How to grow and care for Emerald Fern Indoors

Houseplant, Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri', Emerald Fern

Botanical name: Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri'
Synonym: Asparagus sprengeri
Family: Asparagaceae
Sufamily: Asparagoideae

Emerald Fern also called Sprenger's Asparagus is an evergreen fern-like plant whose arching stems are sparsely covered with clusters of soft needle-like foliage. The trailing stems bear bright green 'leaves' hence the common name 'Emerald Fern'. The name 'Sprenger's Fern' is attributed to Carl Ludwig Sprenger who made it popular in Europe as an ornamental Plant. Though commonly called a Fern, it is not a True Fern, it is much easier to grow than true ferns. The 'leaves' are really needle-like branches. The Fern adapts well to indoor growing conditions. When provided with the right growing conditions, the plant may produce clusters of small white flowers which are followed by bright red berries. However, it is mainly grown for the beautiful foliage and texture. The Fern can also be grown as an outdoor container plant. This fern is ideal for a hanging basket; the stems can grow up to 3ft long. Emerald Fern is native to the Cape Provinces and the Northern Provinces of South Africa where it grows in rocky slopes and coastal scrub in dry areas. Avoid growing Emerald Fern in the ground as the plant is invasive where it grows vigorously, spreading across and scrambling up other plants.

Other Asparagus Plants commonly grown indoors include; Asparagus plumosus commonly called Common Asparagus Fern, Asparagus densiflorus 'Meyeri' commonly called Foxtail Fern, Asparagus falcatus commonly called Sicklethorn and Asparagus asparagoides commonly called Smilax Asparagus, among others.

How to Grow Emerald Fern

Light

Emerald Fern prefers semi-shade to bright light conditions. However, keep it away from direct sunlight as direct sunlight causes the leaves to loss their deep-green color turning them yellowish instead. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants

Water

Water Emerald Fern thoroughly during the growing season while allowing the top 2 in. of soil to dry a little between waterings. Reduce watering during the cold period. Occasionally water the plant from below. Learn more on how to water houseplants.

Temperature

Average warmth with a minimum of 120C is ideal for Emerald Fern. Though it can adapt to a wide range of temperatures, constantly high temperatures can damage the plant. Find out more on temperature for houseplants.

Humidity

Emerald Fern has no need for high humidity. However, it benefits from occasional misting of the leaves especially when the temperatures are high.

Feeding

Feed Emerald Fern weekly during the growing season with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer. Withhold feeding during the cold season. Find out more on feeding houseplants.

Repotting

Repot Emerald Fern at the beginning of the growing season when the fleshy, fibrous roots push up the potting mixture. Use a pot which is 1 size larger and loose free-draining soil. A large plant can be divided to propagate new plants.

Pruning

Pruning Emerald Fern requires cutting back of the old stems to make room for new growth and trimming of dead leaves and branches to keep the plant neat and tidy. Find out more on how to prune houseplants.

How to Propagate Emerald Fern

Emerald Fern can be propagated by division or from seeds. The easiest method of propagation is by division. During repotting, divide the tuberous roots into sections by cutting with a sharp clean knife or a pair of scissors. Pot each division into individual pots in moist potting soil. Place the pots in a shaded place, maintain the soil moist until new growth begins and the plant is well established, after which routine care can begin.

Common Problems in Growing Emerald Fern

  • Yellowing foliage, brown-edged or scorched leaves and leaf drop
  • There are two reasons for this. One is too much sunlight; protect Emerald Fern from direct sunlight. The second reason is that the soil has been allowed to dry out; learn how to how to water houseplants correctly.

  • Yellowing foliage, leaf drop and no scorching
  • The causes of this in Emerald Fern are too high temperature or too little light. Maintain an average room temperature and ensure the plant receives the correct light.

  • Unexplained plant death
  • The cause for unexplained death of Emerald Fern is root-rot disease which is due to waterlogging of the soil. The thick, tuberous roots store water, soggy soil will cause root-rot.

  • Pests
  • Common pests in Emerald Fern are Spider Mites, Aphids, Mealy Bugs and Whiteflies due to either overwatering or underwatering. They can be avoided by maintaining the soil moderately moist while avoiding overwatering or underwatering.

  • Diseases
  • Common diseases in Emerald Fern are Crown Rot and Stem Rot and Root-rot which are prevalent in too wet conditions.

Toxicity

Emerald Fern is mildly toxic to humans and pets. The berries if ingested will cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. If handled with bare hands, they may cause contact dermatitis. The foliage of mature plants can develop sharp spines on the branches which can cause skin irritation if handled with bare hands.

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