Dasylirion wheeleri is an evergreen shrub found in the arid regions of northern Mexico, with a mound of spiky leaves. It’s part of the Asparagaceae family and sometimes found in the Sonoran Desert in New Mexico and Arizona.
When first encountering the Dasylirion many assume it is some type of Agave. Pronounced [das-il-LIR-ee-on] [WHEE-ler-ee], Dasylirion wheeleri has several common names:
- Desert spoon
- Spoon flower
- Common sotol
The desert spoon is frequently cultivated to produce sotol, an alcoholic drink closely related to tequila and mezcal. It’s also a popular ornamental plant.
Dasylirion Wheeleri Care
Size and Growth
Common sotol has evergreen foliage that stays on the shrub year-round. It’s a slow-growing plant with a short trunk that produces strap-shaped serrated leaves.
The leaves have a spoon-shaped base and sharply serrated margins. The trunk is unbranched and may eventually reach a height of four to six feet while the green leaves typically grow to about three feet long.
The leaves extend from the center of the trunk, creating a spiky mound.
The ends of the green leaves also become frizzy with age. This creates a hazy appearance when viewed from afar.
The desert spoon plant only flowers once every few years. The flowers arrive in the early summer, growing from spikes that reach 10’ to 15’ feet tall.
The flower spikes emerge from the center of the leaf rosette and contain tiny pale brown inflorescences.
The color of the flowers depends on the sex of the plant. Male plants produce creamy yellow flowers while female plants produce purplish-pink flowers.
After flowering, an oval fruit capsule appears. It measures about five to eight millimeters long and contains a single seed.
Light and Temperature
Common sotol needs full sun. If grown indoors, place it near a window that receives direct afternoon sunlight.
While it can grow in partial shade, limiting the sunlight limits the development of this slow-growing plant.
Sotol grows well in USDA hardiness zones 7 to 10. From eastern Maryland to California, the plant is well-suited for outdoor growth in the southern half of the United States.
It shouldn’t be placed in an area with temperatures that drop below 50° degrees Fahrenheit during the winter.
Due to the size of the plant, it’s not the easiest houseplant to grow. It requires a large pot with drainage holes and frequent watering.
Move potted desert spoon plants outdoors (full sun) during the warmer months and bring indoors for the winter.
Watering and Feeding
Established plants are drought tolerant while younger plants only require moderate watering. Allow the soil to dry out completely between watering.
When watering the plant, avoid watering the crown. Pouring water over the top of the plant increases the risk of root rot.
Water the soil and allow the plant to take moisture up through the roots.
Young plants need frequent watering during the first year, but they are still prone to overwatering. Water sparingly and frequently during the summer for optimal growth.
Fertilizer isn’t needed. However, a light application of liquid fertilizer during the spring encourages fuller growth.
Soil and Transplanting
Spoon flower prefers sandy or loamy soil with good drainage. It can grow in poor soil.
Transplant as needed in the spring. To remove the plant, carefully loosen the soil and gently pull the trunk.
NOTE: Always wear thick gardening gloves when handling or grooming the plant. The leaves contain sharp margins that may grab clothing and puncture skin.
Remove dead leaves to maintain an attractive appearance.
The plant doesn’t naturally shed its leaves. The leaves form an interesting mound around the unbranched trunk.
Learn More Check Out the Dasylirion Acrotrichum
How To Propagate Dasylirion Wheeleri
Propagate dasylirion wheeleri from seed. The seeds can be harvested directly from the plant after the fruit starts to ripen.
Allow the fruit to darken and remove it from the plant. When the fruit dies, open it to remove the single seed.
Sow seeds in the spring in a greenhouse or inside in a warm room with a temperature of 75° degrees Fahrenheit or warmer.
Use loamy soil and keep it moist until the seedlings appear. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, separate the seedlings into individual containers.
Continue growing the young plants indoors for the rest of the year. After winter and the last threat of frost, transplant the spoon flowers to their permanent location in full sun.
Sotol Dasylirion Wheeleri Pests or Diseases
Spoon flower isn’t invasive or known to contain any toxic properties. It may occasionally suffer from root rot.
If the plant grows in heavy, dense soil, it may not receive proper drainage. Improve the drainage of dense soil to protect against rot.
Adding mulch also protects against excess moisture. Use mineral mulch instead of bark mulch. Crushed granite, limestone, or pumice should improve drainage without holding more water.
Suggested Dasylirion Wheeleri Uses
Dasylirion Wheeleri is a decorative, drought tolerant plant that adds an interesting element to any rock garden, succulent garden, or flower garden. The unique appearance of the plant also makes it a fun ornamental plant to grow indoors.