Blooming Foxtails Take Over the Gardens In Late Spring

Overhead view looking down onto a desert candle.

As warmer days continue of late spring to early summer, blooming Foxtails begin to take over the xeriscape gardens. With their lanky, green, budding spires, it will soon be a pollen feast for bees. And if there is one thing very obvious, it’s both the Allium AND Foxtail Lilies are very prolific this season. Definitely more so than in seasons past.

Observing their evolution from budding spikes to full blooming state makes for interesting photo-ops. Each visit to the gardens brings a new evolution to the plant’s state. The tricky thing with attempting to photograph them becomes the wind! Even early mornings when thinking the wind will be calm presents challenges. Combine that with some very busy bees – which I LOVE photographing on Foxtails, and it’s never a dull moment!

Budding Beginnings with Long, Lanky Stems

It’s so interesting to see the early beginnings of these plants.In the spring, strappy leaves emerge and form a rosette at the plant’s base. Gradually the long, budding spike appears. Initially they make me think of asparagus.

Budding foxtail stalks in late spring.
Budding foxtails with their lanky, green stems.
Budding foxtail stalk.

Foxtails are often considered a bulb, but they are actually a perennial tuberous root that blooms during the late spring into early summer. They can grow between 3 to 8 feet (depending on the variety) and can become rather statuesque. I can attest to these varying heights as some in the gardens are well over 6-7 feet tall! 

Also Known as Desert Candles

Flowering desert candles in xeric garden.
Blooming foxtails are also known as Desert Candles.

With tapering spikes, Foxtails bloom from the bottom up. The photo to the right gives you a good idea of how they look.

So when you see the spires of densely packed little flowers in colors of yellows and orange, you can see why they’ve been given the nick-name “Desert Candles”. They do look like big candles swaying in the wind!

Each stalk is covered with hundreds of ¾- to 1-inch little flowers in warm shades of white, yellow, orange, pink, and coral. They are dainty and beautiful! Let’s just say it’s “standing room only” considering how closely packed these little flowers are.

Small peach colored lily flowers.
Close-up of peach and yellow little Foxtail lily flowers.
Little yellow lily flowers.

Since they bloom from the bottom up, they also brown from the bottom up. Which when you see them in this state, they do look like a fox’s tail – especially the orange ones! The photo below gives you a prime example of what this looks like.

Another unusual photo op presented itself with the shadow reflection of blooming foxtaiils on this old tree stump. Thought it was kinda cool!

Browning flowers from the bottom up of stalk.
Foxtail flowers browning from the bottom up.
Shadows of flowers on tree stump.
Shadow reflections on old tree stump.

FYI, apparently they are rabbit and deer-resistant.  A definite perk for gardeners that may consider growing these showy blooms,  They grow best in full sunlight, well-draining sandy to loamy soil, and thrive in the cooler temperature.s  This is likely why the xeriscape gardens present ideal conditions for them.

Blooming Foxtails Entice Countless Bees!

Bee with orange pollen sacs by yellow foxtail lily flowers.
Bee with its orange pollen sac hovering by these little flowers.

This is by far my favorite aspect of photographing Foxtail lilies. It’s the bees that go crazy gathering pollen on them. And this year I’ve been blessed with a few photos that are truly unique. One of two orange belted bumble bees and a big bumble bee on the little peach flowers. It was a total score!

Orange belted bumble bees on small lily flowers.
Two orange belted bumble bees gathering pollen.
Big bumble bee on orange foxtail flowers.
A rare treat to capture a photo of big bumble bee with its orange pollen sacs.
Bee plays peek a boo by little flowers.
This little bee is playing peek a boo behind the lily flowers.
Bee hovering next to foxtail lily flowers.
This little bee with its bright orange pollen sacs is searching for the perfect flower!

This is the first time I’ve seen so many of the larger bees gathering pollen on little Foxtails. Sometimes I wonder how they manage given their stocky bodies? But hey, Nature has it figured out and I’m happy to observe and capture a few moments on camera. I’m also ever so grateful for the opportunity to share the space of their pollinating universe 🙂


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