I have a beautiful fox tail fern potted plant that I have had for a few years now. I bring it in during the winter months as it is only hardy down to 40 degrees. This year it has turned all brown and is growing shoots that are going crazy, but not filling out. Should I prune off all the dead tails and hope it makes a comeback ?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hi, Angela: Foxtail ferns (Asparagus densiflorus ‘meyersii’) are a tropical for those of us gardening in Kentucky. So, just as you have done, they have to come indoors to survive our winters. It is not uncommon for their foliage to turn brown or even drop during these months as they would be much happier outdoors. Not to worry, the plant may not look great now but I am sure the root system is fine and that is what really matters at this point. Plants that we over-winter indoors are not expected to put on new growth or to even look great during this time: the idea is to keep them alive so we can take them back outside after the danger of frost passes. You can actually cut back the foliage as it starts to look bad and keep the roots alive with minimal watering. So go ahead and remove anything that does not look good. As the temperatures rise you can take the fern back outdoors. Since this fern likes full sun, it is necessary to acclimate it to this amount of light. Place it first in a shady location and then gradually move it into the sun. Fertilizing at this time with a liquid or granular slow-release food will be beneficial. Any well-balanced fertilizer will work just fine.