What a great plant. Despite being stuck with a tongue-twister of a Latin name – Beschorneria septentrionalis is year-round one of the neatest, most reliable foliage plants in my garden.
Its mid-green rosettes of soft strappy leaves have all the upsides of other accent plants without the spiky leaf ends of yucca and minus the messy brown spent leaves of some agaves. It lends gravity and a ‘full stop’ to floatier planting and can also bulk-up over time in spots where you might use arthropodium, but without getting shredded by snails.
It will hack it out with glossy goodness in dry shade and only seems to scorch or look a bit shabby in really hot exposed spots. I would honestly grow it for its foliage contribution alone.
But in early spring, this strait-laced plant has a flamboyant side that reveals itself with the most incredible exertion of energy. If spring is a disco, then Beschorneria septentrionalis goes from business suit to hotpants – pushing up an asparagus-spear-like flower spike that gradually elongates to over a metre and flushes a deep lipstick pink with bell-shaped flowers. Well hello!
The timing of this outrageous flowering stem brings vibrancy to all the fresh burgundy foliage in my spring garden like berberis and cotinus and complements an early flush of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’. I just love the bold colour it brings and even more the anticipation as it very first emerges – this is one of those plants I have to check on daily when it’s in flowering phase. It happens to bloom at the same time as the equally pink Veldt Lily (Veltheimia bracteata) which could make for a fun combo.
The flowering stem eventually fades to green and can look a bit lack-lustre. Laziness means I tend to leave the spike on to ‘enjoy the verticality’, even when it’s past its prime.
My only disappointment is that after four years and with multiple plants, I’m yet to see the same plant flower again. They just take turns. I’m unsure if the next year of flowering will come from a new rosette pup from the side, or whether my clumps just need to mature more. In public planting they definitely seem to get repeat mass flowering.
It can also be a little tricky to source – but gradually it’s becoming more available. Also worth a look is its big brother Beschorneria yuccoides which takes triffid-like flowering to a whole other level…
Kate Catterall is a Melbourne-based gardener, landscape designer, writer and volunteer with Open Gardens Victoria. You can find her pondering plants on Instagram @gardeneuphoria