Sotol, in the botanical genus Dasylirion, has a number of great species to choose from. All are low-water, desert species, with an architectural structure and aesthetic that most gardeners either love or hate.
If you have anything but the rockiest, most well-drained soil, you’ll need to amend the planting area to create a very xeric environment; mostly consisting of decomposed granite and other coarse planting substrate. You might even consider building berms for your sotols, further removing the roots and crown from any potential of rot.
All are evergreen and should be planted in full sun, in the hottest, most brutal section of your landscape; areas where most other plants would fry and shrivel up to nothing.
The various species are often called by the same common name indiscriminately, including blue sotol, green sotol, and desert spoon. All have very long, linear leaves that are very fibrous, with razor-sharp edges. They also have a mostly rounded appearance overall, appearing almost spherical when seen from afar.
Species berlandieri is one of the largest and most upright, growing to about 7 feet tall and 4 feet wide at maturity, with striking blue-green foliage. Each leaf may be 5 feet long, but, lacking an internal support mechanism, they bend and fall over about halfway, creating a drooping, pendulous effect that is quite unique.
Species wheeleri has light green that get a bit frazzled at the top. Its leaves don’t droop and have slightly toothed margins that make them extra sharp. It also stays rather contained, getting only 4 to 6 feet tall and about 3 feet wide.
Another noteworthy species is acrotriche, which gets about 6 feet tall and five feet wide, with rather thin, light green leaves that have a slight bluish tinge. Like wheeleri, the foliage gets a bit frazzled on the tips, giving it a bit of a wispy look.
All produce towering flower stalks in mid to late summer, similar to their relatives in the Agave family, but unlike Agaves, Sotols do not die after flowering.
Our viewer pictures this week come from Williamson County Master Gardener Viki Strauss and her husband Sam, who removed their lawn in a shady backyard for a serene wildlife habitat. Of course, Augie and I especially love the picture of their gorgeous Irish setter Theo photobombing one picture!