Unlike its cousin, the invasive asparagus fern, Asparagus aethiopicus, the Ming fern, Asparagus retrofractus, has more of a tree form. It grows in cold hardiness zone 9-11. Remember, Nassau County Florida is in zones 8b – 9a. If we have a hard freeze, this plant will most likely not survive. Ming fern is also known as zig zag shrub or Pom Pom asparagus fern. The Latin word “retrofractus” means twisted back which is why Ming fern is also called the zig zag shrub.
This plant is native to South Africa, grows in full sun or partial shade. Ming fern can grow up to 6 feet tall by 5 feet wide. It blooms white, fragrant flowers between May and July. The orange fruit turns black, attracting birds. Ming fern is self-seeding and has been known to be a problem in South Florida and Hawaii, so be careful about where you place this plant. Only native plants should be placed near conservation and preserved areas. If you keep it in a container you may need to repot every 2-3 years. Ming fern prefers well-drained soil so avoid overwatering. Ming fern can have issues with scale and mealybugs especially if overwatered. Use insecticidal soap for managing piercing-sucking insects.
There is another plant which is very similar called Chinese Ming fern, Asparagus macowanii, but this plant only grows to two feet tall and should be used as a house plant or perhaps on a patio.