More Information About Asparagus
Outside of the edible Asparagus officinalis, the genus Asparagus has been largely relegated to the role of tropical houseplant or bouquet filler (Asparagus fern: Asparagus sprengeri & A. setaceous; Foxtail Fern: A. densiflorus). This is a sad thing because other species of Asparagus ferns make wonderful sun-loving garden plants with frilly foliage. We grow many wonderful Asparagus ferns from China, Korea, and Africa in our garden that have proven to be reliable sun garden perennials. We are continuing to experiment hoping to find even more. Any of these temperate zone Asparagus ferns would also make nice houseplants if you can make a little adjustment for the looser foliage.
Asparagus ferns are very durable and extremely drought tolerant in the garden while providing a nice airy textural contrast to the bolder elements of the garden. Some are also salt tolerant plants and are suitable for coastal gardens. And some garden-worthy asparagus ferns, such as Asparagus virgatus also make great cut foliage for flower arrangers.
How to Grow Asparagus Fern (in the garden)
- Design Considerations / Siting: The tall Asparagus species are lianas which are a type of semi-woody vine that climb primarily by leaning on their neighbors, often clinging to them with the help of short thorns. For these tall Asparagus, tall neighbors or a wall make nice companions. Other Asparagus ferns are clump-forming plants not too dissimilar in shape from the more familiar houseplant Asparagus densiflorus.
- Sun: Full sun or Partial sun.
- Water: Although quite drought tolerant, Asparagus fern foliage stays the most attractive with regular water.
- Soil: Rich or sandy depending on species - but always well-drained. A lot of our Asparagus ferns are native to rocky, lean locations so read the plant description before adding too much compost.
- Staking: Tall asparagus ferns want to lean on something...whether it is a neighboring plant, a wall, a trellis or even the ground. Thus stakes or trellises with loose ties can be used to corral these plants into an attractive upright shape when other supports are lacking.
- Pruning: A quick shave or snip will rid the plant of damage that occurs from drought.
- Containers?: Yes. Like their houseplant brethren, any of our Asparagus ferns will also make excellent container plants.
- Cut-foliage?: Help yourself. They are all beautiful in a vase.
- Edible?: Definitely maybe! Outside of the US, a large number of Asparagus species are eaten (caveat...we have not eaten any of these). Just like with A. officinalis, the stems of several other species can be cut when young, boiled and eaten. For those who just gotta know, there is no word on the Asparagus-pee issue with these other species. Try them and let us know! According to PFAF, several of the species that we have sold have some degree of edibility including A. suaveolens, A. setaceus, A. schoberioides, A. verticillatus and A. cochinchinensis (the tuber). Don't count on getting the same mild flavor and fiber-free stem with these though. Expect some bitterness and fibrousness which is probably why we don't regularly eat them.
- Watch out for Thorns: No matter the size or shape, Asparagus fern stems have widely spaced, short thorns that will nip your fingers if you forget about them.