Not to be confused with the commonly consumed asparagus spears, the asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus "Sprengeri") is actually a part of the lily family. This plant with many uses makes a versatile addition to the home garden, but in homes with cats, this fern poses a threat to your pets. Familiarize yourself with proper care for healthy growth as well as those aspects of the plant that may harm your loved animals.
Though this fern is not the widely eaten asparagus plant, it is related to true asparagus and is also an edible plant, according to the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. The fern's known origins begin in Natal Province, South Africa, where it made its introduction into modern cultivation with entrance into the seed trade in 1890. The name "Sprengeri" comes from the collector's name: Herr Sprenger.
The asparagus fern is an herbaceous perennial plant with a round shape, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension. The evergreen foliage is fine in texture, with leaves that resemble scales at a length of just under 2 inches. Asparagus ferns also produce small red berries and inconspicuous yet aromatic white flowers on thorned stems. Plant height is 1 to 2 feet with a spread of 3 to 4 feet.
Asparagus ferns thrive in locations that offer full sunlight to partial shade. This fern will still grow in shaded conditions, albeit not as successfully. Though asparagus ferns die from freezing conditions, they are tolerant to hot temperatures and drought, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension. Grow these perennials in well-drained soil for optimal growth.
Practice extreme caution when planting asparagus ferns in the home garden or as an indoor plant. Asparagus ferns are toxic to cats and may cause severe illness. If ingested, leaves of this fern will cause abnormal behavior as well as vomiting, according to the Iowa State University Extension. Additionally, if you notice any other strange symptoms like a poor appetite or listlessness, contact a veterinarian immediately.
Asparagus ferns are versatile plants with many different landscape or home uses. In response to their size and habit, use these ferns on the patio in either hanging baskets or in pots, according to the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. With their trainable form, these plants may be set atop a wall for overhang, planted in masses for ground cover or used in a garden border, suggests the University of Florida IFAS Extension.