The Q&A Archives: Asparagus Fern Care

Question: I am a new "indoor houseplant gardener" and I seem to be killing all my plants. The one I especially want to do well is an Asparagus Fern. Lately, the entire middle of the plant is turning brown - as is some of the new shoots.

Answer: Asparagus fern is normally pretty easy to care for, needing only an occasional deep watering when the soil has become dry along with some sunlight, either moderate or bright. It does well in average home temperatures or a bit cooler and in an all-purpose soilless mix with an occasional fertilizing using a water soluble fertilizer for foliage house plants.

Browning can be the result of water stress, indicating that it needs to be watered more often or that it has grown sufficiently to need repotting into a larger container. To check this, gently remove it from the pot and see if the soil has been filled up entirely with roots. If so, it's time to repot. The plant could also be suffering from overwatering -- despite the name it is not a fern and does not need a constantly moist soil. Finally, it might also be suffering an insect problem, although this is less likely. In any case, trim away the brown parts being careful not to damage any newly emerging shoots.

Since you are new to houseplants, you might want to take a look at a book or two about them and see if you can improve your success rate. One I particularly like is "Houseplants for Dummies" by Larry Hodgson, ISBN 0-7645-5102-7, Dummy Press. In it you will find straightforward information about evaluating lighting conditions, watering, soil mixes, and selecting plants to do well in the conditions you have to offer.

Enjoy your new hobby!

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