Foxtail Asparagus Ferns (Aspargus spp.) are a species of flowering plants native to Europe and Asia. They grow up to 3 feet tall with stems that are up to 5 inches long. These plants have spiny leaves that are covered with small hairs. Their flowers contain tiny white seeds which look like little miniature sunflowers.
The name “foxtail” comes from the fact that they resemble a tail made out of asparagus. The plant is commonly known as asparagus fern or foxtail because it resembles the shape of a leaf when viewed from above. When these plants are young, their leaves may turn greenish red and then eventually turn brown due to oxidation. This color change is caused by chlorophyll oxidizing, which causes them to absorb carbon dioxide gas produced during photosynthesis.
As the leaves continue to age, the oxygen levels begin to drop causing them to become less efficient at absorbing carbon dioxide. Eventually, they will turn completely brown.
When these plants reach maturity, they have a very distinctive appearance: their leaves turn brown and fall off in clumps. The reason why these plants lose all their leaves is due to a phenomenon called “chlorosis”. This happens when the plants aren’t absorbing enough nutrients from the soil, causing them to deprive themselves of chlorophyll and turn brown.
If you want to prevent this from happening, it is vital that you provide your plants with plenty of water and nutrients, particularly nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron.
Foxtail asparagus ferns are relatively easy to care for. They enjoy being outside during the day and inside in a shaded area at night. They prefer growing in sandy or loamy soil that drains well. They don’t do well in extremely hot and dry climates.
Your plants can grow well in zones five through nine.
If you want to start your own asparagus ferns from seed, you can do so by planting the seeds directly into the ground in spring after all danger of frost has passed. You should then mulch your newly planted seeds with about an inch of straw or leaves. You should also water your new plants. Once the seedlings are a few inches tall, you can begin to thin them out so there’s about 2 to 3 feet between each plant.
These plants can also be propagated by division or by layering. To propagate by division, you should dig up a clump of the fern and separate the smaller divisions. Each of these divisions should have at least three fronds. You will then need to replant the new divisions.
To propagate by layering, you should bend a stem down to the ground and cover it with soil. After about a month, you should see roots and a new plant forming. Then you should dig up this new plant and replant it.
These plants are also good to eat. You should harvest them when they’re between the size of your finger and your arm. If you wait too long, their leaves become too tough to eat. Young plants are the best to harvest from but mature ones are still edible.
The roots can be eaten as well but they become too tough once the plant is older than two years.
As the old saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The same thing can be said about asparagus ferns. Their uninviting exteriors hide the delicious, tender, and nutritious insides. With a little bit of TLC, these plants can thrive and provide you with a constant supply of delicious food.
If you’re interested in learning how to grow asparagus, read our other article on the topic.
Sources & references used in this article:
Ethnobotanical profiling of Asparagus aethiopicus L. by G Gandipilli, ER Geddada – pdfs.semanticscholar.org
Growing ferns by PA Thomas, MP Garber – 2009 – esploro.libs.uga.edu
Establishment of asparagus with living mulch by L Paine, H Harrison… – Journal of production …, 1995 – Wiley Online Library
Cut Foliage Research Note by RH Stamps – mrec.ifas.ufl.edu