Asparagus plumosus (syn. A. setaceus)

Several species of Asparagus are popular houseplants and the cut fronds are often used for bouquets, as well as for flower arrangements. There are nearly 300 species in the genus, distributed throughout the Old World. The two most widely encountered are A. plumosus and A. densiflorus. The minute leaves are typical. They are often only scale-like or spine-like and their function of photosynthesis is taken over by the flattened branches resembling needle-like or linear leaves. These are called phylloclades or cladophylls. The 3-merous flowers indicate that the plant belongs to the lily family. The fruit is a berry. The greatly branched stems with numerous phylloclades are typical of A. plumosus. These are needle-like spines, 3-5 mm long and growing in clusters of 6-12. The leaves are spine-like and faintly curved. The minute flowers, opening in the autumn, grow singly on very short flower stems that are 1 mm long.

It is quite a demanding plant. It requires plenty of light and a high winter temperature. In summer, it also requires a high level of humidity so frequent and regular misting is essential. Repot every year. At the same time, the plant may be divided to obtain new specimens.

Asparagus densiflorus (syn. A. sprengeri)

This Asparagus , native to Africa (Natal), has a great many ‘Meyeri’ arching stems that are woody at the base. The spine-like leaves are only 3 mm long and faintly curved. The phylloclades are usually in pairs, 15-30 cm (6-12 inch) long, 1-2 mm wide, and pointed. The fragrant flowers are white and extremely small. The ripe berries are red. The cultivar ‘Meyeri’, currently becoming very popular with horticulturists, was developed from this species. Its branches crowded with numerous phylloclades makes it look like a bushy fox tail. They may be up to 1 m (39 in) long and look very attractive.

Apart from A. plumosus, Asparagus species grown indoors usually require a relatively low temperature – normal room temperature in summer, 10°-15°C (50°-59°F) in winter. Water frequently. Propagate by dividing old clumps (the underground roots are thickened like tubers) or by seed. Pick the berries in ;

February, remove the seeds, put them in peaty compost and cover them with dark plastic foil so no light penetrates; the seeds will germinate only in darkness. The best temperature for germination is 22°C (72° F).

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