Silver Spear

The silvery spikes of Astelia
The silvery spikes of Astelia / Pinterest
  • Astelia chathamica 'Silver Spear' is an elegant architectural plant suitable for containers and illuminating shady corners

Astelia is a genus of around twenty-five species of evergreen perennial rhizatomous plants native to New Zealand. One of the most interesting of the species is A. chathamica, commonly called Silver Spear, which forms large clumps 1.2 metres tall of narrow, arching leaves. The leaves are silvery grey coloured on the top and white underneath and finish in a sharp point. The pale shimmering foliage makes a stunning focal point in a flower bed or in a container. The flowers form in panicles and can be greenish yellow or brown. They form deep among the leaves and are not obvious. The flowers are followed with orange and red berries on female plants but these too are often submerged within the foliage. The main attraction is the silvery arching leaves.

In its native New Zealand, Silver Spear is a forest plant growing in damp, dappled shade. Unlike many other silver leaved plants, it does not need full sun and prefers full or semi-shade. However the soil needs to be rich, with plenty of organic matter mixed in. Silver Spear will need regular watering although it will withstand some drought once established. It is classed as only semi-hardy so may need protection in the winter. In the spring, gently tug away any dead or damaged leaves before they start to rot as this could cause damage to the rest of the plant.

The genus name Astelia comes from Greek: 'a' means 'without' and 'stele' means 'trunk' or 'pillar,' referring to the lack of stem.

Propagation is by seed, it can be divided in the spring but does not like to be disturbed and often will not recover from being lifted and split.