Indoor Plants: Why Asparagus Ferns Are Not Ferns…

An article discussing five different asparagus ferns native to South Africa and why they are ferns in name only

This is about five of our indigenous Asparagus Ferns:

  • Asparagus plumosus
  • Asparagus densiflorus Sprengeri
  • Asparagus densiflorus Meyersii (Cats Tail)
  • Asparagus densiflorus Cwebe
  • Asparagus densiflorus Mazeppa
Asparagus densiflorus Cwebe

To explain densiflorus – they have many tiny little flowers ie densely flowered… And while we are on the topic of names: although called ferns, they are not ferns – rather they are ‘fern-like’ in that they have feathery fronds. Besides this fact, they are all exceptionally easy to grow as they have underground storage tubers, making them waterwise – and they are disease resistant. An additional plus is their tolerance of different light conditions, from full to part shade and even sunny positions (except for Cwebe, which only likes shade).

Asparagus plumosus has the finest leaves, looks feathery (like a ‘plume’), and has a vine-like trailing or climbing growth. The best way to connect with this plant, according to Dr Katie Cooper, is to touch it: its feathery leaves invite you to stroke them, so do so (Cooper 2020:114). Its repetitive pattern of growth is fascinating, so look at it, enjoy it for a minute or so. And for years to come – these plants can live a long time!

Asparagus plumosus

Asparagus plumosus can be planted in a normal pot and vigorously pruned to keep it smaller. Otherwise, it is a good candidate for a hanging basket, hung up in a pot with a macrame hanger, or in a kokedama. Its long tendrils are fascinating!

A mature plant can be large and may need a large ceramic pot and trellis to show it off to its best.

Asparagus densiflorus Sprengeri, or the Emerald Fern, has an elegant draping growth and is perfect for hanging baskets, kokedama, or macrame hanger displays. They grow well in shade, semi-shade or sun. Older leaves go yellow and shed copiously, so trim off the leaves as soon as they start yellowing. The plant can be sensitive to air conditioning, – if it seems unhappy, mist it or move it. But generally, they are rewardingly easy plants.

Asparagus densiflorus Sprengeri

Although similar to A Sprengeri, Asparagus Mazeppa is a more compact plant, growing shorter draping fronds

Asparagus densiflorus Meyersii or Cat’s Tail has an upright growth. Although very different to the plumosus, it also has a repeating pattern of growth that is fascinating to study: each little leaf section is a microcosm of the whole frond – Dr Katie Cooper says these fractal patterns are calming to study (Cooper 2020: 113). As it only droops a little as a mature plant, rather plant it in an upright pot, or display it in a kokedama. It grows well in semi-shade to sun. And yes, this one can also be stroked: clasp your hand around a frond and stroke it from the bottom to the tip – no wonder it is called ‘Cat’s Tail’!

Asparagus densiflorus Mazeppa

A lesser known Asparagus densiflorus variety is Cwebe, which was discovered growing in the Cwebe Reserve in the Eastern Cape. It is different to both Sprengeri and Myersii in that it has a slightly larger, soft leaf, which gives a completely different look. As it is shade loving, it is suitable for Indoors, although as yet little grown for indoors, and mainly used outdoors in plantscaping. But with its soft growth, and its resistance to pests and diseases, it is definitely worth using indoors…

BIBLIOGRAPHY‘cwebe’ (as accessed 19/02/2021) (as accessed 19/02/2021) (as accessed 19/02/2021)

Cooper, K: 2020. Plant Therapy – How an indoor green oasis can improve your mental and emotional wellbeing. London. Hardie Grant Publishing

Sue Kingma
Sue Kingma
Articles: 6