Last autumn my wonderful godfathers sent me a survival pack from Holland, and of course a Dutch survival pack contains nothing but the most wonderful bulbs. I had never seen the root of a Foxtail lily before, and my first instinct was that I had received a bunch of alien octopus. Although the dried roots are planted in autumn and came with the autumn bulbs, they are not really bulbs but perennials.
The foxtail lily stems from arid mountain desert conditions in Central Asia, and consequently it likes a sunny spot with free draining soil. It should be planted on a little mound of grit or sand, but as the bed where I planted it already contains so much grit and sand I simply chucked them in. Luckily it seems to have worked fine! In autumn it can be good to mulch with a drier kind of mulch like bark or shingle around the plant, but the crown must not be covered or it has a tendency to rot. The one thing it doesn't like is standing in water clogged soil. As this is the first time I am experimenting with it I can't yet tell how hardy it is, but I'm hoping it will be back next year!
As the flowers grow into tall spikes, they should be planted in a sheltered place or staked if it is more windy. It is said that the name comes from the flower spikes habit of meandering like the bushy tails of foxes rather than standing straight like soldiers. The flowering time is relatively short, three weeks or so, but as it stands tall and uses little ground space it is a beautiful addition to the border. In my cold climate garden they flower from mid June to early July.
I went for a harmonious colour scheme of soft pink columbines (Aquilegia) and blue irises and geraniums, with salvias ranging from pink to blueish purple to follow in July. I have seen foxtail lilies planted in borders with roses and bright coloured Armenian cranesbill (Geranium psilostemon) to great effect, so for next season I may try it in my new rose border.
It was a delightful surprise to me that they are an insect magnet too, with bees and beetles enjoying the nectar rich plants. I know some gardeners are averse to beetles, but personally I just love scarab beetles of all sorts. I don't think they do much damage, foraging for pollen and glittering beautifully in the sun.