Dasylirion is a small genus of 18 semi-succulent species. These truly striking plants are native to the southern United States and Mexico, closely resembling both Yuccas and Agaves. They are found in very arid lands, along dry washes and on rocky hillsides where soils are porous and extremely well drained. In their region of origin no rain may fall for 10 months or more, and these plants have adapted to surviving such extended drought.
Dasylirions produce enormous rosettes of foliage that is narrow, often stiff, and serrated at the edges. Some species are significantly barbed while others are smooth. Leaves may be just the width of a kebob skewer or flat and ribbon like, blue in color and slightly twisted. Over time the plants develop hefty trunks that may be left natural with their cloak of dead dry leaves or pruned clean for a more architectural form.
These plants bloom often but not every year. They are diecious, which means male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. When flowering they send up rigid stalks to the height of a one-story rooftop. The upper half to third is thickly covered pale yellow hooked blossoms that are pollinated by a wide range of day and night flying insects. After flowering the dried stalks are coveted for grouping in decorative urns.
Only a few species of Dasylirion are commonly grown, but these can be remarkably drought, heat and cold tolerant. The most significant in the modern design world is the hemispherical wiry Dasylirion longissimum. Valued for its flat blue leaves, Dasylirion wheeleri is preferred as an outdoor landscape plant for desert gardens with a cast iron constitution. The green desert spoon, Dasylirion acrotrichum of Mexico is preferred for its coloring which lends a more lush character to the garden.
All Dasylirion species are growing in popularity as a drought resistant landscape plant well beyond the desert environment. Provided soils are well drained and there is little summer rain they should be widely adaptable. The common name, Desert Spoon, is derived from the leaves which, when plucked from the stalk bear a spoon-shaped base used by Native Americans. They also utilized the fibrous leaves to weave baskets, mats and other useful objects.
Growing Condition and General Care
Dasylirions are slow growing, carefree and durable, drought tolerant plant. However, they grow faster if watered well (don’t water the crown, though they rot easily). In the garden they should be placed in a sunny, well-drained area with additional summer water in dry climates.
These make great specimen plants for xeriscape gardens and blend well in either tropical or arid gardens. Small plants are relatively inexpensive, but larger ones are a fortune. These make excellent potted specimens, and their symmetrical form provides a striking focal point.
They thrive best in full sun, but can be grown with some shade and humidity. Plant in very fast draining soil and provide little or no water in winter. Treat like a succulent. Best where winter temperatures stay above 50°F (10°C), but can take some periods of frost. Plants in containers can be moved inside during longer cold spells.
Easy to propagate from seeds or cuttings.
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