What is Eremurus?

N. Freim
N. Freim
Eremurus can contrast with the purple or blue colors of irises.
Eremurus can contrast with the purple or blue colors of irises.

The Eremurus genus features a number of perennial flowers originally from western and central Asia. The plant, also called fox tail lily or desert candle, displays a long stalk with a bushy top made up of many small flowers. The varieties range in height from dwarf species of 2 feet (about 0.6 meters) to plants that grow to an impressive 10 feet (about 3 meters). Its unusual shape makes the flower a wonderful accent for gardens, and it can be found in such colors as pink, orange, and lilac. The flower does best in a sunny location with sandy soil and blooms in late spring or early summer.

The genus Eremurus consists of approximately 35 to 40 varieties of perennial flowers that are generally quite hardy. These deciduous plants are native to the warm climates of central Asia, ranging from Turkestan to the Himalayas. In Afghanistan, the thin, strip-like leaves of some species are cooked and eaten as a vegetable.

These flowers are also called foxtail lilies because of their distinctive shape. A long spike grows from the plant that features a cluster of small flowers at the top. The flowers bloom all around the stalk, forming a shape that looks similar to a bushy fox tail or a feather duster. The color of the bloom depends on the species and can be pink, white, or orange. Species with orange or yellow flowers are sometimes called desert candles.

Eremurus is largely used as an ornamental plant, and it is occasionally referred to as a show-stopping flower. The Eremurus robustus is a species that is popular in gardens. Its dramatic shape and height, which reaches about 6 to 10 feet (1.8 to 3 meters), makes it an excellent background plant to frame other smaller plants and flowers. The Eremurus robustus has soft pink flowers and offers a nice contrast to the blues and purples of such flowers as irises and delphiniums. Eremurus aurantiacus is a dwarf species displaying the same dramatic blooms but at a height of only 2 to 3 feet (about 0.61 to 0.91 meters).

The seeds of an Eremurus plant should be planted in autumn, 6 to 8 inches (about 15 to 20 centimeters) deep in sandy, well-drained soil. Some varieties can tolerate thin shade, but the plant does best in full sun. The flowers bloom in late spring or early summer. Eremurus can be attractive to slugs, so gardeners should inspect the plants periodically. The bushy flowers hold up nicely when cut for arrangements, lasting two or three weeks.

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    • Eremurus can contrast with the purple or blue colors of irises.
      By: Diana Taliun
      Eremurus can contrast with the purple or blue colors of irises.