Houseplants forum: Foxtail Fern Maintenance

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Plantomaniac08
Mar 8, 2015 8:29 PM CST
Okay, I'm not sure if this is the best place to ask this question (I have read about some folks growing 'Asparagus Ferns' indoors), so if not, feel free to point me in the right direction.

I've had a 'Foxtail Fern' for almost a year now and it lives outside year-round. That being said, this winter, some of the fronds have yellowed and some of the fronds' ends have died. I know I can cut the yellow fronds back without issue, but what I'd like is to give it a fresh start. The ends that died back, I've already cut them (just the ends) and needless to say it looks funny.

My question is, can I cut all of the fronds back to the base of the plant and it produce new fronds or will I potentially kill it? Or, should I just cut back most of the fronds and leave a few?

Also, should I repot it at the same time of cutting it back (it needs a bigger pot) or should I take one step at a time?



Thanks!

Planto
[Last edited by Plantomaniac08 - Mar 8, 2015 8:33 PM (+)]
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Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
Image
needrain
Mar 8, 2015 8:50 PM CST
I think you'll find this a tough plant no matter how you handle it. You'll probably need a chainsaw to cut the root system apart when you re-pot it after using a hammer and chisel to get it out of the current container. If I were going to re-pot mine, I'd start by cutting it off at soil level so I could get at the root mass easier. When those roots settle in to their new home, they will begin to put out new growth. By the end of the season you will probably be back to at least the same growth as when you started and possibly more. That's been my experience. I see you are in Zone 8a which is not too far off my zone. In Florida and warmer climates the asparagus ferns can be a big problem if they escape their container. I think you probably get enough cold winter temps that it wouldn't be a problem. Mine is in a huge clay pot and I managed to get it outside a bit early last year where it got bitten by frost a couple of times and badly sunburned. I cut all but about 6 of the 'fronds' off. You can see it here in June. It recovered nicely. This actually is only half of what was the original plant which I'd chiseled out of a cast iron pot and took an axe and chopped in two parts before stowing it away for the winter. You get the idea, I guess Smiling . I did managed to rot one of the halves by forgetting I'd sat it a pail of water where it remained for a week or more.
Thumb of 2015-03-09/needrain/e3b479

Donald

Plantomaniac08
Mar 8, 2015 9:53 PM CST
Donald,
Thank you for the input. I'm not sure that I'm ready to separate it yet, but I'll be sure to borrow my Dad's chainsaw when I get to that point. Hilarious!

I'm glad to know it's a pretty tough plant. Reading what you did with yours, I think I'll just cut back most (but not all) the fronds and pot it in a larger pot once it warms up here. Yours made quite the recovery if you cut back all but about six fronds!

My MIL has one of the more common 'Asparagus Ferns' in her yard, but it's in a pretty shady area, so I think that keeps it from taking over the yard. Surprisingly, it's survived frost and snow! The ones she had in containers did not, however (I'm sure to keep mine away from winter rain and bring it indoors if it ices, snows, or the temperatures are too low).

I'm sorry to hear you lost half of yours, but at least you have some left over to separate if you want to do that again. Smiling

Thanks again for the advice, I'll be sure to post an updated picture once it bounces back.

Planto
Name: Cheryl
Kingwood, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Greenhouse Composter Plant Identifier Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Amaryllis
Plumerias Ponds Foliage Fan Enjoys or suffers hot summers Tropicals Garden Ideas: Master Level
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ShadyGreenThumb
Mar 8, 2015 10:12 PM CST
During the bad freezes, my Foxtail Fern in the yard die back to the ground. But they always come back. As noted, they have a very strong root system.
Life is short, Break the rules, Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love Truly, Laugh
uncontrollably, And never regret anything that made you Smile.
Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
Image
needrain
Mar 9, 2015 7:46 AM CST
No worry on losing the half. That was a season before the photo. The half that was left grew back to a plant as large as before it was halved Smiling . A problem I've had with both densiflorus 'Myers', which you have, and densiflorus 'Sprengeri' is that somehow that root system attaches to the sides of the container. They have been really, really difficult to un-pot so to speak. I wasn't kidding about using a hammer and chisel. I did on 'Sprengeri'. I tried to chisel it into four sections. I still couldn't get it free. I used the hammer and a 14" flat head screwdriver and worked all the way around it and finally used the screwdriver like a pry bar and got it free. After I finally got it out, I used a tree limb saw with huge teeth to finish cutting the sections I'd chiseled. I ended up filling one of the holes my big dogs had dug with the root mass I trimmed off of what ended up being five pieces so I could get them to fit back in the container. My container is a salvaged metal smoker top from a BBQ grill. If it had been a ceramic or clay pot, I don't think I could have removed it without breaking the container. It has to be done again this spring because it's growth is now pushing it about 1/2" above the rim. At least 'Myers' doesn't have the thorns like 'Sprengeri'. I consider these brutish plants in spite of their frothy appearance. Whenever someone tells me they 'can't grow anything because they always kill it', I always have the silent thought that they haven't tried to grow these plants nodding . The qualities that make them brutes also makes tough and reliable choices for a careless caretaker.
Donald

Plantomaniac08
Mar 9, 2015 8:18 AM CST
Donald,
I do forget, you live in FL where the weather is almost always conducive to plants. :lol:

I have both a hammer and butterknife on hand (no chisel), so I'll be sure to grab both when I repot. It's currently in a ceramic pot, so hopefully it comes out without me having to break the pot (it was apparently a bad idea putting it in one of my favorite pots!).

'Sprengeri' is the one my MIL has planted in the ground, the name escaped me yesterday. I've had a few of those myself, but she ends up taking them off my hands because they outgrow me too fast. At least this 'Foxtail Fern' seems a little slower growing. Hilarious! I'm not sure why, but 'Myers' seems slower growing with respects to vegetation and root mass for me, but I won't complain. Big Grin Reading your story makes me happy that mine seems a little slower growing, haha.

Oh yes, the spines. I'm also glad 'Myers' doesn't have spines. I remember reading a blog of sorts, and the guy was talking about 'Sprengeri.' He says something along the lines of, it looks at you all nice and fluffy, but once you start to mess with it, you feel the spines in your hands, "what a dick" (the last part he did say lol).

This is true, until they froze one year (it snowed and then iced back to back and she failed to cover them), my MIL's 'Sprengeri' ferns would be in containers sitting around her backyard, only receving attention with the rain. My Mother did manage to kill one though, but I've become convinced she can't own a plant. Hilarious! She tends to forget that they're there. Well, she does have one cactus that is still going. Rolling on the floor laughing

I'm excited to repot this 'Foxtail Fern' and trim it back, but the weather hasn't quite stayed warm here yet, so it'll be a few more weeks.
Planto
Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
Image
needrain
Mar 9, 2015 8:43 AM CST
Planto,
I'm in the hot, dry, windy part of Texas. Not in Florida. I do think 'Myers' grows a bit slower than 'Sprengeri', but they both grow well. I'll be curious to know if yours is difficult to get out of the pot.
Donald

Plantomaniac08
Mar 9, 2015 9:09 AM CST
Donald,
How embarassing. You even have TX listed and a picture of a bovine. *Blush* Perhaps I should have woken up a little bit more before I replied. I'm not even sure where I got FL from. Confused

Oh well. Hilarious!

I will let you know how the repotting goes and post an updated picture once it has bounced back enough to warrant a picture.

Do you find it difficult to grow tropicals where you are? I recognize the other tropical plants in your initial picture.

Planto

Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
Image
needrain
Mar 9, 2015 9:49 AM CST
Tropicals do well in my growing conditions if they have sufficient water. It's odd, really, how well they do. I think the key is that tropicals handle consistent warm nighttime temperatures and a lot of temperate plants do not. Temperate growers like warm/hot days w/cool nights and here they get warm/hot days w/warm nights. I call them 3/4 growers. They do well fall through spring, but die in summer. Lots of plants that theoretically should do well here don't survive our summers. Tropicals don't mind those warm nights. They would be great plants to grow if they weren't so sensitive to the cold. I guess they would be reverse 3/4 growers - spring through fall. They are, to an extent, water hogs. I catch water and recycle what drains out of containers to a large degree in order to keep what I use affordable.
Donald
[Last edited by needrain - Mar 9, 2015 9:51 AM (+)]
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Plantomaniac08
Mar 9, 2015 10:12 AM CST
Donald,
Interesting. I thought your dry air would have affected them, but it appears your consistency with watering makes up for the dryness.

Planto
Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
Image
needrain
Mar 9, 2015 10:36 AM CST
Yeah, I worry about humidity. Usually by having a lot of plants close together and some sitting in water (cannas, ginger, e.g.) and needing to water some plants EVERY day, they do all right. I tend to give the foliage a shower since I'm out there anyway. A couple of years ago, though, the temps got so unreasonably high without humidity that some didn't do well. But neither did any other plant or myself. It wasn't nice.
Donald
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Mar 9, 2015 10:58 AM CST
When you re-pot, you might want to line that/those pots with a garbage bag, with large holes cut out on the bottom so that the pot still drains. That should easily slip out. When I grew my ferns (I only grow stags now), I would remove them, cut off all the top growth, and then use a sharp shovel to separate the root ball for re-potting. Depending on the original pot size, I would divide the plants into 2 or 4 segments.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.

Plantomaniac08
Mar 9, 2015 12:14 PM CST
Donald,
That sounds rough. Thumbs down We also had record breaking temperatures during the summer a few years ago (then the next year it was a monsoon, go figure).

It sounds like you've figured out what works for you though, and in the end, that's what growing plants is all about. Smiling

Dawg,
That's an interesting idea! It makes sense, but it's not something I thought of.

Planto
[Last edited by Plantomaniac08 - Mar 9, 2015 12:15 PM (+)]
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Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
Image
drdawg
Mar 9, 2015 12:18 PM CST
I'm a simple person with simple ideas, Planto. Whistling
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
[Last edited by drdawg - Mar 9, 2015 1:42 PM (+)]
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Plantomaniac08
Mar 9, 2015 12:38 PM CST
Dawg,
Rolling on the floor laughing

Planto
Name: Cheryl
Kingwood, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Greenhouse Composter Plant Identifier Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Amaryllis
Plumerias Ponds Foliage Fan Enjoys or suffers hot summers Tropicals Garden Ideas: Master Level
Image
ShadyGreenThumb
Mar 9, 2015 1:20 PM CST
Foxtail Fern is one of DH's many favorites. He planted it in one of those, um....urns.... with, um....the tall base underneath? Whatever it's called it's going to be toast when it comes to uprooting the fern. Rolling on the floor laughing
Life is short, Break the rules, Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love Truly, Laugh
uncontrollably, And never regret anything that made you Smile.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
Image
drdawg
Mar 9, 2015 1:43 PM CST
It could be somewhat difficult, Cheryl. Whistling
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.

Plantomaniac08
Mar 10, 2015 1:28 PM CST
Okay well, I changed my mind on waiting to trim it back. It's supposed to be in the 70s-80s this week and no signs of frost. I know it's not Spring yet, so it could be getting cold again next week (I'm hoping it doesn't). Here's a picture of my 'Foxtail Fern' trimmed back. While trimming, I noticed a new growth already. Maybe this weekend I'll be able to repot it, it seems to be drying out pretty frequently.

I just hope I didn't cut too much off, lol.

Thumb of 2015-03-10/Plantomaniac08/82dd60

Thanks for looking,
Planto
[Last edited by Plantomaniac08 - Mar 10, 2015 1:45 PM (+)]
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Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
Image
drdawg
Mar 10, 2015 2:03 PM CST
Looks like you did a good job, Panto. Like you, I hope this week means that spring has finally arrived. I am busy potting up staghorn ferns and fiddle leaf ficus plants, just having to dodge the showers that are supposed to be around all week long, with very heavy rain moving in tomorrow and Thursday.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.

Plantomaniac08
Mar 10, 2015 2:09 PM CST
Dawg,
Thank You! We are supposed to be receving some rain this week too, but not as much as it sounds like you'll be getting. How many do you have to pot up? Should I ask? Hilarious!

Planto

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