8 Types of Asparagus Fern (With Pictures)

If you’re looking to fill your home with lush, green, leafy goodness, adding asparagus ferns is a great way to do it. Asparagus ferns are known for their bushy, almost pine needle-like leaf structures that grow in exuberant clusters.

Asparagus ferns are popular, and they do very well indoors and outdoors under the right conditions.

They are relatively easy to take care of and make perfect houseplants. Just one in each room will do wonders for the air quality in your home, and they look great.

Asparagus Fern Types
Photo by SKsiddhartthan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There is a wide selection of ferns, and not all of them are as easy to care for as one might hope. But the good news is that if you’ve got your heart set on an asparagus fern, there’s a high chance you’ll find one that you can easily manage and cultivate.

Here, we’re going to talk about some of the most common types of asparagus ferns, the ones you are most likely to be able to get in North America.

We’re sure one of the eight different types of asparagus ferns listed here will suit your fancy!

8 Different Types of Asparagus Fern

Interestingly, asparagus ferns are not considered to be true ferns. Although, for the average person, they are close enough, and they certainly look a lot like ferns.

If you have your heart set on a fern but want something easier to care for, an asparagus fern is a good choice.

Most asparagus ferns are native to South Africa, and there are three main types, commonly referred to as Sprenger’s, plumosa, and foxtail.

There are also a few subcategories which we will discuss.

1. Sprenger’s (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’)

Sprenger (Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri')
Photo by Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0 US, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Average size: 3 feet in height
  • Key features: Long needle-like clusters

The Sprenger’s asparagus fern grows long clusters of needle-like leaves that grow in dense formations giving it a very fern-like appearance. Its bright green foliage will develop white flowers and green berries, turning bright red later on.

It is also commonly referred to as the emerald fern due to its brilliant green leaves. This may be the most popular of the asparagus ferns due to its vibrant green color.

The Sprenger’s asparagus fern will grow to an average of 3 feet in height. Its long clusters of needle-like leaves make it an excellent indoor or outdoor hanging plant.

When grown outdoors, it should be exposed to the sun in the morning and protected from direct sunlight in the afternoon. It will fare best in USDA plant zones 9 through 11.

2. Foxtail (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Meyeri’)

Foxtail (Asparagus densiflorus 'Meyeri')
Photo by Yinan Chen, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Average size: 2 feet in height
  • Key features: Bushy clusters of foxtail-like leaves

The foxtail asparagus fern grows in clusters of bushy leaves resembling a fox’s tail. These may be the most common asparagus ferns you will find in North America, and they may also be the heartiest.

Their charming arches of foliage are made up of pointy, needle-like leaves that create a soft and delicate appearance. When the foxtail blooms, it will produce small white flowers and reddish berries.

The foxtail fern will grow on average to 2 feet in height and 4 feet in width. These plants will do best in USDA plant zones 9 through 11.

These plants will serve as a rapidly growing ground cover when grown outdoors. They like the morning sun best and should be hidden from the afternoon sunlight.

3. Plumosa (Asparagus setaceus)

Plumosa (Asparagus setaceus)
Photo by Photo by Derek Ramsey, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Average size: 10 to 20 feet in height
  • Key features: Delicate, soft, bright green leaves

The plumosa asparagus fern is the most delicate we have so far. Their foliage grows in soft, flattened splays of bright green leaves that are very soft to the touch.

This form of asparagus fern might be a poor choice for those with animals who like to chew on indoor plants since the leaves are so soft and easy to chew. However, they can be ideal in cramped spaces since they are not abrasive.

The plumosa fern is easy to care for indoors. They will thrive with indirect sunlight and gentle watering. Like all of the plants on this list, it needs soil that drains well, weekly watering, and daily or semi-daily misting.

It can grow to as high as 10 to 20 feet and be quite invasive if not pruned carefully. Growing them in pots when kept outdoors may be the best way to prevent them from endangering other plants.

4. Dwarf (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Nana’)

  • Average size: 15 inches in height
  • Key features: Compact with soft, feather-like leaves

This form of asparagus fern produces emerald green leaves with a soft and feather-like appearance. But they are noticeably small and compact, hence their name.

The dwarf asparagus will grow to approximately 15 inches in height. It is an excellent choice for indoor plants due to its diminutive size.

5. Ming (Asparagus retrofractus)

Ming (Asparagus retrofractus)
Photo by Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0 US, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Average size: 6 to 8 feet in height
  • Key features: Shrub-like needles grow in clusters

These large and leafy perennial shrub plants produce light, flattened, and fern-like splays of foliage.

Their needles grow in clusters along the length of their long woody stems in a zig-zag pattern unique to the Ming. While the leaves appear soft and inviting, the Ming grows sharp spines along the length of its branches.

Ming asparagus ferns will grow to between 6 and 8 feet in height. They will fare best in USDA plant zones 9 through 11 and require bright, indirect light.

Related: Ming Fern (Asparagus Retrofractus) Care

6. Climbing (Asparagus scandens)

Climbing (Asparagus scandens)
Photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Average size: Vine-like
  • Key features: Wiry, fern-like whorls

Known as the ground or climbing asparagus fern, the Scandens variety grows thin, wiry stems that sprawl out or climb with their fern-like leaves growing in two or more whorls.

It grows tiny white flowers in the summer, developing into red berries.

7. Wild (Asparagus acutifolius)

Wild (Asparagus acutifolius)
Photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Average size: 2 to 3 feet
  • Key features: Thorny, needle-like leaves

The common wild asparagus is an evergreen subspecies with thorny leaves. This plant grows leaves in patterns that are typical of ferns, and especially typical of asparagus ferns.

Like most asparagus ferns, it will produce small white flowers and berries that ripen in the winter.

These plants will grow to a typical height of 2 to 3 feet and thrive in full or partial sun. The wild asparagus fern is native to the Mediterranean, unlike most asparagus ferns, which are native to South Africa.

8. Compact (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri Compacta’)

Sprengeri Compacta
Photo by Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Average size: 2 feet in height, 4 feet in width
  • Key features: Dense, bright green foliage

This popular form of asparagus fern is a perennial and is commonly kept in hanging baskets, in cut flower arrangements, and as ground cover.

They grow in dense clusters of needle-like foliage with a shiny green color. They tend to bloom in the spring when their arching stems will produce ornamental red berries.

They typically grow to around 2 feet in height and 4 feet in width. They are known to do well in all grow zones. Once established, they like regular moisture but can tolerate mild periods of drought.

Author: Stanislav Lem


Stanislav Lem is the founder of Big Time Living, where he provides tips for gardening, traveling and lifestyle. Stan is an entrepreneur, journalist and traveler.
His mission is to provide information to help people become better planters, travel more and live a happy life. His blog has been featured on Huffpost, Yahoo and MSN.