Asparagus setaceus

Fern Asparagus
LILIACEAE, The Lily family

I have been calling this plant lace fern for as long as I can remember, and thinking it was a fern. Argg, not so. In looking for its botanical name I found out a lot. Unlike sprengeri Asparagus densiflorus, which is commonly called Asparagus fern, this thing looks like the asparagus we eat, Asparagus officinalis. It makes sense that they are closely related. As a houseplant, Asparagus lace fern rarely blooms or sets fruit, so I wasn’t tipped off that it was in the lily family. As an outdoor plant in frost-free areas, it is a perennial that reseeds itself and can be invasive. In the garden it likes partial shade and grows 10 or more feet long. As a houseplant it grows around 36 inches tall and likes bright, indirect light and moderate water. The long stems have backwards pointing spines that can hook viciously into skin. It’s native to South Africa. The other types of Asparagus fern, with thicker more needle-like “leaves,” (actually modified stems- the leaves are reduced scales,) shed like crazy in low humidity. Growing up in Minnesota, low humidity in the winter was the norm, and Asparagus fern was my mom’s least favorite. Who needs a plant that’s messier than a toddler? When it came time for plants to get some (sub-zero) “fresh air,” this one was first in line.

Fern asparagus is the plant today because Eireann and I each have one. Hers is an offshoot of mine. When I came home from work we had chai and cookies, talked, drew and worked on projects. We know the secret to the fern asparagus: mist it with a spray bottle a few times a week. Don’t let it dry out in summer, but go easy on the water in winter. This plant is valued for use in floral arrangements.

About Mulysa

I love my work as a landscape designer and artist. When I'm not planning homesteads or working in the studio, you'll find me hiking, photographing, gardening, baking, cooking vegetarian meals with friends, reading and working on sustainability issues...with my baby on my hip in Portland, Oregon.
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