How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Foxtail Lilies

Are you looking to add beautiful, tall flowers to your sunny gardens? Look no further than the foxtail lily. In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago will tell you everything you need to know about these dramatic flowering plants.

A stunning cluster of tall yellow foxtail lilies stands gracefully. In the backdrop, a mesmerizing blur reveals another realm of nature, where purple foxtail lilies complement the radiant yellow blooms in the foreground.

Contents

Growing foxtail lilies, also called desert candles, is simple and rewarding. These flowering perennials are nearly a set-it-and forget-it type of plant. All you will need is a garden space, your green thumbs, and a shovel!

While these perennials have dramatic flowers, it is important to remember that they are very easy to care for once you have the basics down. If you have ever planted and cared for spring-blooming bulbs, you will be successful with desert candles. While these plants may grow similarly to bulbs, they bloom for a longer period in the summer. 

If you are thinking of adding this perennial to your garden or if you are a veteran grower of this lily, read on! This article contains information that will help you grow the most beautiful foxtail lilies possible!

Overview

A captivating close-up reveals the intricate beauty of white foxtail lily blossoms, their delicate petals unfurling gracefully. The vibrant yellow centers draw attention, creating a striking contrast against the soft, blurred canvas of lush greenery in the background.
Plant Type Perennial, Tuber
Family Asphodelaceae
Genus Eremurus
Species Spp. 
Native Area Asia
Exposure Full sun
Height 3-8 feet
Watering Requirements Average
Pests & Diseases Slugs, resistant to others
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Hardiness Zone 5-8

What Is It?

This beautiful flowering tuber is known for its outrageously tall stalks of flowers available in a range of peach, orange, and yellow. 

This perennial gets its botanical name from the Greek word eremos which means “desert”, and the word oura, which means “tail”. This is the perfect name for this plant! The tall and sun-loving foxtail lily is a gorgeous and tough plant!

Characteristics

A magnificent display of towering fluffy foxtail blooms gracing a vibrant garden, their slender stems reaching skyward in nature's ballet of beauty. Each bloom captivates with earthy tones, a palette that echoes the rich hues of the soil.
Foxtail lilies have tall stems with hundreds of blooming flowers that can last up to one month.

Foxtail lilies are most notable for their very tall stems, which hold hundreds of tiny flowers. These flowers bloom from the bottom up and last nearly a month. Before these showy flower stalks appear, however, the plant will produce blue-green strapping leaves that resemble those of a daffodil or yucca.

The foxtail lily is a tuberous perennial that will return beautifully year after year. Tubers are simply enlarged roots that store all of the nutrients for your plant, very similar to a bulb. 

Plant the tubers amongst other perennials. The main reason is that once the blooming period has ended for these flowers, the stems and leaves will die back, leaving gaps within your garden. To avoid this, plant your lilies amongst catmint, ornamental grasses, sage, or other long-lasting, sun-loving perennials. 

There are three main categories of foxtail lilies. E. robustus is the tallest of the bunch, with pink flower stalks that reach up to 10 feet. E. himalaicus is the mid-size foxtail lily. This species generally has large (nearly two-foot long) leaves and white flowers. It will grow to six feet. E. stenophyllus is a dwarf foxtail lily that tops out at three feet. Its flowers are usually yellow.

Native Area

Against the backdrop of towering trees, striking foxtail blooms capture attention. The foxtails' distinctive features are highlighted as their upper section boasts a prominent brown shade, while the lower half showcases a soft, fluffy yellow texture.
They thrive in the dry, sunny regions of Asia, particularly the Himalayas.

Foxtail lilies are native to areas of Asia, such as the Himalayas, where the soil is dry and there is plenty of sunshine. Another key component to its native region is that while the summers are warm and dry, the winters offer a snap of cold temperatures that can rejuvenate the tubers

Planting

The best time to plant them is in the fall, as you would plant your spring-blooming bulbs. Find a site in your garden with sandy or loamy soil that receives full sun. The only supplies you will need are a shovel and your plant material. 

Transplanting

Slender leaves of a young lily capture the golden sunlight, showcasing a vibrant green hue. The young plant's foliage exhibits a captivating play of shadows and highlights, accentuating its graceful form.
Plant at least 6 inches deep in a hole slightly wider than the tuber.

Foxtail lily tubers can be purchased through online retailers or at your local garden center. You may even be able to find mature plants in pots from a local nursery. 

  1. Dig a hole about 6 inches deep and slightly wider than your tubers. 
  2. If you are concerned about your soil being too heavy, add a layer of sand, compost, or other organic material to the base of the hole. 
  3. Place your tubers in the hole with the crown at the top of the clump.
  4. Backfill with your garden soil, ensuring that the crown of the tubers does not get buried. 
  5. Tubers should be planted about two or three feet apart to ensure they have enough room to grow happily. 

How to Grow

Foxtail lilies are nearly maintenance-free, and they’re very showy plants! Let’s learn more about what it takes to grow these pretty perennials.

Light

Against the backdrop of a muted, thin cloudy sky, a solitary white lily gracefully rises, its slender stem reaching skyward. The delicate, snow-like blooms create a stunning contrast, capturing attention with their ethereal beauty.
Foxtail lilies thrive in full sun, which is essential for developing robust stems to support the large flowers.

Provide full sun for these bulbs to grow to their maximum potential. The sun is very important for producing strong stems that can support their very large and heavy flowers. Less sunlight may promote bent stems that require staking to prevent breakage.

Water

A pale pink lily glistens with raindrops, its delicate petals capturing the essence of a refreshing shower. The blurred green background accentuates the flower's ethereal beauty, inviting observers into a world where nature's elements dance in perfect harmony.
Provide approximately one inch of water per week.

The water needs of foxtail lilies are very average, with about one inch per week during their active growth periods. This one inch of water can be from rainfall or irrigation. Be sure to provide supplemental water during drought. When the plant enters dormancy in winter, reduce your watering frequency.

Soil

In this close-up, a pair of hands cradle rich, brown soil, conveying a tangible connection to the Earth. The blurred background unveils a vast expanse of fertile ground, echoing the promise of growth and vitality.
Promote the best growth by planting them in well-draining soil.

To grow healthy and happy plants, plant in well-draining soil. If you have heavy or clay soil, consider growing in raised beds or containers where you can control the soil a bit more. Sandy soils are perfect as long as they are rich and loamy.  

Temperature and Humidity

A detailed close-up captures the intricate beauty of a narrow-leaved  lily, its slender green leaves delicately arranged on their thin stems. The blurred background artfully highlights the lush greenery, providing a harmonious backdrop to the intricate botanical subject.
Chilly winter temps promote the development of lively flowers in the upcoming season.

Foxtail lilies are hardy in zones 5-8. They require cold temperatures in the same way that bulbs do. The cooler winters encourage growth and promote stunning flowers for the upcoming spring growing season. In colder zones, mulch well around the base of your plants to protect them in freezing temperatures.

Fertilizing

A gloved gardener pours a measuring cup of liquid fertilizer into a green watering can.
They benefit from a dose of liquid fertilizer as they are not heavy feeders.

These tuberous perennials are not heavy feeders. Once you notice that they have begun to produce their flower spikes, give them a dose of liquid fertilizer of your choice. This could be a synthetic, brand-name formula or liquid manure.

Maintenance

Tall dried foxtail lilies, their once-vibrant colors muted to earthy browns, create a striking vertical presence. Graceful slender leaves sprawl beneath, providing a delicate contrast to the rigid elegance above.
Foxtail lilies necessitate only minimal maintenance, demanding little attention to thrive in various conditions.

Throughout the season, your desert candles will not require much maintenance from you. Here are a few helpful tips to get you through the growing season without any snags!

  1. Stake your stems to prevent flopping! Foxtail lilies are not known for flopping, but if they are exposed to winds and low sunlight, there is a chance they may tip over or, even worse… snap! Stake them once the flowers emerge for the best results.
  2. When your flowers are spent, deadhead them back to the ground. Use clean garden shears for this task to ensure there is no damage done or disease transferred. 

Propagation

The most common way to propagate foxtail lily is by division or seed collection. Propagating from seed can take years and is not always successful. Let’s take a look at how to successfully divide them. 

Division

A close-up reveals the intricate details of a foxtail lily bulb. Resting on moist, dark soil, it symbolizes the promise of vibrant blossoms emerging from the earth's nurturing embrace.
Dividing is an easy process that promotes plant well-being through efficient thinning.

Propagating foxtail lilies through division is a simple process that can also help thin out your plants. This can help keep them healthy for years to come. Like many perennials, this process is best done in fall.

You will need garden gloves, a shovel, and a garden knife.

  1. Dig out a clump of foxtail lily. Dig a few inches away from the tubers, and be very gentle while handing them.
  2. Dust off any dirt so that you can examine the clump more easily. You are looking for naturally occurring clumps that have a crown.
  3. Carefully use your hands or a garden knife, if needed, to break apart clumps of tubers. Each clump must have a full crown attached to it.
  4. Replant the clumps of tubers where you would like the new plants to grow. Leave plenty of room between plants, and keep the crown at soil level.

Cleopatra

Vibrant Cleopatra Foxtail Lilies stand gracefully, their orange petals reaching towards the sun. In the background, tall grasses sway gently, their blurred forms adding a touch of softness and tranquility to the scene.
The ‘Cleopatra’ cultivar has tall stalks adorned with peachy tangerine flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Eremurus x isabellinus ‘Cleopatra’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 4-5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

‘Cleopatra’ is a well-loved variety. This is likely due to the dreamy shade of peachy tangerine flowers that cover the tall stalks. These orange flowers have a small red line on the petals, adding an extra dose of drama. Add this foxtail lily to your sunny perennial beds. 

Foxtrot

A close-up of Foxtrot's white blooms, their delicate petals unfurling gracefully under the sunlight. The blurred background reveals a lush tapestry of vibrant greenery, enhancing the purity of the blooms.
This variety displays a charming burst of sweet, pale pink blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Eremurus ‘Foxtrot’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 4-5 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

If you love the look but prefer a softer palette, ‘Foxtrot’ is a great choice for your gardens. Growing to 5 feet tall, these dense stalks of flowers will bloom in a very sweet and pale shade of pink. Add ‘Foxtrot’ to cottage-style gardens or ornamental grass gardens for a surprising pop of flowers. 

Pinokkio

Orange petals burst forth in this close-up of Pinokkio plant flowers. Each petal seems to unfurl with precision, unveiling the plant's intricate design and inviting observers into a world of botanical wonder.
A compact variety, ‘Pinokkio’ reaches 3-5 feet height.
botanical-name botanical name Eremurus x isabellinus ‘Pinokkio’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3-5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

‘Pinokkio’ is a smaller variety of foxtail lily, growing from 3-5 feet tall. Deep orange flowers cover the flower stalks. ‘Pinokkio’ is short enough for the middle of a flower bed and fits well in a cottage-style foundation garden. 

Romance

A captivating close-up showcases the intricate details of a romance foxtail lily, its salmon-pink blooms gracefully unfurling. The delicate petals exhibit a soft, velvety texture that contrasts beautifully against the vibrant, blurred backdrop of lush greenery.
This variety is a stunning foxtail lily with salmon-pink flowers and yellow and orange stamens.
botanical-name botanical name Eremurus ‘Romance’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 3-6 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

‘Romance’ is a beautiful variety. The flower stocks are loaded with hundreds of salmon-pink flowers accompanied by yellow and orange stamens. This color combination makes for a fun, tropical look. Add ‘Romance’ to your bright perennial beds for beautiful height and dimension. 

Shelford Pink

In a vibrant sunlit meadow, Shelford pink flowers stand tall, their delicate petals catching the warm sunlight. Surrounding them, a lush green landscape unfolds, framed by majestic trees that stand as silent guardians of nature's beauty.
With salmon-pink blooms, ‘Shelford Pink’ is a vibrant choice for cut flower gardens.
botanical-name botanical name Eremurus ‘Shelford Pink’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 4-6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

This variety blooms in a lovely shade of salmon-pink. ‘Shelford Pink’ makes an excellent addition to butterfly gardens, border gardens, or even your cut flower gardens. Plant this foxtail lily in a large grouping for maximum impact!

Common Problems

Foxtail lilies are tough and resistant tuberous plants. They rarely run into any issues. You may encounter problems if your foxtail lily is not in the correct growing conditions. Let’s look at some of the ones you may encounter with this perennial.

Pests

A miniature snail, its delicate shell spiraling, explores the intricate landscape of a white foxtail lily. Yellow stamens peek out like sunlit jewels, adding a vibrant contrast to the scene's serene elegance.
Combat pest issues with slug control products from a garden center.

Even though foxtail lilies tolerate many pests, they have been known for having problems with slugs and snails. These insects love dark and wet environments.

If you notice slugs or their damage on your plants, reconsider your plant’s location and your watering routine. Next, head to the local garden center and grab some slug or snail control. This or a beer trap set into the ground should take care of them.  

Diseases

A close-up reveals the intricate network of a plant's root system, showcasing the delicate interplay between soil and roots. Unfortunately, signs of root rot are evident, a condition where the roots, once vibrant, are now compromised and damaged.
Foxtail lilies are often affected by root rot due to poor plant care and location.

Root rot is the most prevalent disease that affects foxtail lilies. This is sadly a direct result of plant location and plant care. Tubers need to grow in well-draining soil. If the soil is too wet, the tubers will begin to rot, eventually leading to plant death. 

Unfortunately, once your plant’s roots begin to rot, little can be done. If you notice your plant declining, lift the tubers out of the ground and remove any of the rotting pieces. You should grow in raised beds if your soil is too heavy

Frequently Asked Questions

Do foxtail lilies multiply or spread?

While they can spread by seed, this should not cause concern. These perennials typically stay within their clumps and respond very well to being divided if you want to expand your collection.

Is foxtail lily safe for pets?

No research states that foxtail lilies are toxic to pets or humans. While not technically toxic, these plants are not classified as edibles, and eating them should be avoided.

Can you grow foxtail lilies indoors?

While possible, it would be very tricky. The container size needed to grow healthy plants would be very large. Because of this, it is not recommended that you grow these perennials indoors, but rather save them for your outdoor garden spaces.

Final Thoughts

There are so many reasons to plant foxtail lilies it’s hard to come up with an argument for skipping on this plant. If you have full sun, love beautiful flowers that are critter resistant, make great cut flowers, and are extremely low maintenance, this plant is for you. Plant your tubers in the fall for a beautiful garden come next summer!

SHARE THIS POST
A rustic wooden box filled with a display of pink tulip bulbs and sunny yellow daffodil bulbs. These flower bulbs rest in perfect harmony, ready to be planted and bring forth a symphony of blooming beauty in the garden.

Bulbs

How Long Can You Keep Flower Bulbs in Storage?

Storing bulbs can be a tricky process if you’re not sure how long or in what fashion they should be stored. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss discusses how long your bulbs will last if they are stored properly.

A close-up of beautiful dahlias flowers reveals their intricate pink and dark red blooms, with delicate, serrated petals that seem to cradle sunlight. Lush, green leaves provide a vibrant backdrop, their glossy surfaces reflecting the play of shadows and light.

Bulbs

Can You Leave Dahlias In the Ground Over the Winter?

Have you gotten caught up in the Dahlia craze and want to know whether your pretty plants will pop back up in the spring? In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss discusses whether or not dahlias can be left outside in the winter and what you can do to keep them coming back year after year.

bulbs for sun and shade

Bulbs

21 Best Bulb Varieties for Sun and Shade

Are you thinking of planting some bulbs this fall and wondering which plants will survive best in your garden? In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss shares 21 bulbs for sun or shade that you can plant in the garden now.