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10 Reasons to Plant (and How to Propagate) the Foxtail Fern

Sherry has maintained homes and landscaped yards for 48 years in Southern California. She has collected water-wise succulents for 12 years.

The foxtail fern is a striking plant that maintains its green color year-round.

The foxtail fern is a striking plant that maintains its green color year-round.

The Foxtail Fern Is an Easy Landscape Plant for the Waterwise Garden

The foxtail fern is an evergreen, drought-resistant plant that needs little care and looks bright green all year long. It is also known as Asparagus meyeri or Asparagus densiflorus 'myers'.

It is from the South Africa region and thrives in the Mediterranean climate zones, but it can also flourish indoors in pots and be brought outdoors when the weather permits. It is an easy plant to care for and will offer many years of enjoyment in your yard.

A foxtail fern among other plants in the garden.

A foxtail fern among other plants in the garden.

10 Reasons to Love the Foxtail Fern

  1. There is no trimming or pruning (as is necessary for hedges or roses).
  2. A mature plant will grow to 6 to 8 feet across, but new plants will stay about 3 or 4 feet across for 12 years or more.
  3. For the 32 years I have had my plant (pictured), pests have not attacked or diminished its health.
  4. It is easy to start new plants by dividing the base root system with 10 or 12 sprays attached.
  5. If you live in SoCal or a similar zone, you will be very happy with this plant. Snowy climes will need to bring them in for shelter during the colder months.
  6. This inedible asparagus plant is a member of the lily family and is not technically a fern. It is hardy—even the occasional frost will leave no noticeable damage.
  7. The foxtail ferns in my yard do not get extra water (except during prolonged periods of 95 degrees or more).
  8. It has tiny white flowers that attract honey bees.
  9. My plants have not tasted a drop of chemicals and are thriving.
  10. The foxtail adds bright green to contrast with other landscape plants in a semi-arid clime.
This is the Sprengeri asparagus fern, which you should avoid. It's invasive.

This is the Sprengeri asparagus fern, which you should avoid. It's invasive.

Two Types of Asparagus Fern

The plant highlighted here is the Meyeri. The other type, the Sprengeri, has thinner stems that do not stand up on their own. Know which one you want when shopping for a new plant. Avoid Sprengeri, as it is very invasive. Plant lovers seem to get these two plants mixed up. The term "asparagus fern" is commonly used for both types, and "foxtail fern" is mostly used for the Meyeri with the compacted tails.

Sprengeri Is Invasive

The Sprengeri is classified as a weed in Hawaii, Florida, New Zealand, and Australia. It takes about four or five root diggings to rid an area of it. In the 1970s, it was popular as a potted plant and was widely available.

The two types of asparagus fern, side by side.

The two types of asparagus fern, side by side.

Above, you see both types: the Meyeri on the left and the invasive Sprengeri on the right. Big mistake, in my opinion. Many plants in this planting are water-hungry, and I noticed in the late afternoon there was evidence of plenty of watering. Not wise in Southern California.

At the upper right, two foxtails are planted where, as mature plants, only one will fit.

How to Take Care of a Foxtail Fern

Enough about the invasive plant. The foxtail fern looks fabulous with a clean-out twice a year. Pare away deadwood and perk up the sides of the bushes.

Note that there will always be sprays that are dead or drying up. These are the oldest and this is the way the plant keeps itself under control. Twice a year, weed out these dry sticks and clean the plant to spruce it up.

Removing Dead, Dry Sticks

To do this, lift the sprays off the ground, and hold them to the center. Work into the center, cutting off dead, browning, and thinning spears at least four inches from the base. There are always new shoots.

Clean out your foxtail fern twice a year by removing the dry sticks.

Clean out your foxtail fern twice a year by removing the dry sticks.

Last, loosen and pick out twigs from former cuttings to allow areas for new growth.

If you get more than 10 sprays browning out in one season, you may have to give the plant more water!

Quick Motion Technique

Another technique is grab the spear about halfway down, then going in the opposite direction of the line of growth, snap the spear back with a quick motion. It just breaks off at the base. This technique is especially easy to do if the plant has dried out a couple of weeks. It took me a long time to realize I can use this quick motion method. Try it on your bush. Be sure to wear gloves.

Lush foxtail ferns.

Lush foxtail ferns.

What Other Plants Can Be Planted Near a Foxtail Fern?

A landscape needs more than a foxtail fern. The aeonium, the sago palm, and jade plant do well beside the foxtail plant.

The sago palm is a chore to maintain, but it looks good beside the foxtail.

Succulents are a breeze, and the aeonium are colorful and add new textures to the whole landscape. Once you have a section established with succulents, replant with new cuttings once a year to replace the long and leggy older ones.

Foxtail ferns look lovely alongside plants like sago palm and various succulents.

Foxtail ferns look lovely alongside plants like sago palm and various succulents.

Other Tips

  • Use single plants for dramatic color.
  • In a mass planting, thin out the individual plants as they get bigger and more crowded to leave the remaining plants 8 feet apart. The root mass gets thick and forms a mound at the center and can be four to six feet in diameter. New spears may grow from any spot.
  • A mature plant will not allow any plants to grow beside it because of its thick root system. Be warned: if space is limited, this plant may not be for you.
  • Purchase only one asparagus meyeri fern. It is very easy to propagate. (Instructions below.)
  • The Sunset New Western Garden Book says it "will survive light frosts but may be killed to ground by severe cold. Frosted plants often come back from roots."
  • It is a houseplant everywhere; however, it will turn yellow in dense shade.
You can see the tiny white flowers blooming amid the green sprigs.

You can see the tiny white flowers blooming amid the green sprigs.

Little White Flowers

Little flowers appear on mature plants and attract scores of honey bees. These flowers develop into red berries that attract birds. The berries are said to be poisonous for cats and dogs. Our dogs have always ignored the berries.

Propagating the foxtail fern is surprisingly easy, but it takes some muscle.

Propagating the foxtail fern is surprisingly easy, but it takes some muscle.

How to Propagate Foxtail Fern

The mature plants can be divided into new plants. All you need is a little muscle, a narrow shovel, and some time.

Step One:

Decide where to split off the plant. In the photos, you'll notice I take less than a quarter of the plant. I hold the spears down for ease of separating. That way the shovel can be used to slice into the root mass. It may be hard going for lightweight gardeners. Slice down as far as you can.

Step Two:

On the outside of the plant about 6 inches from the stem base, start digging down and under the root mass. Use the shovel to leverage it out by putting your weight down on the end of the handle. Work around the target area three or four times. Now try to lift it out. You may have to work at a few spots to work it free.

The root ball is not hard and tangled with thin dense roots, so this should not be too difficult to do. In this picture, you can see how the roots are loose at the bottom.

See the loose roots at the bottom?

See the loose roots at the bottom?

Step Three:

Here is the section out of the ground. Clean out cut roots, stems, and loose dirt to give the new growth plenty of room and air pockets.

Clean out the roots, stems, and loose dirt from your cut section.

Clean out the roots, stems, and loose dirt from your cut section.

Step Four:

Here is the root ball cleaned up. It is still a little large for the new pot, so I shortened and thinned it out some more. The new plant will have 13 green spears. The pot is filled with store bought potting soil.

A cleaned-up root ball will look something like this.

A cleaned-up root ball will look something like this.

Step Five:

The plant will get plenty of water and a slightly shaded spot until new growth appears.

The Young Foxtail Plant

Young foxtail are slow to establish. In fact, it takes them about 2 or 3 growing seasons to mature in the ground. On a young plant grown in shade, the spears are a darker green and not as dense looking.

Newly planted foxtail fern

Newly planted foxtail fern

Have You Grown Foxtail Fern?

Give us your experience with this asparagus fern plant. Have you proved yourself a green thumb grower with this plant or did yours fade away? Ask questions if you like. I may have your answer.

Many readers have added their growing tips in this section. Read the comments here for more tips on the foxtail fern.

Some questions answered below.

  1. What are the balls on the roots?
  2. How a Wisconsin grower winters her plant.
  3. Chris E. give us her routine in snowy WVirignia for her two potted foxtails.

Comments From Readers (and Responses From the Author)

"I had 2 beautiful foxtails. They spent a very cold night outside and are now completely brown. Do I need to cut them back and when do I do this? It's January now and I live in the north Texas area. They have been so beautiful and green for two years but we did get some real cold weather. Thank you for your help." —Mary Ellen

"Mary Ellen, very old three foot foxtails have enough roots and spears to protect from occasional frosts. Since they are only 2 years old it all depends on if the root system froze as well. Cut the brown off and water if there's no chance of frost for a few days. Try to predict overnight frost, using the weather report, and cover with newspaper. Remove the newspaper during the day so the soil and plant get the warming and helpful sun rays. When the spring growing season kicks in is when you will know if the roots survived, because new spears will grow. Good luck." —Sherry Venegas (Author)

"Shannon, I would not give up on it. See if you get new shoots during the summer months. If there are viable roots they will sprout, but with that it will take a couple of years to get a plant of any good size back. Mine took more than 3 years to get shoots bigger than 5 inches." —Sherry Venegas (Author)

"I had a beautiful foxtail fern . . . sadly, it spent a very cold night outside and is now completely brown. can i cut back all growth and hope it will return? i am hoping it bounces back like my asparagus ferns do . . ." —anonymous

"I have grown the 'other' type of asparagus fern. Yes, it was in a hanging basket in the 70s! The only way to kill it was to throw it away. I have always loved the Foxtail fern and will most definitely buy one this year." —Mickie Goad

"I've had my Foxtail Fern for 3 years as a pot plant in my conservatory. I live in the south of England and I put the pot outside for the summer months where it does very well, however I find that it does not like the strong winds that sometimes whistle through my back garden. I've shied away from dividing my plant as I didn't want to lose it as I've never seen them for sale here before, but after reading this article I think I may give it a go next spring. My plant has white bulbs on the roots and I'd like to know what you have to say about those if possible. Many thanks." —Debbie
"Debbie, Glad to meet you and your success with the foxtail. Since my little Jack Russell started eating those white root balls and showed no ill effects, I have decided that they are used for water storage. If you should divide your potted plant, retain 75% for the present plant to 25% for the new plant. If you put your potted plant in a windy area it will need more water, than in the protected conservatory. Thanks for telling us your plant experience." —Sherry Venegas (Author)

"I bought a plant at a local nursery, more than I wanted to pay, but I loved the plant and had to have it. After two years I had to divide it as it was getting to big for the large pot I had it in. I put the divided piece in another large pot and now it looks like I am going to have to divide again next year. I will have 4 big plants next spring and they look so beautiful on our deck, they are truly the highlight of our landscaping. They have long two and a half foot long flowing sprigs and the center is densely full of shorter nice shaped sprigs. I don't mind the original cost now as I am getting more beautiful plants, I also have about 20 small plants that I have grown from seed from the plants. It has become my favorite plant,and I plan to have 10 0r 12 plants in the planter box that runs along the side of the deck." —anonymous

"Thanks for a great article! I have two identical pots with a foxtail fern in each. I live in West Virginia and I take the pots in every fall, keep them in a heated garage with lots of sunlight. I trim them up in the spring and put them back out by my pool, where they get full sunlight day after day. I have done this for about 6 or 7 summers!" —anonymous

"I have one that I've had outside for 12 years. I repotted it finally last year. I'm in San Diego." —anonymous

"I have these potted, and they love root cramp, so you can keep them in the same pot forever, dividing as you want to grow more plants. Great article!" —L. Olson from Northern Arizona

"I had very good success when we lived on the west coast. They grew like weeds - very hardy! Here on east coast, no luck. Too tender." —anonymous

"I live in Phoenix, AZ, and have a beautiful foxtail, that I baby, and shade from direct Sun, for about 5 mo.out of the year. It is in a 24" diameter pot, placed in indirect Sun. It is about 18" across, and 18" at highest point. They are beautiful plants, and do not tear up your hand lije the Asparagus. I love the pictures, and your progress on plant. Most of all love the Jack Russell, as I have a female J.R., that I rescued, who is my constant companion. Gotta love em!"—anonymous

"The natural looking artificial plants give every soul a soothing effect that is hard to give away. Imagine a wonderful greenish plant smiling right at your computer desk to relax and refresh you from a stressful day." —jemsadriatic

"I have not grown the Foxtail Fern, but landscapers use it for texture, shape and color in many gardens here in Northern California. Lovely plant." —Kathryn Grace from San Francisco

"What I love about the foxtail fern: It doesn't take over the garden like some ferns do. This is a lovely fern on a lovely article! Thank you."—Thankfultw

"My cat ate some leaves of the foxtail fern. He is sick. What symptoms would a cat that eat the leaves of the foxtail fern be?" —Sheree

"Sheree, Our dogs have never ate any of the leaves, but I believe that part of the plant is not good for animals. I do not know the symptoms or how sick an animal will get. If it persists you may want to see a vet. Please let us know if your cat is okay. Information like that will be good for animal owners and people who have the foxtail fern." —Sherry Venegas (Author)

"We do not have a deer problem here. Too many fenced yards in SoCal, not sure about deer eating it. As far as, fertilizer I have never added any to the foxtails. If you are starting new ones maybe root booster will help. I have noticed that the new one I have started in a pot is growing very slowly." —Sherry Venegas (Author)

"I have one of these plants in the Pacific Northwest. I always bring it in in the winter. It often will turn brown each year, but is fine and has new growth on it. Can't wait for the weather to turn so I can take it out in the backyard. Wonderful plant!" —MarcellaCarlton


"I've had this plant for about 3 yrs now. Living in NE Wisconsin, it does great outside during summer, but must come in for the winter. It will become dormant for the winter months and doesn't like to be watered. Come spring I trim any dead branches and put back outside where it livens back up to new! Love it." —LKrocker.

"Thanks for this information LKrocker. I was wondering how snowy climes protect their foxtail ferns. Does it come into the heated house or the cooler basement?" —Sherry Venegas (Author)

"I love the Foxtail Fern. It doesn't take much care and it never dies. I would like to know what to do about the roots with the little balls that spread out on top of the ground. What do you do with them. Can you start new plants with them. The last freeze, 17 degrees, did a little damage but I removed the fronds at the base. How do I divide them and what do I do about the roots and balls spredding around the diameter of the plant on top of the ground. Please help." —Jackie

"Hi Jackie, I would try less water to discourage all the water balls and the roots on top of the ground. Mine get no water around the perimeter. I water with the hose about twice a month directly into the center of the plant. The roots do stay near the surface, though. I do not think the balls will start new plants. I heard of seeds but have never tried them. I just divide some of the plant off to start new ones. Instructions are above. Have a nice spring season."—Sherry Venegas (Author)

"I love the Foxtail Fern. It doesn't take much care and it never dies. I would like to know what to do about the roots with the little balls that spread out on top of the ground. What do you do with them. Can you start new plants with them. The last freeze, 17 degrees, did a little damage but I removed the fronds at the base. How do I divide them and what do I do about the roots and balls spreading around the diameter of the plant on top of the ground. Please help."—anonymous

"My 1 yr. old Jack Russell loves those balls and now makes a mess of the beds to get at them. When he chomps on them I can tell they are crunchy. I do not think they produce plants. We would have new shouts everywhere if they did. I imagine they are for storing extra water." —Sherry Venegas (Author)

"I have a fox tail and it is a wonderful plant, everyone asks me what it is because it is so interesting looking I decided to transplant it to an area where it could really spread out and really show off. When I dug it up I noticed that the roots had balls about the size of Queen Olives. What are those? Can you plant them and grow more?" —anonymous

"Thanks for the useful info. My Foxtail is 33 years old and is 6 feet in diameter. Has always been a house plant. I do tend to let it dry out between waterings, it also likes lots of light. I've never propagated it, but I'll give it a go after reading this."—anonymous

"Sherry, THANK you for such wonderful information on the Foxtail Fern. I just purchased one of these yesterday (Virginia Beach, VA) and hope that I have the luck you've had. I was going to find a place in partial sun .. but from reading your post, I plan to put it in full sun. Also the watering thing, everything I've read says to "keep it moist" but since you do not recommend that I'll go with your suggestion. Thanks again." Sheena White - Virginia Beach

"Hi Sheena, During your warm months it can dry out a few days, and sun will give you fuller and rounder spears. I am concerned about winter and the snow. Is your plant going to be in a pot because frost will kill your meyeri. It will need shelter from the snow." —Sherry Venegas (Author)

"The roots and bulbs are not enough to get grow new spears. Those bulbs are for water storage only. If you take the roots, bulbs and several of the spears with it, that is what will take root in new soil."

"I have 3 ferns at the moment the one located at a shaded part blossoms and sprouted more spray. While the other in direct sunlight went brown and dried. Is it because I added to much water? If it was originally from Africa does it mean it should not be watered too much? Please help. thanks." —Mac

"Mac, If the sun is very hot because it is summer, burning may have destroyed sprays. Generally, foxtail will do fine in the sun, but a potted plant may need extra water. If you think hot sun may have burned the sprays it should be okay and sprout again. If it is in a pot move it to a more shaded area for the summer. Let it dry for a day before watering again." —Sherry Venegas (Author)

"I bought asparagus meyerii foxtail fern seeds from ebay. none of them have come up. I started them in purchased soil, in a greenhouse. I then brought the pot outside for a shaded spot. it's very hot and humid in SW Tennessee but I expected growth in the last 3 months. What is the germination period? Am I impatient or what can I do to see growth?" —Connie

"Hello Connie, One thing I have not done is start a plant with seeds. I know that the foxtail likes plenty of sun. I would try a direct sunny place for a least four hours a day. It should dry out before watering again. As a young plant it grows very slowly. Let's wait and see. Let us know if you get any sprouts from your mail order seeds." —Sherry Venegas (Author)

"I live in Las Vegas, and it's much too hot for this plant outside for about 9 months of the year. I've seen them inside other homes, but they don't seem to thrive as well. But this is a beautiful green lens, and I'm giving it a leprechaun like for St. Patrick's Day. Thanks for sharing."—Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV

"Our New England winters wouldn't treat the foxtail very well but it looks like it would make a nice border if kept in check. I may try potting something small that could be brought inside during the colder months. The flowers on the Myer's asparagus are a nice feature." —ronberry lm

"This spring I purchased a foxtail fern at a nursery. It was beautiful for a while but started turning brown in the center. The fronds start turning brown at the bottom then it moves up until the entire frond is brown. It has worked its way out from the center so that most of the plant is now brown. The nursery gave me a new one to replace it but now I notice that it is turning brown also. Is this a sign that it needs more water? I was told that it needs very little water." —Katrinka

"Katrinka, Sorry to hear your foxtail is not doing well. It can dry out for about 5 days, then give it some water. If it is in a pot in a hot clime do not let it stay dry for more than three days. It is drought resistant, but they need more water than a succulent or cactus. Is it in full sun all day?"—Sherry Venegas (Author)

35-year-old foxtail fern!

35-year-old foxtail fern!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can I grow foxtail fern from root bulbs?

Answer: Seeds are found in the red berries after they mature from the white flowers. The bulbs in the root system are for water storage, and will not produce a plant.

Question: In what type of potting soil do you plant foxtail?

Answer: For potted foxtails use 2 parts standard potting soil to one part cactus mix. Let dry out for one day and rewater. Once the tubers and papery roots get crowded, move up to a bigger pot or plant in the yard. A nine-foot square patch of soil for spreading and spears that can get 2 feet long will mature into a large focal piece.

Question: I have a foxtail fern potted indoors. It has white powdery flecks all over the stems, and the base and is looking sparse. Can you advise?

Answer: It needs more sun and less water. The pot should have drainage. Let it dry out three to four days before watering again.

Question: My foxtail is four-years-old and doing great. It is full of blooms. I keep it in a large pot, but I do bring it in if it gets lower than 40. I live in central AL. Why does it "shed" during the winter in the house?

Answer: Each frond has a life cycle, so it will dry up and turn brown and drop all the little leaves. In California, we do not have four seasons so I have not noticed frond browning at one particular time of the year. Possibly, moving the plant inside to protect it gives your plant a regulated signal of browning and growing.

Question: I accidentally sprinkled my beautiful foxtail ferns with gradual fertilizer, and a lot of the fronds turned brown, I cut them off, but now my plants look terrible! Will I get regrowth? I have sprayed them before with liquid miracle grow, and they grew beautifully until I accidentally sprinkled a gradual fertilizer on the fronds.

Answer: Yes, you will get new fronds. Remove any dried sticks at the root ball to allow for plenty of room for new shoots. Water as you usually do and you should see new shoots in about a month.

Question: Can I plant a baby foxtail plant in full sun?

Answer: Yes, but for the first year be sure to water once or twice a week using hot or cooler weather as your guide.

Question: I’m in zone 5 and just brought a fox tail. The store that I bought it from didn’t have anything listed on it she just told me that it was a perennial. Now after reading everything I find that it isn’t. My question is if I let it die off will it produce seeds that will come back next year?

Answer: Foxtails will survive only the occasional freeze one may get in no snow areas. If the roots freeze it is a goner. Best bet is to put it in a pot and bring it in for Zone 5 winters.

Question: Do foxtails like to be “root bound”? I have a beautiful five-year-old foxtail in a planter. Does it need to be moved to a larger planter to remain healthy?

Answer: I do not have a potted foxtail, but I do know that a thirty-three-year-old plant had roots that built a tall mound and uprooted a brick and cement lawn border. We dug it up with axes and two days of digging because we wanted the invasive roots out. A sawed off portion of the old plant was replanted in the same place. The new piece has skimpy spears, but I am betting it will look like the picture at the top of this article in a couple of years. "Rootbound" is not a pretty sight with this very tough plant.

Question: In Mesa AZ, can a foxtail fern take full sun?

Answer: The fern-like needles will burn and turn brown in full sun over 90 degrees. A full-grown plant with plenty of roots will survive. Just clip off the brown spears. Some shade cover during the hottest part of the day probably would be best.

Question: What does the first sight of foxtail fern look like when it sprouts?

Answer: It looks like a very skinny stalk of asparagus. Very light and bright green.

Question: How often should foxtail be fertilized, and how much of a balanced 6-6-6 fertilizer should I use?

Answer: Here in CA, I have only landscape foxtail ferns, and I do not give them any kind of fertilizer. The ferns hardy growth without chemicals, which is one reason why I enjoy my plants so much.

© 2009 Sherry Venegas

Remember to allow at least 3 square feet for a full grown foxtail fern.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 14, 2020:

Foxtail ferns are beautiful plants, but as you warned, their root systems can kill nearby plants if they are not deeply rooted. I lost a favorite rose bush of mine that was planted near foxtail ferns before I knew about their invasive root system.

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on March 09, 2020:

A 10 inch pot is okay to start with. Be sure the potted portion gets particle shade, and water more often until it is established. In hot southern California I have not had luck with potted foxtail fern, but give it a try. The new inground will need more water, as well. It will be a big job to get the old plant apart. I completed two last year and they still look skinny and small. But Alive!

Lynn Maree, Sydney, Australia on March 05, 2020:

I have had a foxtail fern growing near my front door for approx 25 years. It’s long overdue for maintenance. I am thinking of chopping it in half; keeping one half institu; potting about one-third of the original plant in a pot; and tossing the rest. What size pot do you recommend for this?

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on June 21, 2019:


Thank you for telling us about your foxtail fern. Does it stay in the same spot in the winter too?

Deanna Brummet on June 21, 2019:

I have a foxtail fern that I bought from a catalog over 50 years ago when my son was a baby. It lives happily in the south window of my Nebraska sunroom & is 4’ wide. I’ve never divided it but it’s been repotted a few times.

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on August 30, 2018:

A few nights of freeze are okay. If you get snow or more freeze, cover with brown paper at night. Remove once the frost melts. This plant need lots of sun.

Jacqueline washington on August 30, 2018:

How well do they hold up in the winter months . I live in Atlanta, Ga.,

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on September 15, 2017:

Sun is what I suspect is lacking, though I have not been able to grow a foxtail in a pot. Here is an example. Three foxtails in my backyard get full sun by 10-11 am are full with tight growth and haphazard watering. In the front on the north west side of the house a foxtail received full sun only a couple of hours a day, always looked like what you describe. Now that winter is on its way try seeing what a south facing window will do for you. Let dry out before watering.

Laura on September 14, 2017:

Hi...just wanted to include my email for your response...I forgot in my previous comment.

Thank you!

Laura on September 14, 2017:


I have a question...I've had a fox tail fern for about 15 years as an indoor plant. I have taken it out of the pot a couple times and divided it (last time was about 3 yrs ago). Anyway, the new growth on it is very airy-not dense, compact tails so it almost looks like the asparagus plant. How do I get it to have the dense foliage/tails again?

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on August 31, 2017:

To the home owner planting foxtail ferns between palms on the south side of her lap pool: The ferns will look spectacular between the palms, but this is my word for long term maintenance. Because the fern's root system is very vigorous dig them up in 7-10 years before you have a massive boot ball to deal with. Cut in half, toss one half plus most of the roots and water storage bulbs, and replant the other half in place.

Once the ferns are established, trim dead spears and water only once a week in So Cal's hot summer. No water is necessary in the winter if we are having normal rainfall. Mine do very well in all day sun.

Sorry I lost your email. If you have more questions feel free to email me again. Sherry

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on July 30, 2017:

I am glad you have had good success with your potted foxtail fern. I have decided any hot direct sun in the summer is not good for starting a new potted plant. I will try again, since I have three established ground plants to divide from.

B. Davis on July 29, 2017:

I have had a foxtail fern since Nov.,1983 - it came from my mother-in-law's funeral. I think I've only divided it twice, maybe 3 times in 34 years. I keep it inside in the winter (Kansas), & outside in the summer. I've had it in partial shade before, but this year it's in full sun, & thriving. Last evening, I gave half of it to our niece (the granddaughter), & she is thrilled to have something from Grandma's funeral. It was root bound, but had done nicely all summer. I'm guessing it will enjoy the root room & expanding & growing again. I love this plant.

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on June 25, 2017:

We have a 33 year old specimen lifting bricks up and breaking the grout. The plan is to dig it out, cut the whole root ball back to a couple feet wide and put it back in the same spot. I will let you known if it survives.

Jennifer Berg on June 25, 2017:

Wow, thanks for the wealth of information! This plant is encroaching on my patio. I like it, but it's great to know how to manage it.

Gayle Dowell from Kansas on April 06, 2014:

I just may have to grow a pot of this fern. I live in Kansas and we get a lot of cold weather, so I would have to bring it in for the winter.

Mickie Gee on March 17, 2014:

I will most definitely plant some foxtail ferns this year. Yes, they will be in pots as the last few winters in Alabama have been crazy cold.

GrammieOlivia on February 13, 2014:

Nice plant, I have not tried this variety, but have had the "weed". He in Canada it is not a problem as it would be killed if left outdoors.

RoadMonkey on February 10, 2014:

Interesting sounding plant. Might try this. Though we are in the UK, we seldom have snow here, as we are by the sea, though it has been known! Probably it would have to stay out of the wind because we get a LOT of salty wind.

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on December 16, 2013:

@debi-hull: You will find dividing them up is some work. The new plants go into a bit of hibernation but will be sprouting new shoots in a few months.

debi-hull on December 15, 2013:

I have two foxtail ferns, one is so big that it has split the large pot it's in! I'm in SoCal and they are under my patio (lattice covered, afternoon filtered sun) and I have to bite the bullet and divide them both. I read you can do this at any time of year? It's December and we've actually had a couple of weeks off and on of 30 degrees at night, the next couple of weeks will be mid 40's and 50's. Wish me luck!!

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on July 27, 2013:

@anonymous: Maybe, not enough water. Give me some details. Is it in a pot, what side of the house, how much water, how old is it. I will try to help. How hot is it in your zone.

anonymous on July 27, 2013:

my foxtail fern is turning brown,,the majority of it is dead,,what am I doing wrong

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on April 30, 2013:

@anonymous: I looked around on the internet and found this link. First time I found a guide on growing from seed.

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on April 30, 2013:

@anonymous: Trevor, how are you? Seeds are the one thing I have not tried. I always divided because the very mature plants I have need to be conquered every few years. I would try to find some filtered sun or a couple hours on an east window in the morning. I always get the red berries but never explored or looked at them, but my guess is the dried ones are the ones that will burst open first, because that old dried stuff is what falls and hits the ground in natural settings. If you like lets us know what happens with your growing experiment.

anonymous on April 30, 2013:

I'm in San Francisco and the foxtail fern has always been my favorite plant. I recently just started growing them from seeds, but its only been a week. I have them in a seed cell covered with plastic sitting indoors. They really get no natural light, And my questions is that okay,I'm pretty sure it should take 4 - 5 weeks to germinate so I'm waiting to see. I presoaked them in a cup on water for 24 hours before planting. So another question, about half the seeds I had we're bright red berries, but the other half were all dried up. Do you think th dry up one will still germinate.

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on July 14, 2012:

@anonymous: I have mature foxtail ferns that are in SoCal full sun after about 11am. It is very dry and hot in my zone. It is not desert but almost. A young plant without the long mature spears would need water about twice a week. Any older foxtail with a little shade in the morning or evening is fine in Texas. Plants in pots would need more attention, though.

anonymous on July 14, 2012:

I live in Irving, TX. The nursery where I bought my foxtail fern keeps their ferns in shade and told me it was a shade plant but I have read so many people plant their ferns in full sun. Any input from anyone on this??

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on June 18, 2012:

@anonymous: I believe this plant will grow in Alabama but give it full sun most of the day. It does not like too much water so let it dry out between waterings.

anonymous on June 17, 2012:

Will foxtail fern grow around the Foley, ALabama area? They are beautiful

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on April 04, 2012:

@anonymous: Mine have that much sun in summer. A well established plant will do okay in 4-5 hours sun.

anonymous on March 29, 2012:

Will foxtail ferns thrive in a 3Hr. a day overhead sun in central Florida?

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on February 07, 2012:

@favored: That is a hard question. I don't know. Cats are too clever.

Fay Favored from USA on February 07, 2012:

I think I love this plant. But you say we can't have it around our pets. Where do you put a plant away from a cat? Any ideas?

MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on January 26, 2012:

I've never seen the foxtail fern. It is very pretty though, and drought tolerant sounds great, because we have long, dry summers here in central Alabama. I have grown what we call asparagus fern. I think it's probably the other fern you mentioned. Before opening completely it actually looks like very skinny asparagus. We can grow it only in pots here, though, so invasiveness is not a problem. Thanks for a lovely lens on the foxtail.

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on July 26, 2011:

@anonymous: Southwest Florida Gram,

Yes, the plant should do well in Florida. It does best with lots of sun, so locate it in a spot that has sun more than half a day. Let it dry out before watering again.

anonymous on July 03, 2011:

Would this be a reliable plant to put in a planter at our front entrance in Southwest Florida?

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on June 10, 2011:

@jlshernandez: Yes, and I have found that you mention that in your Spring Flowers and I put that lens in the Discovery for this. Another plant that has overtaken native species in some areas.

jlshernandez on June 10, 2011:

I planted two small foxtails at the corner of my garden and both grew big and graceful. These ferns definitely added texture to the landcape. Asparagus ferns grow like crazy in my yard to the point where they have become invasive. Thanks for sharing the tips on how to take care of them.

FrankChapman LM on May 24, 2011:

Foxtail ferns grow all over my Florida neighborhood. I have two I have never taken very good care of them. Now I'm going to spruce them up. Thanks

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on November 06, 2010:

@anonymous: It is a slow growing plant. The one I transplanted in March is very small. It will probably take a few years to look impressive in the white pot it is in.

KimGiancaterino on September 08, 2010:

I'm in the process of removing and relocating about a dozen asparagus ferns because they're taking over my entire garden and choking tree root systems. The foxtail fern behaves and stays in its location. I wish I had known before. Excellent tips here!

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on September 04, 2009:

[in reply to Anahid]

What I have read about the foxtail leads me to suggest putting it indoors. The Sunset guide says will tolerate only a light frosting. It will not survive snow drifts. Being in California my experience has been drought and hot sun.Thanks for visiting this page.

anonymous on September 04, 2009:

I planted a foxtail fern in a wiskey barrel in my back yard in May. I have absolutely loved it but was wondering if anyone knew if it would survive a Colorado winter outside or if I need to dig it up and put it in a pot indoors.

Anahid LM on August 18, 2009:

Hi: I wrote to you yesterday but it seems I didn't save it and thus it didn't work. I was replying to Edition H. Hydrengia lens and your name Paperfacets caught my eye and wanted to check your lenses. I haven't seen Foxtail fern before it is interesting and dense growth. In the Pacific North West where my garden is we have lots fern grow abundantly particularly the sword fern. But I have two kind of Ferns in my garden, large one in the front garden called Lady Fern and the other one is called Maidenhair fern.

You have done a good job in this lens all the best. You get 5 stars. Anahid