Thursday, September 24, 2009


Even though my Astelias are among my favorite plants, I realized I’ve never photographed or talked about them here, and why not? I love the slightly iridescent or shimmery look to their leaves. If you look closely you see fuzz on the leaves is what gives this appearance.
A little like a cross between a yucca and flax they have an elegant form and growth habit along with arching, deeply folded leaves. Astelia are part of the lily family, there are 25 species, 13 endemic to New Zealand. The first one I discovered, an Astelia chathamica ‘Silver Spear,’ was at Garden Fever, here in Portland. I didn’t purchase it because the tag stated it was hardy to 20-25 F, which can be on the edge here in Zone 8, and I didn’t want to risk it. See…occasionally even I can be cautious!

Of course I quickly regretted it, went back and it was gone. Problem solved when I found a nice specimen a few months later at my first Hardy Plant Society of Oregon spring sale, it was large, healthy and grew to be even larger and healthier. Unfortunately winter 2008 proved that my earlier caution was not misplaced, winter wiped out the Silver Spear.

In the mean time I acquired an Astelia nervosa, at the 2008 Rare Plant Research open house. I had seen this variety a few times, but it was always too expensive for the size. Finally at RPR the price, and size, was right. I love its burgundy/chocolate tones. Since I planted this one in a container I was able to bring it inside when the temperature dropped, so it made it through the winter without loosing a single leaf. Then last spring Garden Fever had small 4” pots of ‘Silver Spear,’ tempting me to take the plunge once again. They were a mere shadow of my former plant, but the price was right so I bought two. One went in the ground…
And the other in a pot (insurance for this winter), both have put on significant new growth over the summer.
And the “dead” one? Removed and put in an out of the way area to convalesce. Looks like it’s going to make it after all! I think I’ll be adding to my Astelia collection…


  1. Another group of plants I know nothing about, so thank you for the primer! That looks like the nucleus of a great collection.

    Isn't it wonderful when something you gave up for dead suddenly begins to grow? Power to the plants!

  2. DG~~ Well it must be hardier than purported if its roots survived last winter. Good news for you. I can see you're going to "need" a few more. :] Both species look fabulous in the containers you chose for them. The gravel top dressing is perfect. Love the banana too.

  3. Thanks for blazing a trail into the territory of unknown plants and reporting back to the rest of us.

  4. I can see why you like these, and also the similarity to flax. Very cool that the "dead" one revived! I love that grouping with the red banana and is that a "salad bowl" down below? Also how you put the other with agaves. It's amazing how you put pictures of your garden up daily but still have some plants we've not seen! I think you are going to have to do a "virtual walking tour" like Grace's one of these days...

  5. I wondered what they looked like more settled in. I saw them at the HPSO sale, but they could have gone either way. I was afraid they could have grown lopsided and mangy, but they fill out nice and neat and even. I'm just going to have to text you next time I see something like that, that I know you'll know about, and get a yes or no vote, so I don't pass up something good again.

  6. Jane, glad to introduce you! Yes I am very amazed at what some of the plants that suffered last winter have done. None of the "dead" ones look fabulous (yet) but the fact that they hung in there and are trying is wonderful.

    Grace, I think the fact that it was so well established helped too.

    ricki, ha! Trail blazer...I like it. If only...

    Karen, it is a "salad bowl"...the banana will be toast come winter but I am hoping to keep the salad bowl alive. A virtual walking tour...that could be fun!

    Megan, ditto back at you (for the knowledge thing). I think you could really like these, and should get one, next time.

  7. For the life of me... I can't figure out why I have such bad luck with Astelias. Wonder if it's a light issue, or maybe ph?
    Yours look superb, if I do say so!! Alice


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