What’s neither an asparagus nor a fern? That’s right. The Asparagus Plumosa Fern!
With its gorgeous feathery, lace-like foliage, the Plumosa fern (Asparagus setaceus), a sub-species of the Asparagus Fern (asparagus plumosus), is a beginner-friendly outdoor, and even indoor houseplant.
Despite what many believe, this foliage plant isn’t a true fern, but rather is part of the lily family.
With some simple adjustments and basic care instructions, caring for a Plumosa fern is surprisingly easy.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to care for your Plumosa fern; potting, pruning, propagating, growing from seed, as well as light, soil, water and humidity requirements.
Plumosa Fern Care Guide
Uses: Perfect for all types of containers, especially hanging baskets, window boxes and combination planters. Can be used as a small scale groundcover too.
Features: Rich, feathery green foliage, often soft to touch. The asparagus plumosa fern is considered a very low maintenance, and resilient houseplant fern that can tolerate changes in watering frequency.
This plant is considered one of the best indoor garden plants due to its hardy nature.
|Plumosa Fern Care||Requirements|
|Family Name||Asparagus Setaceus|
|Also Known As||Asparagus Fern, Climbing Asparagus, Common Asparagus Fern, Sprengeri Fern, Feathered Asparagus Fern|
|Sun Exposure||Indirect light (indoors), part sun (outdoors)|
|Humidity||Requires humid environment, with occasional misting|
|Soil Type||Fertile, well drained potting soil|
|Soil PH||6.5 to 6.8|
|Mature Size||Up to 2 feet high and 5 feet long|
|Min Temperature||Ideally min 10° C or 50° F|
|Max Temperature||18 to 26°C or 65 to 80 °F|
|Toxicity||Toxic for dogs, cats and horses|
|Invasive?||Yes, when grown outdoors.|
|Space Range||2 to 2.5 feet spacing|
|Plant Feed||Balanced Liquid Fertilizer|
|Watering||Keep soil evenly moist. Top inch should be damp.|
|Diseases||Susceptible to root rot and crown rot|
|Pests||Common pests include mealy bugs, spider mites, aphids and scale|
Light – Indoors, the Plumosa fern thrives in bright, indirect sunlight.
If placed in a window box, avoid bright, direct sunlight to prevent leaf scorching.
Outdoors, the Plumosa Fern prefers part sun. Think morning sun, afternoon shade. Partial shade is best.
Soil Types and PH – Plant Plumosa ferns in pots with loose, well-drained potting soil.
This type of fern loves highly fertile, rich organic matter. Soil PH should be slightly acidic (6.5-6.8 on the PH scale).
The Plumosa is absolutely not tolerant of poor soil conditions, so make sure to nail this.
Water and Humidity – Whilst the Plumosa fern isn’t a true fern, it does thrive in environments that mimic its natural surroundings; the damp, wet jungle or forest floor.
The dry heating conditions indoors can wreak havoc on this plant’s natural water balance.
To prevent drooping and yellowing leaves, mist the arching stems daily.
It’s important to note that the asparagus fern can dry out tremendously, tricking you into thinking it’s dead.
The Plumosa fern is highly tolerant of most changes, so it’s likely not beyond revival with a little care.
To save a Plumosa fern, you’ll want to ensure it’s receiving warm, humid air with regular mistings.
Outdoors, keep plumosa ferns well watered to prevent the soil from completely drying out.
Fertilizer – Adding a few drops of balanced liquid fertilizer or water-soluble all-purpose plant food is usually all a Plumosa fern needs.
Note, if you’re using all-purpose plant food it’s best to dilute its strength by half. In summer, these ferns often need weekly feedings, the rest of the year is fine with monthly feedings.
Granular vs Liquid
Either a liquid or granular fertilizer is suitable for a plumosa fern.
For granular, make sure to apply the fertilizer under the soil, a few inches away from the roots to prevent burning or overpowering.
For liquid, you will need to dilute the solution before applying directly to the soil.
Never apply liquid fertilizer to the leaves directly as it will burn and scorch them.
Please make sure to read the instructions of the fertilizer you buy, as each brand will have its own specific instructions.
Temperature – Try to keep the air temperature at this fern’s sweet spot: 70 F. Dipping below 50 F for long periods of time can either put the plant into a dormant mode or do permanent damage to its fine structure.
The Plumosa fern responds extremely well to growing in a greenhouse, and you can expect abundant growth in the summer months.
Is the Asparagus Fern Toxic to Pets?
Yes. As confirmed by the ASPCA’s list of toxic plants, the Asparagus fern plant or Plumosa Fern is mildly toxic to cats, dogs, horses and should be kept away from children too.
All parts of the plant are considered toxic, but the berries, especially so.
When eaten, the berries can cause stomach and skin issues.
Signs of plant poisoning may include:
- Gastrointestinal Discomfort
- Abdominal cramping
- Skin irritation at the point of contact
- Skin rash
Asparagus Fern Varieties and Types:
- Asparagus setaceus: also known as the Plumosa fern, it has lacy foliage and is often used in floral arrangements
- Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’: The Sprengeri fern is often used as a hanging plant, it’s popular due to its fluffy, long form
- Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myeri’: also known as foxtail asparagus or the foxtail fern, it has dense foliage on upper stems
Pruning – Plumosa ferns are fast growers. Luckily, it’s fine to prune them to keep them looking neat and tidy.
Plus, pinching plants back helps to stimulate dense, bushy new growth and encourages thicker foliage and flowers (if appropriate).
It’s best to use clean garden shears to prevent transferring of potential pests, or sharp scissors.
How to know when it’s time to prune your plumosa fern:
- When you simply want to keep its desired shape and size
- To remove damaged or infected areas
- To prevent the plant wilting in summer months when it’s losing too much water
- If it’s infected with pests or mites
Plumosa Fern Propagation – There are two easy ways to propagate a plumosa fern.
You can choose to use either new seeds and sow them, or you can dig up the tuberous roots and divide them. This method is known as vegetative propagation by root division.
Here’s a quick step by-step on how to cultivate your plumosa fern like a pro:
If you have seeds from a plumosa fern that’s bloomed berries, you can sow the seeds in a seed tray filled with ¾ rich potting soil and ¼ soil on top.
Before planting, soak seeds overnight. Water regularly.
Plumosa seeds typically germinate within 4-8 weeks of sowing. Once you see 2 true leaves, you can transplant the seedlings to individual containers or pots. Continue to water regularly.
Plumosa ferns have tuberous roots that you can use to cut and plant in the soil.
Cut the tubers off from the root ball and lightly plant them on the soil of separate containers. Spring is the best time to do vegetative propagation.
Note: I highly recommend you don’t use stem cuttings because they will never develop roots.
Potting and Repotting Plumosa Ferns
Surprisingly, plumosa ferns don’t mind being pot-bound. They can grow in a pot for up to 2 years before needing to be repotted.
Plumosa and Asparagus ferns do not need large pots indoors as they are relatively slow spreaders in comparison to when they’re planted outdoors.
For a successful repotting, consider the following. Divide the plant into large clumps, making sure to take a good clump of roots when dividing.
Place the roots into similar sized pots or containers and try to mimic former growing conditions.
When repotting, it’s always best to disturb the plant as little as possible.
How to know when it’s time to repot a plumosa fern:
- When the plant is showing signs of severe root rot (see below)
- When the roots are becoming ‘bound’, limited space for roots in current pot
- When the quality of soil deteriorates/loses its nutrients
- If the soil is infected with pathogens
I often get asked, ‘can I bring my plumosa fern indoors during Winter?’. Yes, in fact, it’s encouraged.
Plumosa ferns aren’t tolerant of colder climates, anything below 50 F is likely to damage its structure.
When you bring them indoors make sure to keep them in indirect light, away from artificial heat or radiators, and drafts.
Common Pets and Diseases You Need to Know About
Plumosa ferns aren’t prone to specific diseases, but how you keep them can definitely trigger some serious problems.
Typically, root rot happens when the roots of the plant receive way more water than they need. Other than that, it can be caused by pathogens which have already infected the soil pre-planting.
Quick and easy ways to identify root rot without disturbing the roots:
- Leaves will turn brown or yellow
- Base of the plant might look mushy
Rotting roots will also smell really bad, almost putrid in some cases. The roots will also be mushy and often, though not always, the soil will be dark black.
Best way to prevent root rot? Refrain from overwatering and purchase sterilized soil before sowing/propagating.
Plumosa ferns can also suffer from crown rot. It’s very easy to spot, with the lower half of the stem appearing very dry and rotten.
Typically, it damages the newer portions of the plants e.g new leaves. If these newer sections are yellow or red in color, this is most likely a sign of crown rot taking hold. You may also spot signs of fungi too.
If left untreated, the whole plant will wilt and eventually die.
Unfortunately it’s hard to prevent. Once crown rot has taken hold, it’s difficult to treat.
Remove damaged and infected sections of the plant immediately. Add sanitized soil and water the plumosa only when the top inch of soil is dry to touch.
Common enemies of the plumosa fern include:
Mealybugs – They are cotton-like structures that appear on the surface of the leaves or stems. Their white appearance makes them very easy to spot.
Spider mites – Very subtle, it’s unlikely you’ll notice them until they’ve attacked a good portion of leaves or buds.
Scales – Complete with protective shells, these bugs look tan or brown in color and oval in shape. They are fast multipliers, so it’s best to treat the plant as soon as you notice their presence.
If you notice these pests, it’s important to isolate infected plants to avoid further damage and to prevent the bugs transferring to another host.
In mild cases, a spritzing with diluted dishwashing liquid and neem oil will kill them.
In severe cases, a commercial bought chemical pesticide may be necessary.
FAQs – How to Care For Your Plumosa, Asparagus Fern
Is growing asparagus fern indoors easy? Can I grow it indoors and outdoors?
Absolutely! This is one houseplant that is beginner-friendly. It can be grown either as an indoor plant or an outdoor one, though outdoors is where you’ll see it most.
In warmer climates, the Plumosa fern can readily be adapted to an outdoor culture, where it typically grows like a creeper.
Note, it can quickly become invasive!
Whilst indoors, the key to growing a Plumosa Fern successfully is to keep the plant bushy, dense and rounded.
How much sun does an asparagus fern need?
Whether indoors or outdoors, it’s best to place your plumosa fern in a location that receives between 2-6 hours of indirect sunlight.
How big does a plumosa fern get?
A plumosa fern can grow up to 2 feet high, and without regular pruning may grow to 2 to 3 feet wide outdoors.
Why is my asparagus fern dying?
The most common reasons an asparagus fern dies includes:
- Too much or not enough water
- Too much direct sunlight
- Pathogen or disease infested roots, stems or leaves
- Wrong humidity or temperature
Most of these are relatively easy to fix. Please refer to the guide above to meet the correct guidelines.
How often should you water asparagus/plumosa fern?
Daily mistings is ideal. Spray the stems, rather than the leaves to ensure maximum absorption at the root.
Spraying directly on the root can prematurely cause crown rot, especially if too much is applied.
If outdoors, turn a hose onto spray rather than stream to achieve the same effect.
Should I trim my asparagus fern?
Yes, as the Plumosa fern is a fast-growing plant, it’s best to trim and prune it regularly to keep it healthy and not to mention tidy-looking.
Why are my asparagus fern leaves turning brown, but the stems are still green?
Have you recently moved the plant to a new location? Check to see if it’s receiving adequate humidity.
Alternatively, this could be a sign that the plant is being placed in direct sunlight for too long, and so the leaves are being scorched and burnt.
This could also mean you’re leaving the soil to completely dry out between waterings and so the plant isn’t getting adequate hydration.
Why does my plumosa fern have yellow leaves and is drooping?
This usually signals that your plumosa fern is getting too much sunlight or the soil is too dry. Water when the top inch of soil is dry to touch.
More plant posts you might like: