How Does Your Garden Grow?

Louise Grabell

My desert spoon died! So sad. How could that happen after 14 years of blissfully growing on my estate? Me, a Master Gardener, lose a plant? I’ve noticed the same thing happening to spoons on other properties, so what’s the story? First, let me tell you that desert spoon (Sotol) is the most commonly “abused” plant by landscapers. First, they always place that cute little five-gallon “baby” near a driveway or walkway where it will eventually become dangerous to any passersby or car. Second, they always put it on a drip system which it really doesn’t need. Desert spoons can grow to six feet wide and equally as tall. And then there is the flower stalk that appears suddenly one day [did you know that was coming?], and what do you do with that thing once it dries out and distributes its plethora of seeds all over your landscape, leading the way to more desert spoon plants, like it or not! It’s like Mickey Mouse chopping up the broom to get rid of it only to find he created more brooms (spoons, in this case)! Cut that stalk down.

Desert spoon (Sotol) grows well at our high desert elevation, loves the sun, is drought-tolerant (therefore we should all grow them), has no known pests and provides an interesting look and texture [and gray-green color] to a carefully-planned landscape. I confess when I moved here from the northeast, I had no idea what a desert spoon was or how it grew and I take full credit for that! OK, so now the darn thing is dead. It is actually the second one I’ve lost over time and so I tried to find out what’s going on and can it be prevented.

My first dead spoon gave up its life about three years ago. While I noticed its color was changing a bit, I didn’t think much of it until I approached it to take a peek into the center and easily removed the leaf I was pulling aside. Oy! What a stink! I was able to tear the whole thing apart from top to bottom. Do you know how many leaves are on a full-grown desert spoon? A gazillion! And each one is a lethal weapon! So that spoon most-likely had root rot from too much water. The second spoon just recently bit the dust and this one simply turned brown. From what I have read, it may have simply reached the end of its life, albeit a relatively short one. However, in the clean-up of the gazillion leaves, there is no noticeable odor. The “trunk” has just dried out. There is not much you can do to save a dying desert spoon. Don’t be stupid like me…get a pro to remove it!

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Remember, nothing brings more tranquility to the heart than a beautiful garden.