Foxtail Ferns

a.k.a., Ponytail Fern, Bottle Brush Fern, Emerald Fern

Asparagus densiflorus 'Meyersii'


Foxtail Ferns, though a member of the Lily family and not a fern at all, tempts the Indoor Gardener with its fascinating architectural shape, graceful draping, and ease of care.

An evergreen shrub with needlelike stems, Foxtail Ferns exhibit more density than the closely related and more common Asparagus Fern - Sprengeri.

Also called the Ponytail, Bottle Brush, and Emerald fern, the foxtail's branches create a cylindrical pattern around its core, growing upward like spires.

Each branch can grow from 1 to 2 feet up; the plant as a whole can widen eventually to about 3 feet, with the branches draping over the edges of the pot.

Foxtail Ferns can vacation out of doors in summer, but that makes them more prone to bugs, which are difficult to detect due to the density of the plant's foliage.

This is a great plant for an Indoor Gardener who likes architectural shapes, a bright emerald-green color, and slow-growing container plants.

It needs attention when first brought home or repotted, but once it adjusts, Foxtail Ferns become easy to care for.

If you watch them regularly, they'll let you know if they like how you're treating them in no uncertain terms.

Yellow (cut those off, they won't turn back to green) means "more water", and brown is "help, I'm drowning."

With a little bit of attention, they'll grow a long way.

Batya's Personal Notes: (08-2010) I had succeeded very well at avoiding the Asparagus Fern and its relatives ever since my first attempt in college when a hundred thousand sharp, dead yellow needles suddenly fell off all over the place. I found those needles the rest of the year, and I'm sure three tenants later still came across some in corners and under the sink.Foxtail Ferns

But even the most adamant refusal to try again was thwarted when I saw this fuzzy, tail-like, fern-like plant sitting so enticingly in my neighborhood home-goods store. And for $2 - what would it hurt to try? It had what turned out to be an erroneous identification tab that said 'FERN,' and I believed it.

However, upon further research I learned it was, indeed, a variety of the personally dreaded Asparagus Fern, called 'Meyersii' or Foxtail Fern. And with all the tubers popping out the bottom of the 3-inch plastic container, I knew it wanted potting up. You can see the picture from that adventure below.

He wasn't happy. I'd potted him as if he was a fern and watered him the same way. Here in Florida it seems my plants retain moisture much longer than they did in Nashville, and the soil didn't drain. Mr. Foxy started turning yellow.

With a little more research, I decided to repot him a week later and I must say he was immediately responsive. This time I used a clay container - I guess Foxtail Ferns prefer natural materials. He's recovering nicely in a soil mixture with a bit more sand and a pile of stones at the bottom to encourage draining, as well as a prime location for his convalescence.

I love how he looks, so I really hope he's happy now.



For the Indoor Gardener


CARE / SPECIAL NEEDS

  • LIGHT: The more sun, the faster it grows; can take low light

  • WATER: Increased need when root-bound; turns yellow (and dead) when thirsty, brown when over-watered

  • SOIL: Equal parts garden / sand or perlite / peat or humous; add sprinkle of lime

  • HUMIDITY: Medium

  • MISTING: Frequent

  • FERTILIZER: Weekly in summer at 50% strength, water soluble; every other week in winter

  • TEMP: Normal home temperature

MAXIMUM DIMENSIONS

  • HEIGHT: 2 feet

  • WIDTH: 3 feet


HEALTH: Rarely mealy bugs or spider mites

COST: Varies

Cutting Tubers from Foxtail Ferns when Repotting

PROPAGATION Division of tubers

FLOWERS:

  • Small white flowers

  • Berries (toxic)


FRIENDLINESS FACTOR:

  • Look, don't touch (thorns and sharp needles)

  • Definitely don't taste! (poisonous)

  • Keep away from pets and small children - toxic


CONVERSATION VALUE: High

Another Pretender Plant in the Asparagus Fern group. Foxtail Ferns are not ferns, not asparagus, and certainly not fox tails. They look inviting to touch, but the needles are sharp, there are thorns, and the berries are poisonous. Their wonderful, dense, round feather shape and their deep emerald color are their best attributes.


DECORATION SUGGESTIONS:

  • Simple container on a small table or pedestal.

  • With other plants of airier, drapier attributes to emphasize the Foxtail Ferns shape

  • Alone as eye-catching architectural houseplant


WARNING:

  • Toxic to pets and people

  • Small thorns








For Botanists, Scientists,
Outdoor Gardeners,
and School Reports


ORIGIN: South Africa


NATURAL GROWTH (OUTDOORS)

  • invasive

  • groundcover

  • height about 2 feet

  • midsummer blooms


CATEGORIZATION:

Asparagus densiflorus 'Meyersii'

Close relative of the Asparagus, Ming, Plumosa false ferns.
Related to Wild Asparagus, day-lilies, hostas, tulips.

    KINGDOM: Plantae
    SUBKINGDOM: Tracheobionta (Vascular plants)
    SUPERDIVISION: Spermatophyta (Seed plants)
    DIVISION: Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants)
    CLASS: Liliopsida (Monocotyledons)
    ORDER: Liliales
    FAMILY: Liliaceae (Lily family)
    GENUS: Asparagus L.
    SPECIES: densiflorus
    VARIETY: 'Meyersii'




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Although I don't own this one, I do have one of the Success With... series for indoor plants -- it's basic, to the point, and quite helpful. A plus for your indoor gardener library, Indoor Ferns by Susan Amberger-Ochsenbauer, also makes a good gift for a plant-growing friend.









DISCLAIMER: Indoor-Gardener.com reports information from research and does not guarantee any of the plants mentioned, for medicinal, decorative, or other uses. Neither the FDA nor any physician have endorsed the uses of plants mentioned on the website. Use plants as food or medicinal products only at your own risk.


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