How to Start a Foxtail Lily From Seed

Updated November 21, 2016

The foxtail lily (Eremurus robustus), also known as desert candle, is a showy perennial with blue-green foliage and a tall flower spike that appears in late spring. The foliage grows to approximately 4 feet tall, while the flower spike can reach heights of up to 9 feet. The flowers are available in a host of colours including white, yellow, pink and bronze. Foxtail lilies prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Sow the seeds indoors in late winter and introduce the young plants to the garden when all danger of frost has passed.

Select a plant flat that has several holes in the bottom to encourage drainage. Rinse the flat with a mixture of one part bleach and 10 parts water if it has ever been used before.

Fill the plant flat three-fourths of the way with vermiculite, which will provide the ideal, fast-draining medium for the seedlings. Add just enough water to lightly moisten the vermiculite.

Sow the seeds 1/2 inch deep. Pat the surface of the soil down very lightly.

Stretch a layer of clear plastic over the plant flat and move it to a location that maintains temperatures of approximately 15 degrees Celsius. The selected location should receive bright, indirect sunlight most of the day.

Remove the plastic when the first foxtail lily seedling sprouts.

Check the moisture level of the soil each day. Water only if the surface feels completely dry, as the roots of the foxtail lily will rot if they remain too wet.

Feed with 15-30-15 fertiliser, mixed at half the strength recommended on the package, beginning two to three days after the seedlings emerge. Continue to feed the plants every two weeks.

Transplant each seedling into a 3- to 4-inch container filled with equal parts potting soil, sand and sphagnum peat, when the first set of leaves appear.

Move to the yard or garden when the seedlings are 5 to 6 inches tall and there is no longer a danger of frost.


Keep a 2-to 3-inch layer of mulch around the plants during the first growing season.

Things You'll Need

  • Plant flat
  • Vermiculite
  • Clear plastic
  • 15-30-15 fertiliser
  • 3- to 4-inch containers
  • Potting soil
  • Sand
  • Sphagnum peat
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