I have a beautiful foxtail fern that I have had for a few years. Now it has started to turn the needles yellow; what is the problem? I was told when I bought it to just water and nothing else is needed. I would like to know what the problem could be and does it need to be repotted?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Lucinda: Foxtail Ferns (Asparagus densiflorus ‘meyersii’) for the most part are low-maintenance plants. They do require medium to high light levels and adequate moisture. They will also benefit from being fertilized once a month. Typically when we notice the foliage begin to yellow, it is a result of uneven moisture levels or lack of nutrients. Do you feed your fern on a regular basis or has it changed environments recently? If you are not feeding your plant, go ahead and give it a well-balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10. Either liquid or granular food is fine. The benefit to granular is that it is slow-release so it will last longer, as opposed to liquid that is immediately taken up through the root system of the plant. That being said, you may want to give it a dose of liquid fertilizer at this stage because if it is a lack of nutrients you are dealing with, the plant will take it up faster with the liquid food. If this plant is outdoors but was over-wintered indoors, it could just be adjusting to the change of environment. Sometimes it can take longer than we would think for plants to show any sign of stress. If the plant is outdoors and subject to Mother Nature, it may be uneven moisture levels causing the foliage to yellow. Outdoors, our tropicals will need to be watered on a daily basis and make sure that the container has adequate drainage. If the plant is indoors it may not be getting enough sunlight. One last possibility is that it is root bound and the roots are competing for nutrients as well as moisture. If you have not repotted your fern in a couple of years it will certainly benefit from having a bit more space to spread out. The general rule is not to increase the container size any more than 2 inches in diameter. For now go ahead and prune out any yellow foliage.