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Asparagus Ferns

ASPARAGUS FERNS Liliaceae A. Meyeri, A. Myriocladus, A. Plumosus Nanus, A. Sprengeri

HABITAT: Native to South Africa, the Asparagus Ferns, of which there are several varieties other than the above names, are members of the Lily family and in no way are related to Ferns. Generally hardy Zone 8.

USES: The Asparagus Ferns are used in hanging baskets, as fillers for window boxes, as individual potted specimens combined with other plant material in floral arrangements, and also used as a ground cover.

HABIT: Each differs somewhat from the other: A. Meyeri features stiff, upright stems of up to two feet in length and densely covered with needle-like green leaves; A. Myricocladus is an erect plant with dark green thread-like leaves, 1/2 inch in length on long, graceful sprays; A. Plumosus Nanus is a low-growing form having fan-like foliage; A. Sprengeri, with its 3 to 6 feet long arching branching of pine needle-like, light green foliage is, as with A. Meyeri, covered with star-shaped flowers in late summer.

SEED GERMINATION: Sow seed anytime of the year (early spring is best) in Park's Grow Mix covering seed lightly and maintain a soil temperature of 70 to 80 degrees. Seed should be soaked for 24 hours for best germination. Germination takes place 4 to 7 weeks.

CULTURE: Pot up seedlings when 2 to 3 inches in height in 2 1/4" pots; re-pot to larger pots as they become root bound. Plant in a light but fertile soil including some leaf mold and grow at 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Soil-less mixes, such as Sow and Grow, are fine, but more attention needs to be paid to fertilizing and watering. The soil used should be slightly acid. Hyponex is a good food and should be fed twice a month. The plants should have a higher nitrogen formula fertilizer during the summer and should be kept moist, although less water is required from October through March, which is the normal resting period. They need partial shade. Frequent misting will increase much needed humidity.

INSECTS: Greenfly and Red Spiders: Do not use Nicotine as it will scorch the leaves. Malathion and Perma-Guard will help control.

DISEASES: Leaf shredding is due to poor light or severe temperature fluctuations.

PROPAGATION: By division and seeds.

REMARKS: Cutting away old shoots produces new ones and rejuvenates the plants, producing the pleasing trailing and arching effects for both indoor and outdoor settings. Most Asparagus "Ferns" do well under artificial light. They are day neutral (those plants flowering under a wide range of amounts of light they receive). Place 6 to 8 inches under the lights at 70 degrees and keep moist. They will become a permanent part of your artificial light gardening.