The king’s spear is, with its long, yellow and fragrant inflorescences, a real asset to the garden. This is what matters when planting and caring for the perennial.
Profile of king’s spear:
Scientific name: Asphodeline lutea
Plant family: asphodel subfamily (Asphodeloideae) of blackboy or grass tree family(Xanthorrhoeaceae)
Other names: yellow asphodel
Sowing time: late autumn – early spring
Planting time: late spring, towards the end of May
Flowering period: May to June
Soil quality: stony to sandy, calcipholous, moderately nutritious, low in humus
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: flowerbeds, embankments, group planting, borders, flower garden, Mediterranean garden, prairie garden, rock garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 6 (-20 °C / -5 °F)
Bee and insect friendly: Yes
Plant characteristics and classification of king’s spear
Plant order, origin and occurrence of king’s spear
The king’s spear (Asphodeline lutea) from the asphodel subfamily (Asphodeloideae) is native to the Mediterranean area. There it grows on stony soils and on rocky slopes, mostly on calcareous subsoil. Although equipped with friendly bright yellow inflorescences, the king’s spear is closely linked to the underworld in Greek mythology: Homer describes a king’s spear field as an ominous place of death. The attractive ornamental shrub is nevertheless very popular in the garden and is often planted in rock gardens.
Characteristics of king’s spear
The hardy, herbaceous and upright growing king’s spear forms a dense stand due to its short runners and, with its leafed shoots, grows to a stately 80 to 120 centimeters (32 to 48 in) high.
The linear leaves, which start at the ground and end at the flowers, stand in dense rosettes around the long stems. The grass-like or leek-like foliage is greenish-bluish in color, triangular and up to 30 centimeters (12 in) long.
The yellow and fragrant flowers of the king’s spear form a beautiful contrast to the dark foliage. They are up to 3 centimeters (1.2 in) in size and stand in a dense cluster of star-shaped blossoms. The flowering period lasts from May to June.
The king’s spear forms globular green capsule fruits that stick to the plant for a long time.
King’s spear – cultivation and care
A location in full sun is ideal for the plant.
The garden soil should be well drained and calcareous at the planting site. Waterlogging or soil compaction quickly lead to root rot with the king’s spear.
Planting King’s spear
It is best to plant the king’s spear in spring. There are four to six plants per square meter (10 sq ft.). The recommended planting distance is 40 centimeters (16 in).
King’s spear are very undemanding when it comes to irrigation, because additional watering is only required during very hot dry periods. You can use either normal tap water or collected rainwater for this. As soon as the irrigation water is no longer quickly absorbed by the earth, the thirst of the plants is quenched for a while. The soil layer can then dry out down to the deeper layers until the next watering, as the rhizome roots of the perennials have good storage capacity.
When it comes to the nutritional requirements of the king’s spear, it is sufficient to dispense fertilizer before the annual flowering. If the site soil was already equipped with compost before planting, moderate amounts of fertilizer are completely sufficient. If you don’t have compost or compost substitutes on hand, you can use a full perennial fertilizer from a specialist store. However, follow the dosage instructions on the package to avoid overfeeding your plants.
The king’s spear is not only a beautiful ornament in the garden, it also looks wonderful as a cut flower in the vase. To do this, cut off the flowering shoots with a sharp tool during the morning hours. In order to increase the winter hardiness of the perennials, it also makes sense if you cut the plants back to a hand’s width in early spring. Thanks to the pruning, the stems of the perennials grow back stronger and more resistant.
The king’s spear is easy to care for. Brief steps to planting at a glance:
- Planting date for King’s spear: late spring, towards the end of May
- Drain the soil for better water drainage and remove any barriers
- If necessary, enrich the substrate with sand, compost or lime
- It is best to plant junk lilies slightly elevated
- Dig a planting hole with 1 ½ the size of the root ball
- Plant spacing: 40 cm (16 in), max. 6 junk lilies per m²
- After planting, press the soil well around the root ball
- Then water the king’s spear
Propagation of the king’s spear can be done by dividing in spring. Otherwise, propagation is also possible by sowing.
Propagation by root cuttings:
Junker lilies are very vigorous due to their rhizome roots. You can also use this vigor to propagate the plants. Propagation by root division, meaning by completely digging out the roots, is not advisable, however, since the asphodeline is true to its location and reacts poorly to subsequent transplanting, even if only in parts. So dig up the soil only carefully after the last ground frosts in order to get root cuttings of the perennial. To do this, use a sharp knife to cut off a piece of root that has a healthy-looking root node with several branches. The root cuttings can be planted immediately at their destination enriched with a little fertilizer. Its growth should already be noticeable after a few weeks.
Propagation by root sowing:
Sowing is best done from late autumn to early spring.
Diseases and pests
King’s spear are usually spared from infestation by powdery mildew and aphids. Even snails find the perennials uninteresting. However, no plant is immune from care errors, which can lead to root rot. If you give the plant too much water or plant the site too densely, the roots start to rot due to the blocked water drainage. The earth around the root area begins to smell moldy and the roots become soft and dark. In the case of affected perennials, you can try to separate the affected areas and let the soil dry off. A soil exchange is also possible, but this should be done very early. If both of these do not help, the only thing left is to dispose of the plant.
The overwintering of asphodelines usually works without problems. The king’s spear is hardy down to -20 °C / -5 °F and can withstand most winters so reliably. In the first two to three years after planting, however, it is helpful if you apply a layer of brushwood over the plants. Do not use straw as it stores moisture from melt water and can lead to root rot. As soon as the junk lilies have reached their final size, there is no need to protect the plants in winter. Covering the root area is only indicated in really icy winters with persistently strong frost winds.
Use in the garden
The king’s spear is suitable for sunny beds and borders. But it also looks very decorative in the rock garden or in front of a warm wall. In larger groups, for example in steppe-like plantations or in Mediterranean gardens, it also comes into its own. Since the king’s spear is a valuable pasture for bees, it is also often seen in natural gardens.
- “Yellow Candle” is a seed-grown selection that has slightly longer inflorescences than the species
- ‘Floreplena’ is a double-flowered form of the king’s spear, which is only rarely available in stores