Desert Candle (Eremurus) – The Complete Guide

The desert candle, also known as the foxtail lily, provides a decorative structure to the perennial bed with its majestic silhouette.

As a solitaire with a unique long-distance effect, you can not escape the magic of an Eremurus.

Planting the Desert Candle Properly

Proper planting of all Eremurus species and varieties is based on prudent soil preparation. Since the starfish-like tubers are quite friable in nature, loose and deep soil is essential.

If the soil seems too clayey, add sand or fine chippings if in doubt, as well as some compost. This is how to plant the desert candle properly:

  • The ideal planting time is from September to November.
  • Prepare an 18-20 inches (45-50 cm) deep planting pit.
  • Mix mature compost and horn shavings into the excavated soil.
  • Spread 8 inches (20 cm) high drainage of sand or fine gravel on the bottom of the pit.
  • Plant the tuber so that its eye is no more than 6 inches (15 cm) below the surface of the soil.

After watering the planting site, spread a layer of leaf mould, compost, and coniferous brushwood. In this way, winter wetness can not harm the tubers.

Care Tips

To manage the care of a furious Eremurus, you do not need to resort to extensive previous gardening knowledge.

After planting, spread a generous layer of mulch to protect the ornamental perennial from the rigors of winter in subsequent years.

In the spring, the desert candle gratefully accepts a fertilizer for bulbs or a portion of compost with horn shavings.

Water the flower during drought, but without causing waterlogging. Cut the withered flower candles optionally immediately after flowering or only in the fall.

Before the first frost, the entire perennial should be cut near the ground to spread the mentioned winter protection in the form of leaves, straw, and brushwood.

What Location is Suitable for the Desert Candle?

The desert candle is considered a prime example of a sun worshipper. If you grant Eremurus a full-sun, warm, and wind-protected location, its mighty towers of flowers will rise above the lanceolate, grass-like foliage.

No less relevant site condition turns out to be the soil condition. The delicate rhizomes require a loose, not too moist, and nutrient-rich substrate.

The Right Planting Distance for Desert Candles

In parks and large gardens, the imposing desert candle comes into its own excellently in small groups of 3-4 specimens.

The ideal planting distance, in this case, is 20-24 inches (50-60 cm), respectively 4 Eremurus per 10 sqft.

If a foxtail lily functions as a structuring solitary, we recommend a distance of at least 32 inches (80 cm) from the neighboring bed.

What Soil Does the Desert Candle Need?

You need to pay special attention to the quality of the soil, because it is a key factor for the successful cultivation of Eremurus.

This is how the soil should be composed:

  • Rich in nutrients
  • Humic and deep loose
  • Fresh to slightly sandy and with first-class water drainage.

Since nutrient-rich soil tends to be heavy in consistency, simply add a few handfuls of sand, fine grit, and coarse compost as needed.

What is the Best Planting Time for Desert Candle?

September through November have proven to be the best possible planting time for Eremurus in gardening practice.

By this time, the summer sun has warmed the soil deeply, forcing rapid rooting before winter. In addition, desert candles start their first garden season with a vital head start on growth.

Pruning Desert Candle Properly

The more undisturbed a desert candle is allowed to thrive, the more splendidly its impressive silhouette unfolds.

Consequently, cut the decorative perennial rather rarely. To use the furious flower candles as decoration for the floor vase, cut them off as soon as the lower buds have opened.

The withered flower columns continue to provide decorative accents with their seed heads. Provided that seeding of desert candles in the garden is desirable, enjoy this spectacle and perform the pruning close to the ground only in the fall.

Otherwise, cut off the wilted inflorescences first and leave the foliage in the bed until it is fully retracted.

Watering Desert Candle

Where such mighty towers of flowers rise above a bushy canopy of foliage, intense evaporation understandably takes place. Therefore, water your desert candles in a full sun location regularly when the soil surface has dried.

The water is best absorbed by the decorative perennials when it is poured from the can spout directly onto the root disc. Ideally, administer the watering water in sips, so that no harmful waterlogging can form.

Fertilizing Desert Candle Properly

With starter fertilization in the spring, you’ll give your desert candle the energy it needs to bloom magnificently.

Ideally, administer organic fertilizer such as mature compost, horn shavings, guano granules, or bark humus. Alternatively, a commercial fertilizer for flower bulbs serves as a nutrient supplier.

Overwintering Desert Candles

Because the rhizome of a desert candle is so close to the surface of the soil, the following precautions are useful for healthy overwintering:

  • Cut off any retracted foliage and wilted flower corms no later than fall.
  • Cover the planting site high with leaves, compost, and brushwood.

More threatening than freezing frost and winter snow wetness are late spring ground frosts. Keep an eye on weather forecasts to protect fresh sprouts with garden fleece wrapped several times or upturned pots if necessary.

Propagating Desert Candle

A well-established desert candle will produce daughter tubers on its starfish-like root system that are suitable for propagation.

In late summer, dig up the desert candle to cut off these brood tubers with a sharp knife.

Through the winter, nurture the offspring in pots with a mix of potting soil and sand to develop a vigorous root system.

In late summer, plant the young desert candles in loose, nutritious soil in a full-sun location. Alternatively, plant the harvested daughter tubers directly in the bed, which, however, comes with a high risk of failure.

Another method of propagation is sowing. In autumn, collect the seeds from the ripe capsule fruits. Since these are cold germinators, sow the seeds directly in the bed, so that they naturally receive the cold stimulus.

On the other hand, sowing is more successful in controlled conditions behind glass. Stratification in this case paves the way for germination by depositing the seeds in moist sand in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator for 4-6 weeks.

Desert Candle Does Not Bloom

When an Eremurus refuses to bloom as longed for, there can be several causes behind it. The following overview shows common triggers and provides quick tips for their remedy:

  • Lack of light: Transplant the desert candle to a full-sun location.
  • Compacted soil: Optimize the soil with sand, fine grit, and compost.
  • Tuber rot due to waterlogging: Dig up the plant and dispose of it.
  • Frost damage due to ground frost: Protect the first shoots with several layers of garden fleece.

If your problematic plant is a seedling-propagated desert candle, be patient. After sowing, it takes 3 to 5 years until the first flowering.

Beautiful Varieties

  • Eremurus x isabellinus ‘Cleopatra’: A wonderful compact variety with orange, red striped flowers, and red midrib. The growing height is 50 inches (125 cm).
  • Eremurus x isabellinus ‘Romance’: This desert candle spreads romantic flair from May to July with salmon-pink flower corollas. The height of growth is 70 inches (180 cm).
  • Eremurus himalaicus: A magnificent specimen with milk-white, 20 inches (50 cm) long flower panicles and hundreds of individual flowers. The height of growth is 60 inches (150 cm).
  • Eremurus stenophyllus ‘Solid yellow’: This variety accentuates the border with bright columns of flowers. It is also a wonderful cut flower. The height of growth is 55 inches (130 cm).
  • Eremurus x isabellinus ‘Pinocchio’: An eye-catcher for the perennial bed thanks to its orange inflorescences. The growth height is 40-55 inches (100-130 cm).