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Astelia chathamica. Wikimedia
Recommended for your garden in the south of Spain: Astelia chathamica
Gardening

Recommended for your garden in the south of Spain: Astelia chathamica

The dramatic foliage, pale green on the top and silvery white underneath, makes it an ideal specimen plant, suitable for a large container, for growing on walls and in rockeries or in mass plantings

Denise Bush

Malaga

Friday, 5 July 2024, 15:08

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Native to New Zealand, Astelia chathamica is an epiphyte which can be found growing in the apex of tree branches and on cliff faces in its native environment.

Commonly called silver spear and Maori flax, the genus has many species and hybrids, varying only in height and width of leaf.

A. chathamica is one of the largest species, growing up to 1.5 metres high. The dramatic foliage, pale green on the top and silvery white underneath, makes it an ideal specimen plant, suitable for a large container, for growing on walls and in rockeries or in mass plantings.

They are dioecious plants and the males can be distinguished from the females by their flowers which form on long, slender stems. Male plants have tiny dark-green, scented flowers and the female plants have tiny, pale-green, unscented flowers. The female plants will produce orange or red berries although they are often not conspicuous as they form low down inside the foliage.

Astelia chathamica is not completely drought resistant and needs a rich, well-drained soil. It will not withstand cold and wet so may need protection in the winter. It will however tolerate winds and coastal locations.

An ideal spot would be where it will receive dappled shade; in full sun it may suffer scorching of the leaves. It will also not survive hard frosts.

Maintenance is low: apart from regular watering the dead and dying leaves should be removed to keep it tidy and it should be given a slow release feed in the spring.

The genus name Astelia comes from the Greek 'a' meaning 'without' and 'stele' meaning 'trunk' or 'pillar'. Astelia was previously in the Liliaceae plant family but now has its own, Asteliaceae.

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