Problem: You have a bare spot in your desert landscape; you travel often; and you want a strong focal point.
Solution: An architectural plant that’s very low-water and works perfectly in a large pot.
The giant hesperaloe, with its bold form, serves well as a dramatic focal point and accent plant in a desert landscape. It features stiff, 6-foot-long, deep-lime green leaves; curly white fibers that run along its edges add to its character. This hardy Chihuahuan Desert native handles full and reflected sun, making it a natural fit for a sun-drenched (i.e. hot) yard. The plant will shoot up a 12-to-15 foot stalk of creamy white lily-like flowers in the summer. Although neither plant is part of the yucca family, the giant hesperaloe (Herperaloe funifera) is related to the common hesperaloe, the red yucca.
Because of the open nature of the leaf clumps and the fact that the leaves are very stiff, when potted, the giant will not be a high tipping risk in the Palm Springs/Coachella Valley winds. I recommend that you use a pot that will be proportionate to the size of the plant. The one pictured above is in a 32-inch-diameter pot. Fill the entire pot with cactus soil, as it needs excellent drainage. Be sure the pot has a good hole—2 inches would be great, or several 1-inch holes will suffice. The only maintenance required is to cut the dead stalk at its base after it is done flowering.
Plant the “Giant” so that the base of the plant is only 3 to 4 inches from the top of the pot, so that the pot serves as a pedestal for the plant. You can also “dress” the top of the soil with rock. (See below). I like using 4-to-5 inch, straight-sided rock with sharp edges and angles, as it complements the strong lines of the plant.
If you only have 20 minutes in your desert potted garden this week: Water your potted cactus deeply with a water-soluble fertilizer at half-strength (of the recommended directions on the container).
Marylee is the founder and former owner of The Contained Gardener in Tucson, Ariz. She has become known as the Desert’s Potted Garden Expert. E-mail her with comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow The Potted Desert on Facebook.