A. densiflorus 'Myersii' (foxtail asparagus fern); A. plumosus (asparagus fern)
CHARACTERISTICS: The asparagus
species listed here make excellent easy-to-grow house plants. All have
filmy "needles," which are actually flattened stems, technically called
phylloclades, that serve the purpose of leaves.
The Sprenger asparagus fern has been a favorite for generations. It has deeply arching 18- to 24-inch stems that are covered with loose billows of bright green inch-long flat needles. The foxtail asparagus fern has stiffly upright or arching 1- to 2-foot stems so covered with needles they look like furry plumes--hence the species' common name. The asparagus fern is a twining vine that sends out several 12- to 18-inch arching stems before one emerges that is strong enough to climb a 2- to 3-foot trellis. The spiny stems are thickly set with 1/8-inch dark green needles. Flat, roughly triangular branchlets extend horizontally from the main stems. If a bushy plant is desired, the ends of long stems can be pinched off. Florists often include cut stems of the asparagus fern in bunches of roses.
HOW TO GROW. These ornamental asparagus
species do best in bright indirect or curtain-filtered sunlight; if only
artificial light is available, provide at least 400 foot-candles. Night
temperatures of 50° to 55° and day temperatures of 68° to 72°
are ideal. Keep the soil barely moist at all times. Feed established plants
at three- to four-month intervals with a standard house-plant fertilizer,
but wait four to six months before feeding newly purchased or newly potted
plants. Repot overcrowded plants at any season, using a mixture of 1 part
loam, 1 part peat moss or leaf mold and 1 part sharp sand; to each gallon
pailful of this mixture add 1 1/2 teaspoons of 20 per cent superphosphate,
1 tablespoon of ground limestone and 2 teaspoons of 5-10-5 fertilizer.
Otherwise, use a packaged general-purpose potting soil. Propagate at any
season by dividing the thick fleshy roots of old plants; several good-sized
plants can be started from one old plant. When dividing old clumps, cut
the stems to soil level and discard them to make room for the fresh ones
that will rise from the roots. Watch for spider mites.