HousePlant Identified as FoxTail Fern

Dear Judy, I have had a lovely fern-like plant for almost 30 years, it has long tail-like spiky fronds that grow 4-5 feet in length and produces funny grape-shaped bulbs in the soil. When the soil and bulbs start pushing up over the edge of the pot, I hack away 2/3 of the roots and bulbs and re-pot the remaining 3rd in fresh potting soil. And it thrives! What is it??? I have been told it’s NOT an asparagus fern but i does produce very tiny pale yellow flowers and an occasional pea-sized maroon colored dry berry. Thanks for any insight you can provide 🙂

Hi Kathi, Without a picture, it’s a little hard to identify your plant. My best guess would be a Foxtail Fern, Asparagus “Meyeri,” also sometimes called Plume Asparagus. Here’s a picture of a Foxtail Fern and some how to grow care tips.

Foxtail Fern Description

Foxtail ferns have very long arching “fronds” that are often two feet or more in length. Each of these fronds is packed with hundreds of green needles. The fronds resemble a large bunch of fox tails which is how this plant got its nickname the Foxtail Fern. They are very close relatives of an asparagus fern, but the needles are much denser on the fronds. Foxtail Ferns get tiny flowers in the Spring and red berries in the Fall when they are getting the proper care.

How to Care for a Foxtail Fern

Light: Very bright indirect lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light., but direct sun is not good for the plant.

Water: Keep the soil moist in spring and summer when the plant is actively growing and producing new fronds. Reduce the water in the winter and when there is less light.

Temperature: 70°-75°F (21.2°-23.9°C)  during the day and about 10 ° cooler at night.

fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small. : Feed monthly with a liquid balanced fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small. in the spring and summer. Dilute the plant food to 1/2 – 1/3 the recommended strength to prevent too much salt buildup in the soil..

Humidity: These ferns like high humidity but still grow well in dryer areas.