How to Grow Xerophyllum Plants

Guide to Growing Bear grass and Turkey beard

A small genus of plants containing just two species. Xerophyllum are hardy perennials that range in height from 60 cm to 1.5 metres.

They have spiky leaves and blooms in the summer carrying small stellar flowers of white, atop stringy stems.

Some of the common names for the two Xerophyllum members include Turkeybeard, Mountain asphodel, Squaw grass, and Bear grass.

Xerophyllum tenax

Xerophyllum tenax by GlacierNPS.

How to Grow Xerophyllum

When growing from seed it is best to grow Turkeybeard and other Xerophyllum plants outdoors.

Sow the seeds at a depth of about 6 mm (1/4 inch) in flats using fresh seed at the end of summer/ early autumn.

Sink the flats in a shady area, cover with glass, and keep moist.

It should take from one to two months for the seeds to germinate in a shady area of the garden.

Ideally Xerophyllum should be spaced from 30 to 60 cm (one to two feet) apart and grown in a sunny part of the garden that has a rich soil of pH 6 to 8.


Beargrass by brewbooks.

Xerophyllum Growing and Care Guide

  • Common Names: Bear grass, Turkey beard, Squaw grass, Quip-quip, Mountain asphodel, Beartongue, Indian basket grass.
  • Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
  • Height: 20 to 60 inches (50—150 cm).
  • Native: Northern America.

  • Genus: Contains two species: Xerophyllum asphodeloides (Turkey beard) and Xerophyllum tenax (Bear grass).
  • Growing Region: Zones 6 to 9.
  • Flowers: Early summer.
  • Flower Details: White, cream. Racemes. Tiny Star-shaped. Wiry stems. Terminally clustered. Plants on bloom have a resemblance to upright clubs.
  • Foliage: Herbaceous. Thread-like to linear, Pine needle-like. 12 to 40 inches long (30–100 cm).

  • Sow Outside: Germination time: one to two months. Use fresh seed. Sow at 1/4 inch (6 mm) into flats towards the end of summer. Sink the flat into the ground in an area that offers shade, preferably close to a wall that faces north. Provide a glass/plastic covering. Keep an eye on the flats to ensure that the soil remains moist and to check if seedlings have emerged. After one full year of growth, transplant the seedlings to their final following the last frost. Space at 12 to 24 inches (30–60 cm).
  • Sow Inside: No.

  • Requirements and care: Full sunlight. Good drainage. Can tolerate wet soils. Rich soil. Soil pH 6 to 8. Spring mulch. Regular watering. Once established do not move. Propagate: by dividing in the spring in cooler areas or the autumn in warmer areas.

  • Family: Melanthiaceae.
  • Closely Related Species: Bunchflowers.
  • Miscellaneous: Thrives in areas subject to frequent fires. Their rhizomatous roots can survive high heat, and the plants are one of the first to recolonized burnt out areas. Traditionally used by Native Americans to weave waterproof baskets.

Caring for Xerophyllum Plants

It is important to supply Xerophyllum with a mulch every spring and to keep them well watered.

If you require more plants then propagate by division in the spring or autumn.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Xerophyllum plants. You may also enjoy the following flowering perennial growing guides: How to grow Perennial Tropaeolum and Chrysanthemum plants.