Scientific: Asparagus retrofractus (Synonym Asparagus africanus var. microphyllus
Common: pom pom asparagus, ming fern
Family: Asparagaceae (formerly Liliaceae)
Origin: Extreme western abd southern regions of South Africa

Pronounciation: A-SPAR-a-gus re-tro-FRAC-tus

Hardiness zones
USDA 9 (with protection)-11

Landscape Use: Container plant, perennial garden trellis, indoor pot plant in bright indirect light, entry plants, hanging basket, cut foliage for decorative arrangements.

Form & Character: Evergreen herbaceous perennials, stiffly upright to strongly arching and spreading, oriental effect.

Growth Habit: Moderately to strongly clumping with basal stems arching to 4 feet long.

Foliage/texture: Simple, linear, mid- to deep green, alternate, acicular. The stems themselves zig zag, and are green maturing to a greyish light brown and armed with small spines of variable length and density. Pom pom asparagus (like asparagus fern) produces copious numbers of water storing tuberous roots immediately at or just below the ground surface. Overall, it has a fine texture.

Flowers & fruits: Small white flowers in axillary clusters are numerous and fragrant followed by round shiny dark red berries.

Seasonal color: White flowers in spring, dark red berries in summer to winter. Flowers and fruit in Phoenix as rare because this plant is generally only successfully grown in the shade.

Temperature: Cold hardy to 24oF and heat tolerant to 115oF.

Light: Partial to full shade best, avoid all western sun in Phoenix.

Soil: Well drained, sandy to loamy soil best, relatively high nitrogen requirement. Fertilizer in late winter and mid summer.

Watering: Needs regular supplemental water from April to October. Water storing tubers help all asparagus ferns tolerate some dryness.

Pruning: Remove dead stems. Periodically (every 3 years) prune hard to ground to rejuvenate plant appearance.

Propagation: Division of the basal clumps is easiest, seed.

Disease and pests: Root rot if soil poorly drained. Be careful to not allow intrusion of Bermuda grass.

Additional comments: Pom pom asparagus is not a true fern. Because of its habit of growth, pom pom asparagus has limited use in the landscape as an ornamental landscape shrub. For cut foliage and decorative arrangements, its post-harvest vase life is about 7 to 10 days, which can be extended a bit by recutting the stems.