Foxtail Fern Questions

mladamsMay 19, 2013

I recently purchased a foxtail fern at a local nursery. When I brought it home I took it out of the plastic pot it was in and put it in a ceramic pot with a hole in the bottom to keep indoors. I thought I could break up the root ball but decided against it since the roots were very well packed. I've been watering it once every few days but the water mostly just runs out the bottom of the pot. It gets sunlight from the windows it's near only in early morning, after about noon there's no direct sunlight in the windows.

When I received it I pruned off the dead growth and continued to water it when it felt dry. My issue is that I keep noticing more of the growths are turning yellow and dying. It's not real fast but it seems like the internal growths keep dying on me. I don't know if I'm not watering it enough, if it has too much/little sunlight, or if the pot isn't big enough. I would repot it in new soil but I don't know how to break up the root ball because it is extremely tightly packed.

Any help someone may be able to provide is greatly appreciated.


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Hello Matt,

Congrats, on your new Foxtail Fern.

FF's dislike heat. Fronds will brown if air is hot.
Some humidity is required.
Direct sun, 'especially if your plant was in shade at the store,' will burn fronds.

Although I don't believe in over-potting most plants, FF should have plenty of space, especially if the medium dries fast.

If you're watering daily, either the room is too warm, or your FF needs a larger pot.

Did you notice the amount of space between root-ball and 'new' inner container?


    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 1:56PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Haven't had one of these plants myself, but it sounds like there may be a solid ball of hydrophobic peat as the rootball. If so, it's much easier to remove after a soak in a bucket of water so it can accept water again. It make take 30-60 minutes to soak to the inside if it's really hard/solid. Usually the peat will crumble away easily at that point. But sometimes it won't, in which case I might decide it's easier on me and the plant to first cut off the bottom third to half of the root ball. Then remove as much excess peat from the top as possible. Cut a slit from top to bottom on each side of the remaining mass. Repot with some room on the sides as well as putting a little new soil to replace that taken from the top. This should give the plant a good shot at growing some new roots, and help keep the inner ball from drying so fast in the process. When you repot next time, you should be able to remove most of the remaining peat without tearing so many roots.

The ones I see in pots in this area are always in shade but a little morning sun might be preferable in PA, IDK...

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 4:26PM
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I think you need to break up that root ball. Any plant that has a tight root ball will die because the water will run out of the pot around the root ball and it basically doesn't get any water.

I don't think I can agree that they don't like heat. They are used outdoors here in full sun for landscaping plants, and Houston is very hot for several months of the year.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 7:39PM
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Foxtail 'Ferns' are not ferns but are related to Asparagus. Here they're called Asparagus Ferns, and there's a lot of different varieties. They grow from small tubers, if broken off these can sprout and form new plants. That's why they've become serious weeds in some places and very difficult to get rid of. Digging them out usually results in numerous new small plants. And they're very tough, drought resistant, sun resistant, and almost extermination resistant.

Soaking the root ball and then washing all the old soil out won't hurt the plant. Depending on your climate be careful about how you dispose of any broken off bits.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 9:07PM
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