Evergreen sotol is a study in contrasts. Its narrow spiky leaves grow in a rounded rosette form. The play of arrowlike foliage and round silhouette give sotol instant garden presence. Add sotol, also called desert spoon, to foundation plantings, island beds, and anywhere you need bold plant form. Avoid areas with small children, though, as the foliage has sharp edges.
Sotol is a North American desert native and has exceptional drought resistance and heat tolerance. Plant it in places where it is tough to grow other plants: dry curbside beds, sunbaked foundation gardens or patio areas, rock gardens and native plant areas in the southwest. Sotol is a favorite of contemporary garden designers because of its minimalist appearance and strong form. It grows well in containers and will thrive in container gardens for years.
Its sharp spines (or teeth) along the leaf deter deer and other garden pests as well as unwanted human visitors. If you don't want it to work as a barrier plant, avoid planting sotol near walkways.
Sometimes overlooked, but a pleasing attribute, is sotol's tall white flower spikes that attract hummingbirds. Flowers appear on mature plants in spring and last for several weeks. Plant three or more plants together for a dramatic floral display.
Sotol grows best in full sun and well-drained, lean soil. Water it deeply and regularly during the first growing season to establish a strong root system. Once established, water sotol deeply every few weeks during the summer months. Don't water it in winter or you risk rot. Prune sotol, working carefully to avoid with spiked blades, in cool months as needed.
More Varieties of Sotol
Dasylirion wheeleri bears lovely, silvery-blue foliage and holds up extremely well to dry conditions. It's native to areas of the North American Southwest. It grows 20 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Zones 7-10
This variety is beloved for its towering 5- to 20-foot-tall bloom stalk. Clusters of small white flowers decorate the upper third of the sturdy stem. This evergreen perennial has spiny leaves and blooms in late spring or early summer. Zones 8-10
Dasylirion texanum offers fierce spikes on its leaves, but they're counterbalanced by lovely flower spikes. The 9- to 15-foot-tall flower stems are decorated with clusters of blooms from May through August in many areas. Texas sotol leaves are about 3 feet long. Zones 8-10
Plant Sotol With:
This North American native plant has a home in nearly every garden with flowers that hummingbirds love. Long blooming with brilliantly colored, tubular flowers, penstemons -- ironically -- have been a staple in European gardens for decades.There are many different penstemon types. The leaves are lance-shape or oval, sometimes purple-red as in 'Husker Red'. Some Western species need outstanding drainage to dry conditions and won't thrive during wet weather. However, many, such as 'Husker Red', thrive in a wide variety of conditions. Just be sure to provide excellent drainage. Mulch in areas where a type is marginally hardy.