Cat’s tail – characteristics, cultivation and use

yellow/orange flower of cat's tail
yellow/orange flower of cat's tail - by Stan Shebs

Since the juice of the Bulbine is often used for small wounds, insect bites or rashes, cat’s tail is also known under the names “first aid plant”, “burn jelly plant” or “ailments plant”. The botanical name of the genus Bulbine comes from the Latin word for onion or tuber, although the plant does not develop a bulb as a persistence organ.

Profile of cat’s tail:

Scientific name: Bulbine frutescens

Plant family: asphodel subfamily (Asphodelaceae)

Other names: stalked bulbine, snake flower, burn jelly plant

Sowing time / Planting time: April – May

Flowering period: June – September

Harvest time: May – October

Useful plant parts: leaves

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: moderately dry to fresh, gritty to loamy, moderately nutritious

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: sunburn, lacerated wound, insect bite, acne, rashes

Use as aromatic herb: no use

Plant characteristics and classification of cat’s tail

Origin and occurrence

It originally comes from South Africa.

Plant order

The cat’s tail (Bulbine frutescens), also called stalked bulbine, is a species within the family of the asphodels (Asphodelaceae).



The cat’s tail is an evergreen, succulent perennial that can reach a height of about half a meter (20 in). It forms branched rhizomes and thus reaches a growth width of up to one meter (40 in).


The cylindrical and hollow leaf-tubes are the same as those of chives. They are blue-green and are between 10 and 15 centimeters (4 and 6 in) long.


From June to September star-shaped single flowers appear in yellow and orange on thin stems. They sit in about 20 centimeters (8 in) long loose racemes, which resemble a cat’s tail because of their tuft-like shape. The flowers contain a lot of nectar and are used by bees and other insects as a food crop.

Cat’s tail – cultivation and care


You can keep the succulent Bulbine in a sufficiently large pot all year round and cultivate it like a houseplant on the east or west window. During the summer, you can also place the potted plant outdoors in a sunny to partially shaded and sheltered location. In very mild regions, you can even plant the Bulbine in the garden. A place in the rock garden is ideal. When planted out, however, they need very good winter protection or must be dug up again in autumn and wintered frost-free in the house.


The cat’s tail needs a mineral and loose substrate.

Sowing / Planting

The easiest way to propagate the bulbine is to sow it in spring. Propagation by cuttings or division is also possible.

Cat’s tail can be kept well in pots and tubs. Pay attention to a good drainage of water, which is guaranteed by a drainage layer, for example made of expanded clay. Purchased young plants can be planted outdoors in spring at a distance of 30 × 30 centimeters (12 × 12 in).


Water the plant regularly without waterlogging. While it can be poured vigorously in summer, it should be kept dry in winter. To stimulate the formation of more flowers, you should occasionally remove flowered inflorescences. If you cultivate the bulbine in a pot or tub, you should bring the plant into the house after the first frosts at the latest. A relatively bright wintering place in the unheated winter garden or in the stairwell with temperatures of 5 °to 12 C (41 to 53 °F) is ideal. In general, you can repot the cat’s tail into a larger container every two to three years, depending on how much it has grown.


If necessary, you can pluck and squeeze the leaves of the plant or squeeze out with your fingers. The medicinal plant is used in a similar way to aloe vera.

Diseases and pests

In general, cat’s tail is robust when it comes to plant diseases and pests. Root rot occurs in waterlogging, too dry keeping and drafts can result in spider mite infestation.


Bulbine frutescens is not hardy in our latitudes, but tolerates a little frost.

cat's tail
cat’s tail – by Stan Shebs

Use of the cat’s tail

Cat’s tail in the kitchen

No use.

Cat’s tail as a medicinal herb

The special thing about cat’s tail is the jelly-like juice that comes out of the thick fleshy leaves when you cut and squeeze them out. Dabbing the juice on a sunburn, a lacerated wound or an insect bite relieves the pain and accelerates the healing. The jelly also helps with light burns, herpes, acne and rashes. Antibacterial agents are responsible for this in the crop, which is why it is also called “first aid plant”. You can only use the gel externally.

Cat’s tail can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • acne
  • burns (light)
  • herpes
  • insect bite
  • lacerated wound
  • rashes
  • sunburn

Medicinal properties

  • antibacterial

Side effects

Not known.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

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