Foxtail Lilies – Towering Stems with Hundreds of Little Flowers

Orange and yellow Desert Candles flowers in xeriscape garden.

Now that the red Oriental poppies have come and gone and purple Allium is winding down, Foxtail Lilies take their rightful place center stage. And this year there appears to be a bumper crop of them. They are happily blooming everywhere! Truthfully speaking, they have not looked this good for several seasons. Apparently they liked our whacky, wet spring conditions!

With their towering stems covered in hundreds of little lily flowers, they are unlike anything else in the gardens. And to say they stand out when in full bloom is an understatement. People strolling through the gardens who have never seen them before come with inquiries. And while I’m there with my camera, I’m all to happy to answer questions when I can.

A Lanky Start…

Also known as Desert Candles, you could call the initial stage of these flowers a bit of an ugly ducking. With their strappy leaves, they start shooting up around mid-May. Seeing them in their early state you’d be hard-pressed to believe they evolve into such towering beauties! The tall, green lanky stalks In this early phase look more like asparagus. But nature certainly prevails when one is patient as they become beautifully statuesque!!

Having gotten more observant in photo-documenting flowering sequences, the photos below will help give you an idea of how Foxtail Lilies evolve. You can see the green lanky stems with the little buds emerging and beginning to bloom.

Some background Information…

For those that may like a bit more background information on these flowers, here you go…

Tall, orange foxtail lily flowers stems beginning to bloom.
Orange colored Foxtail Lilies beginning to bloom.

A foxtail lily is often called a bulb but it is actually a perennial tuberous root. They typically bloom during the late spring into early summer.

The impressive flower stalks of Foxtail Lilies can grow between 3 to 8 feet (depending on the variety) and can even reach up to 9 feet.

The stalks are covered with spires and are densely packed with hundreds of ¾- to 1-inch little flowers in warm shades of white, yellow, orange, pink, and coral.

These showy blooms are deer and rabbit resistant.

Foxtail Lilies Close-ups for Details

I love getting close-up photos of these little flowers as you can see all the details. Admittedly I’m drawn to the more peachy, coral colored foxtails as I find they photograph much better. The white ones tend to photograph well too.

The downside is once the wind picks up later in the morning these tall, flower weighted stalks can sway in the breeze making it tricky to get a good photo. But it’s worth it just to be there in the presence of such beauty.

Peached colored foxtail lily flowers close-up
Close-up of little peach colored foxtails.
Solo flower atop little foxtail lilies
A little foxtail flower pokes up from the top.

Another interesting thing about Foxtail Lilies is the flowers that cover the top half of the tapering spike bloom from the bottom up. You can see this more clearly in the photo in the info box above.

And as the bottom flowers turn brown, they really do look like foxtails – especially the orange ones. As the yellow variety begin to brown from the bottom, they do give the appearance of a candle with a brightly glowing flame. Perhaps why they also go by the name “Desert Candles”?

Bees Dive In and Hover About

Bees LOVE foxtails. As the mornings warm up they are busily buzzing and hovering about gathering pollen. Their little pollen sacks, swollen in bright orange. It’s so cool to watch this. The only downside is that occasionally you will see assassin bugs laying in wait among the little flowers to capture an unsuspecting bee. Did not know what this whole thing was until some friends gave me a bee book for Christmas. Assassin bugs are NOT friends of bees!

Once again I feel honored that Nature allows me a glimpse into their world. Trying to photograph these busy little fellas is always a challenge. For the bazillion photos I may take of them, only a couple are really noteworthy. But I am grateful just the same. It’s so worth it 🙂

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