I’ve needed a new “thing” on the blog for a while- how about a recommendation series?
I worked at a garden center for a number of years in college, and there are so many plants that are awesome but don’t get the love they deserve- mostly because a particular plant doesn’t look good in small pots, or is slow to grow and is therefore considered not economically viable enough to put in mass production. What shit reasons our choices of great plants gets limited, amiright?! So how about a series on some of the more unusual plants I love that do well for me in central Texas that you don’t see in mass production generally?
So for the first installment- might I recommend Plumosa Asparagus Fern?
There are quite a few asparagus fern varieties out there- with very different growth habits. All of them are distantly related to the vegetable, and hale from South Africa- generally a good region of origin for plants that do well in Central Texas.
There is the classic asparagus fern (Asparagus sprengeri).
Sprengeri was EVERYWHERE in Texas in the 80s- to me it always reminds me of the beach since it was in the planters ringing the pool at the hotel we always went to when I was a kid. It is drought tolerant, tough as nails, and thorny as hell. Does get some winter die back in cold weather. Planted in the garden it will spread. It also gets dustings of white flowers in spring and red berries in winter. (Don’t eat the berries. They won’t kill you, but you’d be in for some real unpleasantness.) I’m not a huge fan. I find it too coarse in form, it’s WAY too much of a bully in mixed plantings, and if I’m going to brave the thorns I need more from a plant.
Next up, variety wise, is the foxtail asparagus fern and currently the most popular. Has it jumped the shark if it’s planted at the local Sonic drive through? It is everywhere, but with good reason. It’s got a unique form and is tough as nails- though I haven’t had the world’s best luck with it personally. It seems to dislike the clay soils I struggle with- and while I know I had one in a pot at one time… it isn’t around anymore. I may get a few to try again. It doesn’t spread in the garden like the spregari does, so that’s a definite benefit.
And so we move on to the less popular variety and most beloved of the three by FAR by me- the Plumosa asparagus fern.
This one is actually really popular in floral arrangements, I’m sure you’re seen it like that. (It’s also called Florists Asparagus fern) Considering how incredibly difficult it was to track down for me, it definitely isn’t as popular as the other forms. But I did just see a ton of small pots at the Green Gate in Seguin though, should anyone be on the hunt.
Form wise it’s very different- it’s a tender vine and definitely needs support. Mature leaf color is darker than the other two varieties. It’s also MUCH more delicate in form and leaf shape than the others.
But don’t forget the thorns! Holy hell the thorns…
I was on the hunt for this plant FOREVER because I wanted to grow it up the two pillars by the front door… and then the second I found one I remember the thorns and realized that was not a good idea. Visually pleasing, yes. Lawsuit inducing… also yes.
So I had it in the large pot on the deck for months like in the picture at the top of this blog post… till the open space and the terracotta absorbed the heat and cooked it.
But it bounced back! And even some of the brown stems and leaves greened back up- it’s hardier than it looks!
My new spot for the plumosas is shown above. We have some french doors leading to the deck in our bedroom… right around the corner from the actual back door. They are… cute, I guess, but totally superfluous. But, due to the weird layout of our bedroom, they also have to have our dresser in front of them, so they are never in use. I recently decided to grow the asparagus fern on the outside as a type of living screen- though I did leave an open area to see the bird feeder through.
The vine will get 10-20′ long, so it will eventually wrap all around the french doors. The one on the left has only been there a week or so, it was really needing some support for the long stems. Without support the stems can crimp and die. Its crawling up some fishing line I strung up and around the window.
It IS only hardy to zone 9 though, so it’s a tender plant here in my zone 8B/8A cusp garden. Come frost I’ll cut it back to about a foot tall and bring it in during freezing weather. And then back outside in the spring. In greenhouses I’ve seen them planted in the ground and get HUGE… they are so beautiful like that!
All the asparagus ferns are drought tolerant due to the “special” roots. You’re going to ruin your own time the first time you repot them, lord knows I certainly was taken aback. Heck, I still get caught off guard by it. While the stems and leaves don’t have any fleshiness like succulents ho boy do the roots! The roots are thick with marble to gumball sized nodules… it’s underground water storage at it’s finest but just in no way looks like what you’re expecting under the soil surface from these plants.
It is one of my very favorite plants so gets the definite stamp of approval from me!
Next recommendation will be- the OTHER rarer kind of asparagus fern- Ming Ferns!