The asparagus fern is one of the most popular houseplants around the world. Despite its delicate appearance, this plant is quite hardy and easy to care for.
The only way to you can propagate an asparagus fern is through division. This is because the plant has tuberous roots and cannot be propagated by using stem cuttings. However, this division is quite easy and has benefits for your existing plant as well. You can also grow asparagus ferns from seeds.
Propagating Asparagus Ferns the Easy Way using Division
Here are the steps required to propagate your asparagus fern using the division method.
Use a Healthy Mature Plant to Divide
To propagate your asparagus fern, you’ll need a nice healthy mature plant to start with. The plant should have numerous young offshoots if you want to end up with two or more plants.
Unfortunately, young plants will not have had the chance to put on enough growth for division, so wait a little longer until your plant is fully mature.
Remove your Plant from its Pot
In order to divide your asparagus fern, you’ll first need to remove it from its pot. Do this gently so that you don’t break off any of the stems or roots.
Very gently remove the soil from around the roots, and using your fingers, tease them apart as much as you can. As you do this, you should be able to see the individual offshoots. These will have their own root system, and it should be easy to separate them from the main plant.
Separate the Offshoots from the Main Plant
Being very careful to keep as many of the roots intact as possible, gently start to tease the offshoots and their roots away from the parent plant. If some of the roots are heavily entangled and you can’t easily tease them apart, it’s fine to cut some of the more tangled roots with a sharp pair of scissors or secateurs.
Make sure that each section that you remove still has plenty of roots on it. This will ensure successful propagation. You don’t have to remove all of the offshoots from the parent plant if you don’t want to. Just take as many as you would like to propagate and leave the rest. This ensures that the mother plant is still nice and bushy,
Once you’ve removed the offshoots, you can plant the parent back in its original pot. Make sure that you use the fresh, good-quality potting mix, as this will give the plant a boost as it continues to grow.
Plant your Offshoots
If any of your offshoots have very short roots, you may want to place these in water for a few weeks so that the roots can grow some more. Make sure that you replace the water every couple of days to keep it nice and fresh.
Otherwise, it’s perfectly fine to plant each offshoot into a new pot. Make sure that you’ve filled the pots with high-quality potting mix first.
The best way to plant your offshoots into each pot is to fill the pot only one-third and then place the roots on top of the mix, making sure that they’re nicely spread out. Then, continue to fill the pot with potting mix until the mix is at the level of the crown.
Gently firm down the soil and add a little more if necessary. Water well as this helps the soil to settle around the roots.
Once this is done, you can care for your new plants in the same way as you have been caring for the parent plant.
Choose the Best Time to Propagate your Asparagus Fern
The best time to divide your mature asparagus fern is in spring and summer. During this time, the plant is actively growing, and it won’t take long for the offshoots to start putting on some new growth. This also reduces the risk of propagation shock and root rot.
However, if you have a greenhouse or a grow light, it is possible to divide your asparagus fern either in the fall or winter. During this time, the plant won’t be growing all that much, so it might take a while longer for the young offshoots to establish themselves.
Providing the young plants with extra warmth and light will help them to grow a little faster and become more established at a quicker rate.
Common Problems experienced when Propagating Asparagus Fern
As you can see from our instructions above, propagating asparagus fern through division is relatively easy, and if you follow those steps, you shouldn’t have too many problems. However, here are some things that you want to look out for in rare cases.
Lack of Growth
You need to understand that it will take numerous weeks or even months before you’ll see some new growth on the offshoots that you’ve planted. If you’ve chosen to divide your asparagus fern during the colder months, you won’t see any new growth until the weather starts to warm up.
Using a grow light or even a heat mat under your pots will help to stimulate new growth a little faster. Just be patient, and eventually, you’ll start to see some lovely new growth appearing.
Leaves Turning Yellow
If the leaves of your offshoots are going yellow, then your plant could be facing one of two problems. It may be getting too much direct sunlight, and this is scorching the leaves. If you think this might be the case, move your plants to a spot where they only receive indirect light.
Another cause for leaves yellowing could be root rot. To determine whether this is the case, you need to check the moisture level in the soil. If the soil is wet and cannot drain freely, then your young plant could be suffering from root rot.
You can try to salvage the offshoot by removing it from the pot and gently washing off all the soil from around the roots. Then, trim off any roots that are diseased and repot the offshoot into a clean pot with fresh new potting mix. Don’t water for a few days. Keep an eye on your plant to see if it recovers. If not, you may have to discard that particular offshoot and start again.
How to Grow Asparagus Ferns in Water
When dividing your asparagus ferns, you might like to try and grow one or two of the offshoots in water for an extended period of time. Here’s what you need to do:
- Select one or two of your smaller offshoots, making sure that they have plenty of roots attached.
- Hold the roots under some gently running water to remove all of the soil.
- Remove any broken or damaged roots with a sharp pair of scissors.
- Find a nice decorative glass vase or jar.
- Place the offshoot into the vase and add some stones to help keep the roots in place.
- Fill the vase with distilled or non-chlorinated water.
- Put this in a bright spot where the plant will receive indirect sunlight.
- Change the water at least once a week to stop any algae from growing.
- You can substitute the distilled water with some aquarium water to provide nutrients to your plant. Alternatively, you can give your plant a very weak dose of liquid fertilizer once a month in summer.
You might be surprised to learn that you can grow these offshoots in water almost indefinitely as long as you take proper care of them.
How to Grow Asparagus Ferns from Seeds
Growing asparagus ferns from seeds is entirely possible, but this is a slower process, and the seeds will require some pre-treatment before they can germinate.
Here are the steps you need to take to grow asparagus ferns from seeds.
Collect the Seeds
Once the white flowers on your asparagus fern have faded, the plant will produce red berries. Asparagus ferns grown indoors don’t tend to bloom and produce berries, so you’ll have to find a plant that is growing outdoors to collect the berries from.
Pick the berries once they’re bright red and their skins are slightly wrinkled. Consider wearing gloves when collecting the berries because they can cause skin irritation.
To remove the small black seeds from the inside, just squeeze the berries until the seeds pop out. You can plant asparagus fern seeds at any time of the year, and excess seeds can be stored in a jar in the refrigerator.
Pre-Treat the Seeds
To aid in their germination, you should pre-treat the seeds before sowing them. This is as simple as soaking them in some warm water for around 24 hours.
While your seeds are soaking, you can prepare the pots or seedling trays ready for sowing the seeds. It’s best to fill your 3-inch pots or seedling trays with a special seed-raising mix, as this will ensure that the seeds get enough moisture but are not getting waterlogged.
Sow the Seeds
Once the seeds have been soaked for 24 hours, they can be sown into the pots. Make sure you water the pots first before sowing the seeds. If you’re using 3-inch pots, place two or three seeds evenly spaced on top of the mix. On the other hand, if you’re using a seedling tray, just place a few seeds on the soil in the tray and space them apart a little.
Very lightly cover the seeds with some more of the seed-raising mix. You want to ensure that they’re lightly covered but still visible.
Place the pots or seedling tray in a warm spot that receives bright, indirect sunlight. A western or southern window is ideal.
Make sure that you keep the soil in the pots moist but not wet.
The seeds should germinate in around 3 to 4 weeks. At this stage, you want to thin out the seedlings so that you have one strong one in each 3-inch pot. You can also thin out your seedlings if you’re using a seedling tray and only keep the ones that are nice and strong.
Transplant your Seedlings
Once the seedlings are large enough, they can be transplanted out into the garden or into larger pots. The ideal time to do this is in spring.
If planting your asparagus ferns out into the garden, bear in mind that they prefer slightly acidic, free-draining soil. These plants will require some regular watering during their first summer. Once they become fully established, asparagus ferns are relatively drought-tolerant.
It’s also a good idea to add a 2-inch thick layer of mulch around your plants to help conserve the moisture in the soil.
If you plan to grow your asparagus ferns in pots, make sure that the pots have plenty of drainage holes as these plants don’t like having wet feet. Choose a pot that is large enough to accommodate the eventual growth of the plant but don’t choose too big, either. Pots that are too large are likely to hold too much moisture.
Keep your potted plants well-watered during the summer months, and then reduce the watering once the colder weather arrives.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you propagate asparagus ferns from stem cuttings?
No, because asparagus stems don’t have any nodes, they cannot be propagated in this way.
How does asparagus fern spread?
Asparagus ferns grow from an underground tuber and regularly develop offshoots that will continue to spread as the plant gets larger and larger. It’s also common for birds to eat the berries and then drop the seeds far and wide.
What is the lifespan of an asparagus fern?
When given proper care, an asparagus fern can live for over 10 years.
Can you trim back an asparagus fern?
If you’re not dividing your asparagus fern every three or so years, you should give it a hard prune in spring. This involves cutting back all of the foliage to within two or three inches above the level of the soil.