Eremurus isabellinus 'Cleopatra'

How to grow foxtail lilies

Find out how to grow eye-catching foxtail lilies (Eremurus) with help from our practical Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Plant
Plant

Do Plant in January

Do Plant in February

Do Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do not Plant in May

Do not Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do Plant in October

Do Plant in November

Do Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does flower in June

Plant does flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Cut back
Cut back

Do not Cut back in January

Do not Cut back in February

Do not Cut back in March

Do not Cut back in April

Do not Cut back in May

Do not Cut back in June

Do not Cut back in July

Do not Cut back in August

Do not Cut back in September

Do Cut back in October

Do not Cut back in November

Do not Cut back in December

Foxtail lilies are also known as Eremurus. These hardy perennials are grown for their impressive spikes of flowers in June or July. Each flower spike is made up of hundreds of star-shaped flowers that are attractive to bees.

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Plants flower for about three weeks and offer valuable height at the back of a border.

Here’s how to get the best from eremurus.

These hardy perennials are grown for their impressive spikes of flowers in June or July.

eremurus-5

Where to plant foxtail lilies

Eremurus enjoy a soil with good drainage and a position of full sun. A sandy soil is ideal. In order to flower well a cold winter snap is beneficial. Give plants plenty of space – they don’t like being crowded.

A sheltered spot is ideal if you aren’t keen on offering a plant support to the June flower spikes. The foliage starts to fade before the flowers are over so it suits the plant to have its base disguised by other plants.

Planting an eremurus crown
Planting an eremurus crown

How to plant eremurus

Eremurus crowns are often sold soil free in autumn through specialist bulb suppliers. Plant them immediately. The roots are tuberous, thick and fleshy and are best planted sat over a mound and then the roots covered – a little like you would plant asparagus. Good drainage is essential – improve drainage dig a planting hole and place a small mound of horticultural sand or grit at the bottom of the hole. Sit the heart of the crown on the mound and then cover with soil. Good drainage will help plants establish quickly.

Position so that the crown of the plant is above the soil and never cover the crown with a mulch.

Propagation of eremurus

Eremurus will self-seed if happy. These seedlings can be lifted and replanted. If you wish to collect the seed avoid deadheading until the autumn and collect the seed when ripe on a dry day. Once seed has been sown in trays or pots of seed compost leave them in a cold frame to germinate.

Plants can also be divided after flowering but leave this until plants have been in place for a few years.

Foxtail lilies: problem solving

Eremurus are trouble-free plants if grown in a well-drained soil. They dislike being moved. Roots are fleshy and brittle so when lifted ensure you use a garden fork and don’t be tempted to pull plants – dig all the way round and then gently remove the soil.

Looking after eremurus

If grown in the right place the care of eremurus is very minimal. If you would rather plants didn’t set seed deadhead just after flowers have faded. If seedlings are required leave the flower spike standing until October. Plant supports will only be required in a windy spot.

Plants will appreciate the application of a general-purpose fertiliser in spring.

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How to get the best flowers

Eremurus are native to western and central Asia. This explains why plants require a position in full sun and a cold snap in winter in order to encourage the best flowers. 

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Eremurus isabellinus 'Romance'
Eremurus isabellinus ‘Romance’

Varieties to try

  • Eremurus robustus – the largest of the genus with thick flower spikes in June. Pinky flowers on spikes of 1.8m
  • Eremurus stenophyllus – warm yellow flowers from June to July on spikes 1.5m
  • Eremurus himalaicus – white flowers that appear slightly earlier than other types. Reaches 1.5m
  • Eremurus x isabellinus – pinky/orange flowers in June or July. Reaches a height of 1.5m
  • Eremurus x isabellinus ‘Romance’ (pictured) – pale pink flowers in July. Reaches a height of 1.5m