Asparagus Fern (Asparagus Setaceus)

I am very excited to do a deep dive into this vivarium plant today. Asparagus Fern is one of my favorite vine type plants for a number of reasons. For one, it is an invasive plant that grows in abundance here in Florida. Meaning, we can obtain as much as we want for practically free. Another reason for favoring this flora is the fact that it is becoming extremely popular to see in terrariums lately due to its miniature features. This article will go further into detail, providing a complete understanding and care guide to housing this versatile fern-like plant.

Quick Stats:

Scientific Name: Asparagus Setaceus

Family: Asparagaceae

Common Names: Common Asparagus Fern, Lace Fern, Climbing Asparagus, Ferny Asparagus

Habitat: Moist, Forest

Height: 10 Feet Tall

PH Range: 6.5 to 7.5

Temperature: 60°F to 75°F

What Is Asparagus Fern?

Asparagus Setaceus is a flowering species of evergreen found in the Asparagaceae family. Even though this flower is commonly referred to as a fern, it is in fact not a fern at all. Ferns are spore-bearing foliage that has more in common with mosses than any type of Asparagus species. Asparagus Setaceus is a lot more closely related to the gardening vegetable, Asparagus Officinalis, than what initially meets the eye.

Asparagus fern grows seeds, which right from the start, would rule out any confusion with it being associated with typical ferns. This plant also produces flowers, another unusual aspect one would not find a fern can do. Finally, this plant sprouts small berry-like fruits from which the seeds are produced. These aspects are typically not something to expect a lot of productivity within when grown within a vivarium but furthermore a defining difference to classify the plant separately from the fern category.

Asparagus Fern (Asparagus Setaceus) Care Guide

Asparagus Fern Facts

Besides Common Asparagus Fern, A. Setaceus is also referred to as Lace Fern, Climbing Asparagus, and Ferny Asparagus. The association with the name Fern is due to the plant’s close resemblance to typical ferns. This is a vining type plant that if left unattended, will grow in a bushy mass, slowly climbing upwards along any vertical surface the plant close enough to catch hold to. There are a number of Asparagus species found in nature but most will see three main species widely used as a household plant… A. Densiflorus, A. Retrofractus, and A. Setaceus which is what we will focus on today.

Description

Asparagus Fern has three main sections to it that make up the plant as a whole, the leaves, stem and rooting system. in an ideal environment this plant can thrive it will also produce small white flowers as well as berries that hold seeds. The feathery bush this plant typically grows in will vine outward in all directions slowly climbing along vertical surfaces reaching beyond 10 feet. Generally, the color of this plant is a bright green color when healthy and a brownish color when dying off.

The stems are typically a darker green color and will often sprout tan-colored thorns along the sides of it. Branches that sprout from the plant have no uniform pattern and will randomly grow into a clump of mass giving the fern-like plant a scrub appearance. The needle-shaped leaves that make up the triangular shape of asparagus fern are not actual leaves but something called cladodes which are just modified stems that the flowers bloom from. A closer look at the cladodes will reveal that actual scales grow on the surface of it, giving the plant as a whole a soft velvety feel to it.

Habitat

Asparagus Fern is native to South Africa where it can often be found in moist, forest-like environments. The habitat will consist of damp, shaded surroundings where temperatures are usually hot and humid. This plant actually rather tolerates periods of drought as well as colder climates that resemble weather closer to winter. Ideally, temperatures this vining fern should be kept at are around 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid sending the plant into dormancy.

PH Preference

Asparagus Fern is a pretty predictable vegetable when it comes to potential hydrogen requirements. Neutral PH levels are preferred but slightly acidic soil is completely tolerable. The PH range should stay around 6.5 to 7.0… No harder than 7.5 though.

Vivarium Type

This type of vine will do great in a variety of vivarium types. When deciding if rather or not to use asparagus fern in a particular type of enclosure, Be sure to go with setups that have a good amount of land area for the foliage to root through. Here are recommended vivariums this vegetable will do well in:

  • Paludariums – Half aquatic/ half terrain-based enclosure.
  • Terrariums – Fully terrain-based enclosure with little to no aquatic features.

Vivarium Placement

Asparagus Fern is a terrestrial-based plant. It will not do well partially submerged or fully placed underwater. However, it does thrive in a moderately damp, well-drained substrate. If kept well-trimmed, this flora makes an excellent oriental plant to have as a centerpiece. Furthermore, this is also a great plant to use in the background due to its infamous climbing capabilities. A final note to add is that the berries this flower produces are actually toxic if digested. Making this a plant I would not recommend keeping with living inhabitants being kept within the same enclosure.

Substrate

When it comes to substrates, aim for loose soils that are well-drained and large enough to allow Asparagus fern to root freely. A mixture of peat moss and soil will aid in moisture as well as provide a relatively acidic base for this plant to thrive in. The substrate should be kept damp at all times for optimal results but never overly saturated. This type of vine will not do well in soggy soil or standing water.

Lighting

Asparagus Fern is a shade loving plant but will tolerate periods of sunlight. An ideal replication of the natural environment in an enclosure should be bright and well lit. Avoid exposing this flora to direct sunlight of any kind or leaves will begin to drop and the plant will wither away. Aim for LED’s that are cool in color and mimic a cloudy day or shaded woodland surrounding.

Buy Asparagus Fern

When shopping for Asparagus Fern, expect a few key indicators you are buying the best quality plant. The foliage should be slug free along with any other type of terrestrial pest. The source of the vine will usually be sold in small or large pots, ready for repotting. This plant can also be purchased as seeds but for the use of a vivarium, it is recommended to buy already grown for faster propagation. Click the image below to find out more about the current price and other relative info:

Asparagus Fern Care and Propagation

Under the right conditions, Asparagus Fern can be a relatively simple plant to care for. Its hardiness and easily acquired water conditions make it a great plant to consider for beginners. A few key takeaways for a healthy and thriving fern will be pruning as needed, Keep roots in well-drained, damp soil and provide moderately bright levels of UV free light. With these tips in mind, maintaining a healthy vegetable will be easier than initially assumed.

How to grow

There are two ways to grow Asparagus Fern, through seeding or root division. As I suggested earlier, seeding can be rather difficult to do indoors. If seeding is still an interesting aspect, consider starting the seeds in a small pot placed outdoors in a shaded area. Once the fern begins to emerge from the soil and sprout leaves, bring in the plant and attempt repotting within an enclosure.

The more recommended option would be to divide an adult plant into separate pieces. Take the base of the plant and divide the stems into individual plants that both consist of roots and branches. Be careful not to damage the root structure as much as possible. Some level of transplant shock is expected due to the tampering of the roots. But none the less, with proper repotting, watering, and light, Asparagus Fern should have no problem recovering quickly.

Watering

The best-case watering scenario for Asparagus Setaceus would be to water when it appears dry. Aim to keep the substrate damp and rewater when the top layer is dry to the touch. This is a plant that does well in constant moisture. If using a mister or fogger, Asparagus fern should spend the majority of the day a humid environment with good air circulation.

Allowing Asparagus Setaceus to dry out periodically can be beneficial at times. It will help prevent rotting and mold build-up. If any signs of fungus or mold become present, allow the vivarium a day or two to air out and drop humidity levels. This plant is drought tolerant so it can survive a moment of temporary dry conditions.

Plants Similar To Asparagus Fern

Adding diversity to an enclosure is key to an aesthetically pleasing enclosure. Try mixing up the look of your vivarium with different flora that can easily co-exist in the same types of environment. Furthermore, if for some reason you find this vegetation difficult to acquire or would like to consider something similar to this plant… Here are some other vine plants you might find may do well with or in the place of Asparagus Setaceus:

Water Sprite Plant (Ceratopteris Thalictroides)
Java Fern (Microsorum Pteropus)
Floating Fern (Salvinia Natans)

Conclusion

My overall opinion towards Asparagus Fern will probably come off bias since I truly enjoy working with it… But for good reason. If you are constructing a pet-less enclosure that is primarily for aesthetics, this is an awesome plant to consider. The fact that it is relatively easy to care for and grows pretty fast, will keep any hobbyist occupied with endless re-scaping ideas. The miniature fern-like aspect of this vine really adds a level of depth to a terrarium.

If you are considering this plant for an upcoming build, an excellent suggestion would be to keep it small and take advantage of its climbing capabilities for realistic backgrounds! Now that you know more about A. Setaceus, get out there, and build the ultimate woodland environment. Just keep in mind, the high toxicity levels of the berries it sprouts if you decide to keep it around inhabitants.