(Foxtail Lily, Desert Candle, Eremurus, Lily Family (Liliaceae))
This perennial is native to western and central Asia. Tall flower spikes rise above the low straplike foliage to a height of six feet or more. Each spike holds a display of hundreds of starlike flowerlets. E. stenophyllus is a compact form that grows to only 3-4 feet. The spikes are covered with many small, closely spaced flowers in shades of yellow, pink and white. The tall stature combined with the striking appearance make it an excellent accent plant. They give a dramatic appearance against rock walls and deep evergreens, and also look good at the back of a border. They make impressive cut flowers, and last up to three weeks in arrangements. Flowers bloom in early summer.
E. Ruiter hybrids (shown) do well in zones 6-7 and E. stenophyllus can be grown as far north as zone 4. A heavy winter mulch is suggested in colder areas. Choose a location with rich, well-drained soil and lots of sun. If you plan to amend the soil before planting, consider using composted cow manure. Plant the tubers in September. They should be placed 6 inches deep and 36 inches apart. Plants will need good moisture during the flowering season, and should never be allowed to dry out. After flowering the rootstock can be lifted and divided, but since they resist division it's best to buy new tubers. Plants are slow to become established, but when they are kept happy they will reseed themselves.
Foxtail Lilies can be left undisturbed for 15 years or more.
Two outstanding heirloom varieties are readily available:
Sunny yellow flowers and deeply divided leaves. This is the best choice for areas where summers are dry.
Lemon yellow flowers above a collar of frilly leaves. This variety needs evenly moist soil during the summer dormancy.