Can I cut back and divide an asparagus fern

angelfaceroseSeptember 9, 2007

I have a huge asparagus fern in a large pot that I would like to cut back so I can divide it before wintering it over in my greenhouse. It is just too large to handle at the size it is. Is there anybody who has done this before? Will it hurt it to cut it back and divide it. Those rascals have thorns on their stems!

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Yes you can! Last year I went and cleaned up some of my outdoor planters the day before a killing frost was expected, and cut the fronds off my asparagus fern right to the soil line and threw in the garbage. I just didn't have the room indoors to overwinter. That night with nothing godd on tv I am perusing through various sites here and come across information about overwintering these things.

It's described that you can cut up the root ball like a cake, and then repot. But what I did is...I went back out the next day, and removed the root ball, being in potting soil much of the soil could be cleaned away so I could view the roots and what I think are called storage roots (look like tubers but are not tubers, I think they store water for drought situations - similiar to chlorophytums-spider plants.). I separated several small bunches, 3 to 4 storage roots each, and each portion contained the top part where the fronds had emerged that I'd chopped off the day earlier, and I potted up, watered, stuck in a sunny south window, and crossed my fingers hoping for the best. And I got it, with a week or two new baby fronds started to emerge, I let them grow until November, when our sunlight really diminishes, and then moved them down to a basement window well, where they would have been in bright light, no direct sun, and with the curtain closed behind them the temps would get down to 10C, so that's like 50F? When I put them in the basement I'd made sure they hadn't been freshly watered, just maybe ever so slightly damp, and left them until the end of January. Not one dried up leaf/frond, brought them back up, potted up and watered, gave sun, and away they grew. Go on the Ferns forum, or this one also and search 'overwinter asparagus', and some more info should come up. I also learned from the knowledgeable people here that the asparagus fern is not a real fern, but now I can't remember which family it belongs to...I'm thinking lily?
Good Luck, they are really tough plants - noxious weeds in some states down south - so they should survive a chopping!


    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 7:29PM
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Hello - my plant wasn't looking too great so first I cut it way back to a managable size, then took it out of the pot and cut the very root bound root ball into quarters with a serrated carving knife. I potted up the sections separately. I gave 3 of them away, kept mine for about another year and then gave that away - I just don't have alot of luck with them, and they are too messy, all the shed leaves and all. But, they are tough and mine all did well even with the fairly rough dividing and repotting.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 7:31PM
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It might hurt *you*, but it's not likely to hurt the plant. I couldn't find anything in a quick on-line search suggesting that there was any particular problem cutting it back and dividing it in late summer, and a poll of my books at home says,

1. divide when dormant
2. divide every couple of years
3. [silence]
4. divide and cut back at the same time, when pot is overcrowded
5. divide in any season

So I think you're fine. Just one word: gloves.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 7:37PM
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Stupid question - are you supposed to force an asparagus fern into dormancy? I wasn't going to with mine.

Not only do they have thorns, you may need a hacksaw to divide those roots - they are tough.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 8:25PM
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Wow you guys are great. Kioni thanks for all the details and Mr._subjunctive you went to all the trouble of looking it up for me in several different books! Thanks go out to all of you. I think I will wait until next month to cut it back and divide it. I will wear leather gloves!

    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 11:08AM
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