Hesperaloe parviflora, is an absolute gem of a plant and perfect for drought-resistant gardens in the UK. Its extraordinary ability to take extremes of cold whilst at the same time being tolerant of drought conditions means it can readily withstand the harsh rigours and eccentric vagaries of the British climate and its mercurial weather.
Native to the Chihuahuan Desert which straddles the Trans-Pecos region of Texas and the the States of Chihuahua and Coahuila in Mexico and further north into central and southern Texas, Hesperaloe parviflora is well acclimatised to extremes of weather. The Trans-Pecos around the Big Bend National Park is one of the harshest environments in Texas and with high elevations it regularly experiences heavy frosts and snow as well as extremely high temperatures and little rainfall during the summer.
A tough yet elegant grass-like plant, Hesperaloe parviflora is a species that somehow manages to be both architectural and delightfully understated at the same time. Its many fine qualities warrant that it should definitely be more widely planted in UK gardens. Usually stemless, but with age forming a short woody base, in time it forms large clumps and although rather slow-growing it will eventually reach 1.3 m in height and spread out to 2 m across. It has long, linear arching foliage, greyish green in colour without spines but with thin white threads on its edges not unlike Yucca filamentosa or Washingtonia filifera. These leaves are thin and channelled like a stem of rolled grass and somewhat resembling in cross-section the leaves of the Bromeliad, Billbergia nutans. The foliage sometimes takes on a reddish colouration in winter. But beyond its delicate and wispy foliage it is the inflorescences that are the show-stopper. It is the only member of the Agavoideae to have red flowers and they are a beautiful coral-red or salmon-red in colour with long tubular buds opening to bell-shaped flowers. These exquisite flowers are held aloft on a tall scape which can reach as high as 2.5 m but being rather thin they often bend down and becomes horizontal. A mass planting in flower is magical and it is used extensively in the south-west of the USA in xerophytic landscapes, private gardens and municipal plantings.
Because it is fully hardy if given good drainage and can withstand hard freezes to as low as -25 C it is an ideal plant for British and European gardens. It requires virtually no maintainance at all, is thornless and tolerates drought and extremes of heat as easily as it tolerates extremes of cold. Hesperaloe parviflora also makes a perfect container plant and a terracotta planter is an ideal home for it until you've worked out its final position. A wonderful xeric plant it is - as yet - rarely encountered in UK plantings.
Utterly indispensible xerophytic exotica !
|Synonyms||Aloe yuccaefolia, Hesperaloe yuccaefolia, Yucca parviflora|
|Geographical Origin||Texas, USA and Chihuahua and Coahuila, Mexico|
|Cultivation||Full sun. Good drainage. A raised bed is ideal|
|Eventual Height||1m with the inflorescence reaching as high as 2.5m|
|Eventual Spread||1 - 2m|
|Hardiness||Fully hardy if given excellent drainage. Can take temperatures down to an incredible -25C, far colder than usually encountered in the UK|
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