Care for the ‘Foxtail Fern’ and it will reward you, too

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What have we not learned the hard, hot way? The so-called Foxtail Fern is the perfect example of a seemingly delicate cultivar that is tough enough to save. In the hottest summer in the 21st Century, it thrived when it was moved from a covered patio to partial (but still hot) sun. And it did not beg to be watered.

The Foxtail Fern

The Foxtail Fern is not a true fern since it produces seeds, not spores.

Asparagus meyeri is an evergreen arching perennial that has feathery, needle-like stems. Foxtail Fern is not really a fern at all., since it produces seeds rather than spores. It is related to the vegetable asparagus, similar only in that its growth habit is very dense and it produces tail-like fronds for a fluffy “foxtail” look.

In the summer, the plant has small white flowers that are followed by bright red berries. Warning: Don’t eat the red berries; and watch for thorns.

Growing The Foxtail Fern Indoors

In most of the country, the Foxtail fern is grown as a house plant. As a potted plant, it will eventually attain a spread of about three feet. On a patio, it can be magnificent, unaffected by diseases or insect pests. It grows best in a brightly lit location, although it can be conditioned to grow in moderate light, but not deep shade or in a poorly lighted room. The brighter the light, the faster the plant will grow. As a outdoor plant, it will tolerate temperatures just above freezing for short periods, but this is not a frost-hardy fern. As the plant becomes rootbound, it needs more frequent watering. It can be heavily watered once or twice a week. When it is not root-bound, the Foxtail prefers the dry side, and can even put up with a certain amount of neglect.

A monthly feeding regimen of regular house plant food is all that it requires to remain healthy. The Foxtail Fern is not considered to be a heavy feeder, and if you miss a feeding, it’s not going to expire.

If you already have a Foxtail Fern and want more, simply remove the mature plant from its pot and cut off several tubers, as many tubers as you may want new plants. Place the tubers in individual pots filled with good potting soil and soon you will have a new generation of attractive and low maintenance Foxtail ferns.

Editor’s note: Tell us about an indoor-outdoor plan you think is worth carrying over the winter at Editor@Ozarks Living.com. We’ll do the heavy lifting, and spread the word.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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