Why Is Your Asparagus Fern Dropping Needles?

Asparagus Ferns are popular houseplants loved for their bushy, dense growth and fern-like leaves. They’re low-maintenance plants, so when one begins to show signs of weakness or damage, it can be quite concerning. One of the more common problems we see with asparagus ferns is the dropping of needles – what causes this, and how can we address it?

Your asparagus fern is dropping needles because it isn’t being watered properly, or it’s kept in a low-humidity environment. However, an asparagus fern can also drop leaves if it’s grown in an undersized container, doesn’t receive enough sunlight, or is exposed to extreme temperatures.

Dropping needles are often an indicator of a larger underlying problem. Twehe good news is that the conditions that cause this problem are usually remedied easily. The rest of this article will go over the possible reasons why your asparagus fern is dropping needles.

Reasons Why Your Asparagus Fern is Dropping Needles

While improper watering and low-humidity conditions are typically what causes asparagus ferns to drop needles, there could be other unaddressed issues that are causing this. I’ll go over several reasons why your asparagus fern might be dropping needles in the sections below.

You’re Improperly Watering Your Asparagus Fern

The most common reason we see asparagus ferns dropping needles is improper watering. Both underwatering and overwatering can lead to falling needles. Between the two of these, it’s underwatering that’s usually the culprit. 

You’re Not Watering Your Asparagus Fern Enough

Asparagus ferns are water-loving plants that enjoy being in well-hydrated soil. While adult plants are somewhat drought-tolerant, long-term dehydration will eventually lead to problems. 

One of the ways a lack of water can manifest itself is by causing the needle-like leaves of this plant to die and fall off. Other symptoms will show as well:

  • Droopy foliage
  • Yellowing or browning leaves
  • Dry, crispy leaves
  • Bone-dry soil

If you’re seeing any of these symptoms along with the falling needles, it’s likely that your asparagus fern is thirsty and needs you to water it more often and more generously. 

Your Asparagus Fern Is Overwatered

Now, while asparagus ferns need more water than the average plant to stay healthy and happy, they aren’t immune to the dangers presented by overwatering. 

All plants, including asparagus ferns, have an intricate root system responsible for gathering nutrients from the soil. These roots are arguably the most delicate part of the plant – if a plant’s root system is compromised, starvation will be inevitable.

Plant roots need oxygen to survive. However, when there’s too much water in the soil, access to oxygen is cut off, and roots suffocate. 

I mentioned earlier that it’s more often than not underwatering that causes falling needles. That’s because the effects of overwatering are much more severe than a mere loss of foliage:

  • Stunted growth
  • Wilted or drooping leaves that don’t react to being watered
  • Water-saturated soil
  • Yellowing foliage
  • Root rot

As you can see, there are a few common symptoms between the two conditions, but you can separate one from the other with relative ease. All you need to do is examine the soil and, for even more clarity, the roots. Black roots or roots that smell indicate root rot. 

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to reverse the damage already done. However, you can prevent further damage by adjusting your watering routine. 

One of the most important things you can do to prevent your indoor collection from being damaged by overwatering is to use pots with drainage holes.

How To Water an Asparagus Fern Properly

You should water your asparagus ferns deeply and thoroughly, and keep watering until you see water exit from the bottom of the container through the drainage hole. Don’t give the plant any more water at this point, as the soil is already at its maximum level of water retention. Any excess water will drain out within the next few minutes. 

Rather than sticking to an online routine, you should check for soil hydration levels before watering the plant. To do so, stick your finger about 2 inches (5.08 cm) deep into the soil and feel for moisture. 

Pinch the soil to see if it releases any water. If it does, the soil still holds a generous amount of water, and you should check back after a few days. 

If the soil is dry or only slightly moist, you can safely go ahead and water the plant.

By watering in this manner, you can expect to have to water your asparagus ferns around once a week in the summer. Take this figure with a grain of salt, though, because water requirements are influenced considerably by several environmental factors, such as temperature, humidity, and rainfall.

The Humidity Around Your Asparagus Fern Is Too Low

When asparagus ferns are grown indoors, they’re often subject to low humidity. These plants are native to high-humidity tropical regions and can’t tolerate low humidity for prolonged durations without suffering from deteriorating health. 

Their leaves begin to yellow and fall off when humidity is too low. This can happen even if you’ve been diligent with your watering cycles. 

There are several ways you can increase humidity. The simplest would be to use a humidifier to raise the ambient humidity in a room. 

You can also use a pebble tray. These handy constructs are the best friends of humidity-loving plants. Making one is simple – you probably already have everything you’ll need at home, as a tray large enough to accommodate your pot and some pebbles are all you need. Place the pebbles in the tray, and pour in some water until only the top of the pebbles is unsubmerged. 

Then, all you have to do is place your potted plant on the pebbles, and let your asparagus fern enjoy the benefits of high humidity. 

If you’re looking for easier and more practical ways to increase indoor humidity for your plants, check out this article: How To Keep Indoor Plants From Drying Out

Your Asparagus Fern’s Container Is Too Small

Asparagus ferns grow quickly both above and below the soil. While the plant’s nutrition and hydration requirements increase as it grows, the resources present in the soil remain the same. 

Root growth is also physically blocked when a plant outgrows its container, so the roots that have no deeper to dig begin to go round and round, creating an inefficient, coil-like root structure. 

It may be time to get your asparagus fern a larger container if: 

  • You see visible roots above the soil topline or poking out of the drainage hole. 
  • It’s been more than two years since the last time you upsized the container. Asparagus ferns grow surprisingly fast
  • The soil dries out much faster than it used to. 
  • Your asparagus fern has stopped growing. 

When getting new containers, a good rule of thumb is to choose one that is at least one to two inches (2.54-5.08 cm) wider in diameter than the roots of your plant. The container should also have a drainage hole. 

A container that’s too large is also problematic because it holds too much water and exacerbates the effects of overwatering. 

Your Asparagus Fern Is Receiving Insufficient Amounts of Sunlight

All plants need sunlight in varying amounts. Asparagus ferns don’t need to be under the sun all day, unlike some other outdoor varieties, but they do need to see the sun for at least a few hours to be able to make enough food via photosynthesis

Plants that don’t get enough sun are weaker, smaller, and more prone to disease.

Their ability to tolerate environmental stress – which, when it comes to asparagus ferns, is what causes falling needles – is severely diminished. 

Keep your asparagus fern nourished and strong by providing it with enough sunlight. Aim to provide the plant with at least three hours of indirect, moderate-intensity sunlight daily

The best place to keep an asparagus fern is near a south-facing window. You don’t want to place it under direct sunlight; that can often be too much. Instead, place it a few feet away from the window. 

The sunlight will bounce off nearby surfaces, and your asparagus fern will be able to make use of the reflected, less intense sunlight to make food without suffering burns. 

A lack of sunlight can cause thin, asymmetric growth in asparagus ferns. Here’s how to keep this beautiful plant in tip-top condition: How to Make an Asparagus Fern More Bushy

Your Asparagus Fern Is Adjusting to Changes in Temperature

Asparagus ferns are rather resilient to environmental stress, but they, too, have a weakness – the cold. These tropicals cannot tolerate temperatures below 55°F (12.7°C) for long durations and are likely to die of frost damage if left unprotected in sub-zero conditions. 

The winters present a challenge to growers of the asparagus fern. They’ll need to be brought indoors, and outdoor, garden-based plants must be protected with mulch or artificial insulation. 

When winter hits, your asparagus ferns will likely lose some foliage, but this is normal because of the rapidly changing temperatures.

Don’t be intimidated by the challenge, though. By overwintering your asparagus fern, you can keep it alive through the winter and into the next season. 

Final Thoughts 

Dropping needles are often caused by environmental stress and can indicate suboptimal conditions. If your asparagus fern is dropping needles, you should check for signs of underwatering or overwatering and adjust your watering routine if you notice the presence of either. 

You should also increase the humidity to make conditions more favorable, and get a larger container if you see any visible roots. Ensure you position your asparagus fern closer to the sunlight, and overwinter it to help it adjust to dropping temperatures.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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