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Asparagus, Ornamental

Perennials, Shrubs, Vines

There are about 150 kinds of asparagus besides the edible one—all members of the lily family. Those listed here are native to South Africa. The edible variety, Asparagus officinalis, is listed in this database under “Asparagus, Edible.”

Best known is asparagus fern (Asparagus setaceus), which is not a true fern. Although valued mostly for handsome foliage of unusual textural quality, some of the ornamental species have small but fragrant flowers and colorful berries. Green foliage sprays are made up of what look like leaves. Needle-like or broader, these are actually short branches called cladodes. The true leaves are inconspicuous dry scales.

Most ornamental asparagus look greenest in partial shade but thrive in sun in cool-summer climates. Leaves are yellow in dense shade. Plant in well-drained soil amended with peat moss or ground bark. Because of fleshy roots, plants can go for some time without water, but they grow better when watered regularly. Feed in spring with a complete fertilizer. Trim out old shoots to make room for new growth. Ornamental asparagus will survive light frosts but may be killed to the ground by severe cold. After frost, plants often come back from roots.

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