Seed of the Week: Asparagus Fern

Yes, those hard round black seeds from last week’s mystery seed post were from an asparagus fern, Asparagus densiflorus.

This particular plant is Sprenger’s Asparagus Fern, Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri.’

Originally from South Africa, it is a common houseplant in more northerly areas. Here in Arizona it is a hardy survivor even when planted outside in the ground. In some parts of the world, that hardiness has turned it into a noxious weed.

The red berries show that the plant is not truly a fern, because it produce delicate white flowers and fruit rather than spores. It actually belongs to the lily family.

The red berries are not edible by humans, although they are eaten by birds. The plant is considered to be poisonous.

Most people buy their plants from a nursery, but you can grow new plants from the seeds inside the berries.

Photograph by Frank Vincentz

One interesting feature of this plant is rarely seen because it is underground. The roots have puffy tubers. I think the tubers help it store water for times of drought. They also swell and cause the plant to burst their pot after a time. My son calls one of our asparagus ferns “Buster” as in “Pot-Buster.”

Although asparagus ferns are lovely plants, do you see why I originally took this photo?

Do you grow any asparagus ferns?

14 Comments

  1. Zetta Takem

    Can I put this plant in my fish tank

  2. Roberta

    I’m fairly certain that it wouldn’t work in your fish tank. Most land plants require air to produce their food and being underwater isn’t good for them.

  3. jonathan r brazelton

    Will this plant survive winter in SW Ohio if planted and covered outside? Mine are 3 ft in diameter and getting too messy to keep inside during winter. Thank you.

  4. Roberta

    Asparagus ferns are sensitive to hard freezing temperatures, so I suspect it wouldn’t survive.

  5. Martha

    I found many black round seeds underneath me asparagus fern and assume they came from the round red berries. To germinate, must they be planted as the red berries?

  6. Roberta

    No, they shouldn’t need the fruit to germinate. Go ahead and give them a try. We’ve had a few come up from seed.

  7. Eva

    How do you get rid of asparagus fern? We have a rockery that is overgrown with this fern. The rockery has other vegetation including bromeliads and agaves. It is difficult to access. Thank you.

  8. Roberta

    One of those things that is well-behaved or hard to grow in one locale and a nasty weed in another. You might want to try for some local advice, but this might get you started: https://dpipwe.tas.gov.au/invasive-species/weeds/weeds-index/declared-weeds-index/asparagus-fern/asparagus-fern-control-guide

    Good luck!

  9. laura

    Just purchased a home with a big lot. The ground juniper is being taken over by the asparagus plant. Everyday, I try to cut away & pull the asparagus, spikey weeds… it’s so bad, because it sprouts like clusters of grass blades under the canopy of the juniper. Just curious anyone has gone through process to remove the asparagus with success -or- at this point of infestation is it a lost cause?

  10. Roberta

    Are you in Australia? You might try these tips: https://dpipwe.tas.gov.au/invasive-species/weeds/weeds-index/declared-weeds-index/asparagus-fern/asparagus-fern-control-guide

    Good luck.

  11. Teresa L Rister

    Can you grow an asparagus from the round tubers in the root system they still have roots on them and I have them in a pot I would really live tp save them if I can

  12. Roberta

    You can propagate asparagus ferns by separating the tuberous roots. Good luck!

  13. Gail Bennett

    Hello Roberta.
    In England I have the similar less bushy Asparagus aethiopicus as a houseplant grown from a seed that dropped off a neighbours rooftop garden when I was 12. I am now 63 and it is still going strong!
    It is producing fewer and fewer new fronds however to replace the old, so is now looking a bit sparse.
    It has been repotted a few times over the years with fresh soil and bigger pot.
    Can you advise what I might do to encourage it to get more vigorous again? For instance, does it like rich or poor soil, a crowded root area or a bigger pot?
    Thank you! Gail.

  14. Roberta

    Asparagus ferns don’t mind being pot bound, but if it has been a few years since it has been re-potted, that might help. It isn’t too picky about soil, but simply refreshing the soil replenishes some of the minerals it might need. Also, if the air has been drier than usual, you might want to try misting it once a day to raise the humidity. Good luck.

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