plant is moved outdoors with little rain or high heat.

Soil and Fertilizer Requirements

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The Foxtail plant will grow in any well-draining soil. A slightly acidic soil pH level is preferred, but not essential. Begin fertilizing the fern in the early spring and continue through to early fall. Feed your plant once per month with a balanced, liquid 10-10-10 fertilizer diluted to half strength. Using a slow-release fertilizer, as directed, also works.

Temperature and Humidity Levels for Foxtail Plants

Foxtail ferns, like the Maidenhair fern,  prefer warm and humid temperatures to recreate its native habitat. Average household temperatures will suffice for continued growth. Supplement needed humidity by placing a tray filled with small pebbles and water under the plant’s drip tray. Regular misting of the plant is also recommended.

Propagating the Foxtail Asparagus Fern

Propagation of the Foxtail plant is achieved through either division or by seed. To propagate by division, remove the plant from its pot and shake the excess soil from the root ball. Use a sharp knife to separate the fern into two plants, ensuring each half has its own foliage and roots. Plant each half into its own pot, filled with a well-draining soil. Cover the root ball completely to ensure the roots are protected. Water the plants thoroughly and place them in the appropriate lighting.

As the Foxtail fern is not an actual fern, it produces seeds, not spores, for reproduction.

To collect the plant’s seeds, pick the red berries off the fern and soak them in a glass of water for 24 hours. Choose only the berries that sink to the bottom of the glass for the best chance of germination. Peel off the berries outer layer to expose the seed. Plant two seeds per pot, filled with a well-draining soil.

Mist the soil immediately, and regularly until germination takes place in three to four weeks. Place the pot in bright, indirect light. Once established, remove and dispose of the leggier of the two seedlings. Care for the remaining seedling as a mature plant.

Common Pests and Diseases

While not often susceptible to pests, unhealthy ferns may encounter infestations from spider mites, mealybugs, and scale. Look for lumps on the leaves or signs of insects feasting on the stems. Treat the fern with neem oil to stop the infestation.

Fungus issues, powdery mildew, and crown rot may develop from overwatering the plant. Reduce watering and remove any damaged foliage or stems. Treat the plant with a fungicide or sulfur-based product for houseplants to stop any further spread. 

The Foxtail fern, with its upright and bushy growth, makes a bold statement when grown in pots. The fern is easy to care for, with its most important needs being water and temperature control. For those who love the look of ferns, this is a great choice to enjoy their beautiful appearance indoors.

Foxtail Fern FAQ

When Should I Repot My Foxtail Plant?

Repot your fern when it has outgrown its pot and the roots appear through the drainage holes. Choose a pot 2 inches larger in diameter than the previous one and fill it with fresh soil.

How Long Does it Take for a Foxtail Asparagus Fern to Mature?

On average, it takes the fern three or more years to reach its mature size.

Should I Prune My Foxtail Fern?

Prune any dead fronds or stems to encourage new, healthy growth.

What Type of Pot Should I Grow My Foxtail Plant in?

Choose a porous pot, such as unglazed clay or terra cotta, to allow excess moisture to wick away from the soil.

Is the Foxtail Fern Considered Toxic?

Yes, the Foxtail fern is toxic to cats. As a precaution, the plant should be kept away from all pets and children.