Is eremurus high or low water?

Jim McKenney
Mon, 18 Sep 2006 07:23:44 PDT
Eremurus don't last in my garden unless carefully protected during the
summer. But given that consideration, they do well.

I've seen masses of the small yellow one sold as bungei or stenophyllus in
one local garden I know; but that site is on a 30 degree slope and
presumably not prone to drainage problems. 

I've tried them in densely planted borders of other herbaceous plants, and
they don't last - although they generally bloom once spectacularly before
they disappear. 

The two I grow now - a huge pinkish one received as E. robustus and a big
pale yellow one received as 'Romance' - do well in a raised bed covered with
a pane of glass from early June (well before the foliage matures) until
sometime in the autumn. 

The plant of 'Romance' is a rescue plant from another bed in the garden: it
was declining there, and when I dug it the rootstock had diminished to a six
inch starfish. After two years in the raised, summer-covered bed, it has
increased in size dramatically. 

My experience suggests that under our conditions they definitely need help
to get through our summers. 

Two other comments: Kelly O'Neill mentioned some difficulties in growing
Eremurus from seed. Fresh seed germinates readily. The first year plant is a
single, sharply angled leaf about two or three inches long with a root about
the same size as the leaf. When the leaf dies down, you're left with a sort
of little brown stick in the ground. Keep these dry during the summer
(unless you're into natural selection and think you might thus get a
moisture tolerant form). If most of them are dying for you, you are probably
keeping them too moist during the summer. 

Also, for seedlings and mature plants watch out for late spring freezes. For
plants which grow in the shadow of ice packed mountains, they are very
intolerant of freezing temperatures once the leaves get going.

John Bryan, in explaining the name Eremurus, gave the standard English
dictionary derivation, solitary + tail. But for anyone exploring the culture
of these plants, it's worth noting that the Greek word eremos means solitary
only in a metaphoric sense; it's core meaning is wilderness, desert,
wasteland - all good descriptions of the places where these plants grow. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where after a very slow start
the Colchicum season is well underway. When the buds first appeared, we had
a week of dull rainy and cloudy weather; when the flowers finally opened,
they were some of the biggest and most richly colored I've ever seen. The
tessellated sorts are glorious.   

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