From start to seedling: Propagating an Asparagus Fern

14 Oct

Asparagus Fern

Commonly referred to as the Asparagus Fern or Foxtail Fern, asparagus atheopicus has been regarded as many things since its discovery. Some call it a majestic ornamental plant, while others simply call it a nuisance. I think it’s safe to say that this plant does have some interesting, if not beautiful properties about it.

Asparagus Fern Stem

For example, most people take interest in the long conical stems that unfold from the center of the plant. Each one of these branches is covered in tiny little leaves called “cladodes”. Another neat feature of this plant is the flowers and subsequent berries that it produces. During the winter months, the asparagus fern will start to form white or pink flowers on the stems of the plant.

Asparagus Fern Berry on Stem

Once germinated, the flowers will then start to grow small green berries that eventually turn a bright red color. Aesthetically, this plant really sets apart your garden by creating an exotic contrast with your other specimens.




However, the real purpose of this blog post is to show you how to take these berries and turn them into new plants for your own garden. If you would like to learn more about the origins of the asparagus fern, click here for details.




Now then, let me show you how to go from start to seedling in 5 simple steps:


1. Pick suitable berries

It goes without saying, that in order to get any plant to grow from seed, you first need a healthy and MATURE seed. As I’ve mentioned previously, a fully mature Asparagus Fern berry will be bright red in color. In the photo below, we can see the three basic stages of and Asparagus Fern berry.

Aparagus Fern Berries - Ripe, Turning, and Unripe

The berries will start off as deep green in color and really firm in texture. They will slowly transition in color (starting at one end) from green to a mild reddish color; You will also notice a softening of the berry. Finally, after a few days/weeks, they will arrive at the deep red color. This lets us know when the berry has finished developing and is ready to be picked.


2. Scar berry and remove seed

Now that we have a few good ripe berries…its time to open them up and take what we need; the seeds. CAUTION: I would advise using tool for removing the seeds, due to the fact that the berries are known to be poisonous. Do NOT eat the berry, seed, or any other part of the plant. Also wash your hands after you have handled them to minimize any risks. That being said…

The first step is to cut open the berry using a sharp object (I recommend a razor blade). This allows the seed to be pulled out via tongs, tweezers, toothpicks, etc. in the next stage. The berry can stain fabric, so I would suggest doing this on a hard surface that can be easily cleaned afterwards.

Scarring Berry

Next, I used a pair of botanical-grade tweezers to lightly pull the seed from the berry. Be GENTLE as the seeds may still be soft and crush under pressure. As I mentioned before, anything such as tweezers, toothpicks, calipers, or tongs would work nicely. Just be sure to clean or throw away whatever you use, due to the poisonous nature of the berry. 

Asparagus Fern Seed from Berry


3. Carefully wash seeds

Now to make the seeds a little more user-friendly, we will wash them off several times in water (replacing the water with each rinse). This not only makes the seeds easier to handle, but also removes some of the residue and help the germination process start faster.

Washing Asparagus Fern Seeds


4. Prepare soil and plant seeds

As for the initial soil prep, I used a sterile potting soil and mixed in some mychorizzae granules to help speed up root development. Normally, you can plant the seeds directly outside in warmer months..however, I placed my seed underneath a grow-light to supercharge the direct light and speed up the seedling process.

Planting Asparagus Fern Seed

In a normal scenario, the seed would be exposed to colder temperatures and only 8 hours of sunlight. With my setup, the light is increased to 14 hours and the environment is much warmer than usual…which will speed up growth. Feel free to experiment with these variables, as there is no perfect solution that I know of.


5. Wait for seedling to emerge

The first sign that your seed has germinated will be a small slender stalk about as thin as a tooth-pick starting to protrude out of the ground. This will eventually start to bud small needles similar to a pine-tree from the sides. This is a healthy sign that your plant has established a firm root structure and is ready to be transplanted to either a larger pot or to an outside environment.

Asparagus Fern Seedling

Hopefully, If you’ve followed these instructions carefully, it should be a matter of weeks before you have your very own Asparagus fern to plant, propagate, and enjoy. Also, I would experiment with this method to try and propagate other types of plants. This is how I started my love of plant duplication..and so far, I’m not even closed to being bored with it…Enjoy!

I hope that you have enjoyed this article as much as I have creating it. If you have any questions about this post or any requests on future posts, feel free to shoot me a comment in the section below.Thanks again for stopping by and come back again for more ‘upon further inspection’

6 thoughts on “From start to seedling: Propagating an Asparagus Fern

  1. Pingback: From start to seedling: Propagating an Asparagus Fern | Master Garden

  2. I live in Oklahoma. We call the plant you are talking about a “Foxtail Fern”. Our “Asparagus Fern” doesn’t have the round tapered look that the Foxtail does. I would love to try this but I have NEVER seen red berries on My asparagus ferns. Will look closely this year, but am wondering if it’s because we have hard winters and my ferns are winterized in a well lit shed and watered and heated to 35 degrees. Do the berries just come on the “Foxtail Fern??

  3. These damn things are an absolute menace in Australia. They are capable of taking over vast areas of native woodland. The last thing anybody here should be doing is propagating them.

  4. I saw an instructional video that said to NOT remove the red berry from the seed as the berry contains the food for the seed to best propagate. Do you know anything about this? Also, how many weeks did it take for your seeds to sprout a stem?

    • I would say that his plant biology is not 100% accurate. The reason for the berry (outer coating) is as follows:

      1. To provide the seed with additional nutrients and moisture, in the event that the seed isn’t in an good spot for germination. Since us humans are purposefully planting the seed into a nutrient-rich soil and watering regularly…you simply don’t need it. Any decent soil will make up for losing the berry.

      2. This next part is important in terms of survival (although it basically relates to #1). For evolutionary purposes, seeds are sometimes given coatings such as this one. These coating act as little time-capsules for keeping the seed safe until it is time to sprout (like summer). Again, since the seed is being grown under our supervision and NOT in the wild, we can discard it.

      Lastly, by removing the seed coating, you will speed up the germination rate, and get the plant growing sooner that by keeping it on (See #2). Some people will actually go one step further and put a little scratch into the side of the seed itself to speed it up even more. Personally, I just remove the seed coating…no scratching.

      So, the person in that video isn’t completely wrong (if the seeds are in the wild), but he doesn’t really provide context or understand the purpose behind the seed coating. Does that make sense?

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