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Showy and stately, eremurus, or foxtail lilies as they are commonly called, appear as glorious garden exclamation points. Statuesque and comprised of hundreds of tiny florets, these flower stalks rise above the rest of the garden in late spring and early summer. In glowing shades of yellow and orange, it easy to see why these are also known as desert candles.
Choose a site in full sun. Foxtail lilies originate in grasslands and mountainous regions of western and central Asia, often growing in dry, exposed sites. These plants are accustomed to, and thrive in, strong light.
Try to avoid low lying spots that can become frost pockets in spring as early foliage can be tender. For tall varieties, which is most of them, windy sites risk having the flower stalks blown over, so avoid these locations.
Foxtail lilies require soil that drains well. If, hours after a rain, puddles remain in the site you’re considering, look for another location. Or create a raised bed that helps the soil drain. Soil enriched with compost, decomposed mature or leaf mold provides the nutrients these plants appreciate.
Eremurus plants resent having their roots disturbed; plant where soil cultivation will be light and competition from other plants is minimal.
Plant in the fall, as soon as you receive your bulbs. If the roots appear dry, soak for 2-3 hours in room temperature water before planting.
First, don’t be alarmed when you see your plants. These are some of the oddest looking roots found anywhere, with long, starfish like arms radiating from a central crown. Weird and fun.
Dig a hole 8” deep and a few inches wider than the root. Add a handful or two of compost to the soil you removed. Place some of the amended soil back into the hole, creating a cone of soil in the center of the planting hole. Position the root on the cone so the central growing point sits very slightly below the level of the surrounding soil. Fill the hole with soil, pat to eliminate air pockets and water well to settle the soil around the root. (Soil tends to compact a bit when watered and the plants often sink slightly; reposition if necessary.) While there won’t be any visible growth in the fall, the roots will be growing and creating a network for absorbing nutrients and moisture. Note: we do not recommend using bone meal as an amendment when you plant these roots as it encourages pets and pests to dig up the roots you just planted.
Plant 1-3 feet apart, depending on the mature size of the variety selected.
New growth can be frost sensitive; cover if a cold snap is forecasted.
Desert Candles need about 1” of water a week from rain, irrigation or a combination of the two during active growth in the spring.
In spring, feed once with a high potassium fertilizer, following package directions. This helps the plants regulate moisture, manage temperature changes and supports strong roots.
After flowering, your eremurus leaves will photosynthesize and create food for next year’s show for a short period and then dry. When the leaves turn brown and pop off with a slight tug, feel free to remove them. The plants will slip into dormancy and sleep through the summer. They don’t need any extra moisture during the summer and, in fact, tend to do better without much water.
Look for your foxtail lily sprouts in the spring, prompted by the season’s moisture and warming temperatures.
Light: Full sun
Soil: Average soil, well drained
Depth: Plant 6-8” deep
Water: Average moisture, dry in summer and fall is ideal
Uses: Sunny garden beds
Tip: Plant the bulbs upon receipt
They Start Out Looking Like This:
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