Asparagus densiflorus ‘Meyersii,’ commonly known as Foxtail Fern, is not a true fern, but a showy ornamental shrub with arching, lime green, soft, needle-like leaves. Growing 2’-3’ tall and just as wide, this versatile shrub can be used as a “thriller” in containers, in a mass planting or as a striking accent in the landscape. This shrub is slow growing with white, inconspicuous flowers, producing red berries in the fall. Foxtail fern prefers part shade to part sun and does best with a low to moderate watering schedule. In warm, southern coastal climates it can handle full sun. Another great feature of this shrub is it is low maintenance, needing no pruning, and withstanding lots of stress including moderate drought conditions.
Like many perennials, Foxtail Fern can be propagated by dividing the roots and replanting. It is classified as an evergreen perennial shrub in USDA plant hardiness zones 9-11, but in zones 8 and higher, like the Dallas area, it is unable to withstand the freezing temperatures. However, closer to the city area of Houston it is planted in large numbers, without much replacement, due to the micro-climate the city offers. It has been reported to overwinter indoors or in green houses in areas where it will suffer freeze damage, but can go dormant showing needle loss and turning brown.
As mentioned above, the application for Foxtail Fern is versatile. Because of its low maintenance and ability to withstand every stress but freezing temperatures, it can be used in most landscapes. Primarily, Foxtail Fern is used as you would any ornamental grass or low growing Yucca, for a textural change. It can be designed into traditional or contemporary landscapes as well as New Orleans or Mediterranean style. Because it can take more sun than most ferns, if you are looking for a fern-like feel to a sunnier side of your landscape, this is the plant for you.
Foxtail Fern is often confused with its cousin Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri.’ Commonly called Asparagus fern, it features wispy, lime-green, needle –like foliage, but has a spreading, fast-growing habit and sharp thorns. Its roots are often hard to remove once planted in the landscape and it tends to take over. Due to its aggressive root system, Asparagus Fern is best used in contained environments, like pots on a patio or indoors.
Contributed by Jennifer Cates
Photography by Kristin Howard