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Foxtail Fern Care — A Full Guide

Foxtail Fern Care — A Full Guide

I love a fern! They are green, lush and add a tropical feel to any indoor room or outdoor garden. 

I recently discovered the Foxtail fern at my local farmer’s market. I was told that it is in fact, not a fern at all, but belongs to the lily family. 

It has the botanical name Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myers’ which is even more confusing, as it is related to the edible asparagus. 

The Foxtail fern is now part of my indoor garden! It offers lovely emerald-green foliage that grows in a plume shape. In spring it has white blooms and attractive red berries. 

If you have an outdoor garden, Foxtail fern makes an attractive addition to shady areas where it thrives in dappled sunlight. 

The Foxtail fern is a low-maintenance plant and is ideal for beginners. It is unlikely to die on you and can survive periods of neglect during which it will continue to grow happily. Just what I need.

Read on for a guide on how to care for your Foxtail fern. 

 

Foxtail fern Plant Care

Foxtail fern grows in all-purpose, well-draining soil. Water well to keep the soil moist and fertilize monthly during spring and summer with a balanced fertilizer. The plant enjoys a bright spot out of direct sunlight. Ideal temperatures are 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C). It is not frost tolerant. 

 

Soil

Foxtail fern enjoys all-purpose potting soil that is moist and rich in organic matter. You can boost your potting mix by adding 2 inches to 3 inches (5cm to 7.5cm) of mulch around the base of the plant. Adding decomposing humus also helps to keep the soil cool and blocks weed invasions. 

Plant your foxtail fern into all-purpose potting soil. It loves rich organic matter, and I added loads of decomposing compost to my pot. 

This plant is native to moist forests in South Africa. To recreate this type of soil, you can add a thick layer of mulch to the base of your plant. Make it around 2 inches to 3 inches (5cm to 7.5cm) deep.

I enjoy using organic mulch that is made up of weed-free straw and shredded bark. Mulch helps to keep the soil cool and retain moisture. 

The plant must have well-draining soil. After watering, the excess water must run out and not accumulate at the base. Is this happens, the roots will rot and your plant can die. 

Adding peat to the soil aids in drainage. You can also mix in some perlite or vermiculite.

Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myers’ is not fussy about the PH balance of the soil. Neutral to slightly acidic soil will be fine. Use a home testing PH kit and check for a reading of 7.0 to 6.5. 7.0 is neutral and 6.5 is slightly acidic. 

 

Light

Foxtail fern enjoys light shade. They are ideal for planting in east-facing gardens or standing near east-facing windows. You can also plant your foxtail fern in a shady north-facing garden. It will enjoy some morning sun but does not want direct hot afternoon sun as this will damage the plant. 

Gardeners who struggle to find direct sunlight in their home or garden will be thrilled to know that the Foxtail fern is the perfect plant for this environment. 

It prefers filtered sun, partial sun, or partial shade. This makes it ideal for an east-facing garden or room. 

For indoor foxtail ferns, place your pot in a spot that gets bright, indirect light. Do not stand it in direct sunlight on a window sill as this will damage your plant. If you notice that the leaves are turning yellow, this could mean that your plant is getting too much direct sun. 

The foxtail fern can also tolerate full shade, but you may notice that the leaves emerge as a lighter green. 

If you love fussing with your plants, you can turn your pot every week by 90 degrees to give all sides of the plant a chance to face the brighter light. 

 

Watering

Foxtail fern enjoys moist well-draining soil. Over and under-watering must be avoided. Water weekly in spring and summer and allow the top layer of soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Soil should always be moderately moist. In winter, watering can be reduced to once every two weeks. 

The foxtail fern is native to damp, warm forests and wants soil that is moderately damp at all times. If your soil dries out completely, the plant will show slow growth and wilting leaves. 

Plan to water your plant once a week by giving it a good drenching. You can check that the top few inches are getting dry by pushing your finger into the soil. If it feels dry – it is time to water. 

Check that the drainage holes in your pot are not blocked by soil. You do not want water to accumulate at the base of the pot. This will cause rootrot and your plant will die. 

Use water that is at room temperature. Hot or icy cold water can shock your plant. Using rainwater is fabulous if you have the means to collect some for your plants. Tap water tends to contain many chemicals that build up in the soil and will eventually damage your plant. 

If your plant is growing outdoors, give it enough water to thoroughly wet the soil to a depth of 6 inches to 8 inches (15cm to 20cm). This will allow the roots to extend deeper into the soil, and make it more drought-resistant. 

 

Temperature

Foxtail fern enjoys warmer temperatures of between 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C). Do not allow the temperature to drop below 50°F (10°C) in winter. In USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11, it may be grown outdoors. It is not tolerant of frost. In cooler regions, outdoor plants can be overwintered indoors.

Foxtail ferns love warmer climates and do best in temperatures of 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C). 

They can withstand winter temperatures down to 50°F (10°C). If you live in a very cold climate, you may consider a heating device for your indoor plants. 

Foxtail ferns growing outdoors may die down in colder weather, but the roots will remain hardy to about 20°F to 25°F (-6°C to -4°C). You may consider growing your outdoor plant in a pot and moving it indoors during the cold winter months. It does best outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11. 

This plant is not tolerant of frost. It is also not happy in draughts, either hot or cold. Like most plants, do not stand your foxtail fern under air vents, in front of air conditioners, or heaters. Avoid draughty corridors or corners. 

 

Humidity

Foxtail ferns enjoy warm climates that are slightly higher in humidity. While your average home of 40% to 50% is adequate, you can increase the humidity by mist-spraying or using water pebble trays. Installing a small humidifier in your indoor garden will make your plant thrive. 

Foxtail fern thrives in conditions that are above average humidity. Average homes have a humidity of 40% to 50%. While this will probably be fine for the most part, increasing it will make your plant that much happier.  

You can increase humidity in several ways. Mist-spraying is easy and allows you to fuss over your plants! You can install a mist room humidifier to increase the humidity. 

If you are doing this, ensure that you do not increase the dampness in your home too much. Dampness attracts mold and bacteria that are not good for plants or humans. 

Shallow open-water pebble trays are attractive and increase the humidity in the air around your plants as the water evaporates.

You may even consider standing your plant in a kitchen or bathroom. These rooms generally have higher humidity than other rooms in the house. 

 

Fertilizer 

Fertilize your Foxtail fern through the growing season – spring to fall. You can use a balanced water-soluble 10-10-10 fertilizer. Add fertilizer to wet soil once a month. Avoid pouring fertilizer onto dry soil as this may damage the roots. Adding organic compost gives your plant a boost. 

Like most indoor plants, Foxtail fern responds well to regular fertilizing. 

Choose a balanced fertilizer with an NPK reading of 10-10-10. These numbers indicate the ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the mix. As you can see from these numbers, this is a fertilizer that is balanced and does not have an excess of any of the three components. 

Feed your plant once a month during spring and summer. Reduce feeding in the fall and stop completely in winter. 

A water-soluble fertilizer is easy to use. Simply dilute according to the instructions and pour onto the soil. Do not pour it over the plant. Also, ensure that your soil is very wet. Pouring fertilizer onto dry soil can damage the roots of the plant. 

I like to enhance my soil with natural organic fertilizer. Adding compost, decomposing leaves or grass, or mulch is a great way to do this. 

 

Growth

Foxtail fern grows as a bush, reaching heights of 2 feet (0.6m) and a width of 2 feet to 3 feet (0.6m to 1m). It offers 1 inch (2.5cm) long, dense emerald-green needle-like leaves that point upwards in a plume formation. In spring it has white blooms and red berries that are attractive to birds. 

The Foxtail fern is a delight to look at, with stunning dense emerald-green foliage that retains its color through the year. 

The foliage grows in a plume-formation with dense 1 inch (2.5cm) needle-like leaves that point upwards. 

It is a fast grower and can be trimmed to keep its shape when growing indoors. For outdoor plants, they look awesome when allowed to spread.

In spring, the plant offers insignificant white blooms and red berries. The berries are not edible by humans but are attractive to birds. 

Your plant can grow to heights of up to 2 feet (0.6m) and a width of 2 feet to 3 feet (0.6m to 1m) in a pot. 

I have my foxtail fern growing in a low-hanging basket and it looks sensational! You can also plant it into a large floor standing pot, or a patio container. If you want to plant your foxtail fern outdoors, it is ideal to use in rock gardens, borders, for foundation planting, or as a backdrop to low ground cover. 

 

Potting

Plant your foxtail fern into a deep decorative clay or terracotta pot with drainage holes at the base. Plant into an all-purpose potting soil with additional peat and organic compost.  Water well, add fertilizer, and place in a spot with bright light but out of direct sunlight. 

Foxtail fern grows fairly tall, up to 2 feet (0.6m), so choose a larger, deeper pot. 

I like clay or terracotta pots for several reasons. First, they are eco-friendly and won’t add to plastic pollution. Secondly, they allow airflow and water evaporation through the walls. They also look so much more attractive.

Place some small pebbles or crush granite at the base of the pot to prevent the drainage holes from getting blocked. 

Fill your pot with all-purpose potting mix. You can also add in some peat, perlite, and organic compost. 

Make a large hole in the center of the pot. Gently remove the plant from the nursery wrapping and place it into the hole. The roots enjoy growing downwards, so allow space between the roots and the base of the pot. Fill in the hole with soil. Add a thick layer of mulch around the base of the plant. This helps to retain moisture. 

Water well and fertilize with a balanced fertilizer. 

Remember to rotate your pot by 90 degrees, once a week to allow all sides of the plant to get the same amount of light. 

If your plant is mature and you notice roots growing up above the soil, it is time to repot. Choose a larger pot for your plant.

Once it is removed from the old pot, check the roots and remove any that are damaged or dead. Gently untangle the rootball if it is very compact. 

 

Foxtail fern in-depth propagation guide

By dividing your Foxtail fern, you can grow new ones for your indoor or outdoor garden. They also make lovely gifts for new homeowners. 

 

Propagate Foxtail fern by division

  • Plan to do your division in spring 
  • Prepare a clean workspace
  • Prepare your new pot with all-purpose potting soil, added peat, and organic compost
  • Sterilize your cutting tools 
  • Cut a mature plant through the base and deeply through the rootball
  • Gently dig up one part of the divided plant
  • Ensure that you lift up the entire rootball
  • Shake off excess soil
  • Trim off any roots that are damaged or dead
  • Place the plant into your new pot, fill in the hole with soil and a layer of mulch
  • Water generously and fertilizer with a water-soluble fertilizer

 

Common problems with Foxtail fern

 

Pest Control

Foxtail fern is fairly pest resistant. However, the dense foliage can become an attractive home to spidermites, slugs, mealybugs, and aphids. 

Most of these pests can be removed by mist-spraying with a natural pesticide. Solutions of Neem oil are a good choice. This natural oil has a bitter taste that repels pests. 

Spider mites can become a problem in winter if the humidity is very low. You may not see the mites, but you will see fine webbing among the leaves. Increasing the humidity will help. 

 

Leaves turn pale yellow

This could be a sign of under fertilizing. Feed your plant once a month during the growing season with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer. Water well before pouring fertilizer onto the soil. 

Another cause of yellow leaves is too much direct sun. move your plant to a spot that has bright light, but is not in direct sunlight.  

 

The plant looks droopy

A drooping plant could be a sign that the roots are rotting. Roots will rot if water cannot drain out of your pot. Although foxtail fern enjoys moist soil, it must not be waterlogged. Check that the drainage holes in your pot are not blocked. 

 

Tips to grow Foxtail fern problem-free

  • Plant in all-purpose potting soil that is well-draining
  • Stand it in a bright spot with no direct sunlight
  • Water weekly and check that the soil stays moderately damp
  • Ensure higher humidity with mist-spraying or open water pebble containers 
  • Fertilize monthly through spring and summer with a water-soluble balanced fertilizer
  • Turn your pot 90 degrees every week to get all-round light exposure
  • Trim to keep the shape neat

 

Frequently asked questions about the Foxtail fern

 

Can Foxtail fern grow indoors? 

Yes, it can. It is very attractive as a pot plant or in a hanging basket. It is also great for outdoors where it can be used in borders and rock gardens. 

 

Are the berries of the Foxtail fern edible? 

No, they are not edible and should not be eaten as they can make you ill. They are attractive to birds who will add sound and movement to your garden. 

 

Is it easy to care for Foxtail fern? 

The Foxtail fern is a great indoor choice for beginners. The plant is easy to care for. Ensure that the soil is moist and that your plant does not stand in direct sun. give it loads of light, mist-spray, and fertilize monthly. 

 

Conclusion

Foxtail fern is a fabulous plant to add all-year color to your indoor garden. I love the emerald-green leaves that always look fresh and healthy. Put one in your office, it is sure to brighten up your workday!