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Info Sheet PDF
Bear Grass

Nolina microcarpa

Mature Height*: 

4 to 7 ft

Mature Width*: 

4 to 6 ft

USDA Hardiness Zone Range:

6a to 9

Hardy to: 


Water Requirements: 

Drought Tolerant

Shade Requirements:

Full Sun

Native to:

Southwest US

Origin and Adaptability:

Hailing from the sun-drenched Southwest, Nolina microcarpa, also known as beargrass or sacahuista, embodies the resilience and beauty of its native land. This slow-growing succulent member of the lily family thrives in hot, dry climates, making it an ideal choice for xeriscaping, desert gardens, and water-wise designs. Its deep roots anchor it firmly to well-draining soil, ensuring its survival even in harsh conditions. Be cautious about the placement of this plant because its leaves are known to be highly flammable.

Architectural Form and Foliage:

Nolina microcarpa boasts a captivating sculptural form. Imagine a fountain of slender, leathery leaves, gracefully arching outwards from a central trunk. Their olive-green hue adds a touch of sophistication to any landscape, while the finely-toothed margins and playful curls at the tips lend a whimsical touch.

Floral Display and Growth Speed:

Come summer, Nolina microcarpa transforms into a breathtaking spectacle. Tall, slender stalks emerge, adorned with thousands of tiny white flowers. These delicate blooms resemble a cloud of stars, attracting a symphony of pollinators like hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Though slow-growing, this plant gradually expands its reach, forming dense, sculptural clumps over time.

Light and Water Requirements:

Basking in full sun is Nolina microcarpa's happy place. It thrives on the desert heat, requiring minimal irrigation once established. Remember, this desert dweller is a champion of drought tolerance, so avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot.

Wildlife and Pollinators:

Beyond its visual appeal, Nolina microcarpa plays a vital role in the ecosystem. Its nectar-rich flowers provide a valuable food source for pollinators, fostering biodiversity and creating a vibrant haven for these crucial creatures. It is rabbit- and deer-resistant.

Cultural Significance and Edibility:

While not traditionally consumed, the fruit of the plant can be eaten and the seeds ground into flour or meal. Nolina microcarpa holds deep cultural significance for Indigenous communities. Eastern prairie tribes would boil the roots of the plant for medicines. Historically, various parts of the plant were used for basket weaving, rope making, and thatching reflecting the deep connection between these communities and the land.

Challenges and Considerations:

This low-maintenance gem requires minimal care. It is dioecious, so may require a male and female plant to produce seed. Simply remove spent flower stalks after blooming to maintain their stunning form. Ensure well-draining soil to avoid fungal root rot, especially during periods of heavy rain with cold damp conditions.

Integration into Landscape Designs:

Nolina microcarpa's chameleon-like nature allows landscape architects and designers to weave its magic into diverse settings. Imagine it as a captivating focal point, its sculptural silhouette and starry summer blooms stealing the show in any garden. Or, picture it as a textural accent, its graceful leaves contrasting beautifully with bold foliage plants for added visual interest. Let it line pathways or edges with its architectural form, creating a low-maintenance border that defines space. And don't forget its role as a pollinator haven, attracting butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds to your garden with its nectar-rich blooms, buzzing with life and color. This versatile succulent truly offers something for every landscape vision.

Designing with Nolina microcarpa:

Embrace the timeless beauty and ecological value of the Southwest by incorporating Nolina microcarpa into your landscape. This versatile succulent offers a unique blend of form, function, and cultural significance, adding a touch of desert magic to any outdoor space.

*Height and width estimated for growth in the Tucson, AZ area. True sizes may vary.

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