Here's everything you need to know about the eremurus plant, what it looks like, its growing conditions, and some of its species. We've included tips on how to propagate these striking perennials so you can incorporate them into your own garden.
Members of the genus eremurus are more commonly known under the names of foxtail lily or desert candle. This botanical family consists of very impressive summer perennial flowering plants that bear striking and colorful flower spikes.
These plants are well known and appreciated because of their strong resemblance bottle brush plants, only they can reach over 2 metres in height!
Foxtail lilies are native to eastern Europe and temperate parts of Asia, though they have become naturalized elsewhere — making them an attainable garden addition to many regions around the world.
If the foxtail lily sounds like the next flowering plant you’d like to experiment incorporating into your garden, read on! If not, we’ve compiled a huge list of Amazing Flowering Plants from all over the world where you’re sure to find your perfect match.
What do Foxtail Lilies Look Like?
The foxtail lily flower is actually an inflorescence; meaning a group of smaller flower clusters. These inflorescences are very similar to that of the bottle brush plant, which is a tall flower spike.
A foxtail lily flower spike will vary in size and in color depending on the species. They can achieve heights up to 2 metres, and flowers can be anywhere from pink, orange, yellow, white, or even copper. Some species even have two-toned flowers!
These flowers will usually blossom in the late spring or early summer, and will remain in bloom for several weeks throughout until mid summer, making them a great summer perennial plant. We love them, and pollinators love them too.
Helping add to the drama of the foxtail lily flower is its leaves. These leaves are borne in tufts on thin, green, strap or strip-like appearance, likening them to blades of grass. Leaf length will vary depending on the species.
Foxtail lily foliage will emerge in the very early spring, though it is very sensitive to frost. That is why ensuring that they are planted after the last threat of frost is very important.
Starting below the soil, foxtail lily plants are known for having very fragile, tuberous root systems. These spongy, thick, and fibrous tuber roots are kind of shaped like an octopus or a star, are wide spreading, and grow shallow in the soil.
From here grows the thick and tall flower stem, which must be sturdy enough to hold all of the separate flowers.
What are some Foxtail Lily Species?
Giant Desert Candle (Eremurus Robustus)
The giant desert candle is native to central Asia, and it is an upright-standing perennial plant. The are known for having a very long spike of flowers.
This eremurus species can grow to be almost 2 metres tall, it grows basal star-shaped blue/green leaves, and tiny flowers of a pale pink or white flower clusters with a potent, sweet scent.
Narrow Leaved Foxtail Lily (Eremurus Stenophyllus)
The narrow leaved foxtail lily is native to central Asia, and it is a herbaceous perennial that can grow to be over 1 metre tall.
This eremurus species grows narrow leaves similar to blades of grass, and dense clusters of flowers. The flowers closer to the ground are a copper color, and they gradually change to bright yellow closer to the top of the plant.
Where are Eremurus Plants Native to?
Members of the eremurus genus are native plants to eastern Europe, throughout the Ukraine and Russia, and towards the temperate regions of Asia; from Turkey to China.
They grow most prosperously in the wild in the arid grasslands of Iran and Afghanistan, giving one a good idea of what their growing conditions are like. Most varieties can survive in USDA growing zones 6 through 11.
How do you Propagate a Foxtail Lily?
There are several things to keep in mind when attempting to propagate your own foxtail lily plant. Though their growing conditions aren’t the most specific, they are sensitive, and propagation requires a certain level of care.
Choose a Spot
One of the trickiest parts of planting your own garden specimen is choosing the exact location where it will be happiest.
When it comes to the foxtail lily, pick a location that is sheltered from the wind – as the combination of shallow roots and tall flower spike can sometimes result in an uprooted plant – and that receives full sunlight exposure.
Dig a Hole
The next trickiest part is ensuring that the plant is being planted in the exact soil type that it requires. The foxtail lily has pretty specific requirements here, with the most important being well drained soil.
To help ensure that the soil has excellent drainage, first, dig a hole that is 8 inches deep, and quite a bit wider than the eremurus bulb and fleshy roots. Next, make a mound of either sand or gravel in the centre of the hole (this helps ensure good drainage).
Each individual plant hole should be a minimum of 12 inches apart from one another, as foxtail lilies do not appreciate being crowded. Remember that eremurus roots are very delicate, so take care when planting them in the ground.
Place your foxtail lily plant on top of this sandy soil mound, and refill the hole. Feel free to incorporate the filling soil with organic compost to add a little boost of energy to its growing season.
It is important that the well drained soil remain moist during the growing season of the plant, which starts in the early spring and ends in the late spring.
Outside of its growing season, the soil should be entirely dry so that the plant can go into dormancy. This is because these plants are very sensitive to root rot.
When winter approaches, help out your sensitive foxtail lily roots by covering the surrounding soil surface area with mulch. This will help keep the temperature of the soil a little bit warmer.
Once the growing season is on its way back, you can keep the mulch in place to help ensure that soil remains most during this stage. Additionally, don’t be afraid to use a high potassium fertilizer right at the beginning of the growing season as well.
What are the Growing Conditions of Foxtail Lilies?
The soil type required for a happy foxtail lily is rather specific. When considering that their natural growing range is the arid grasslands of the Middle East, it’s easy to guess their preferred soil type.
Sandy loam soil is the ideal choice when it comes to foxtail lilies. The mosts important condition is that it is well drained soil.
Once again referring back to the plants’ native growing range, we know that is prefers to exist in full sun conditions. Partial shade can result in a less productive blossom season.
The water level requirements for a foxtail lily will vary depending on the time of year. During the plant’s growing season, it is important that their soil remain moist.
Watering your foxtail lily once a week with about an inch of water should suffice, unless you live in a region that experiences plenty of natural precipitation.
Outside of its growing season, a foxtail lily should exist in soil that is entirely dried out. This is because the plant goes into dormancy outside of the spring, and is very susceptible to root rot.
Foxtail lilies are not particularly cold hardy plants, and they should be brought indoors for the winter if you live in a region that experiences very cold winters.
The leaves of the foxtail plant are very sensitive to frost, and it’s important to attempt bringing it inside before the first and last threat of frost of the year (late frost is the most unexpected threats).
Most varieties can exist in USDA growing zones 6 through 11, though others can only exist in zones 5 through 7. Make sure you do your research before choosing your variety!
When it comes to pruning your foxtail lily, nothing has to be done in order to keep it looking manicured. They tend to exhibit a very controlled and neat growth habit.
The only pruning that needs to be done is in effort to control the seed dispersal of the plant. If you wish to have a wildflower garden appearance, allow the eremurus plant to self seed so that new specimens can pop up as they please.
If this is not the type of garden you’re after, simply cut the flowers back after they have blossomed, but before they go to seed.
Foxtail lilies respond very well to fertilizer. Simply add a high potassium fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season in the early spring.
Additionally, incorporate the surrounding soil with compost before planting your foxtail lily to increase the nutrient content.
Though not the lowest maintenance of plants, the growing eremurus plants can be accomplished by nearly any gardener. Simply remember that they have specific water requirements and that they are not tolerant to poorly drained soil!