How to Grow Texas Sotol (Dasylirion texanum)

Picture of Texas Sotol (Dasylirion texanum) in a botanical garden

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Dasylirions are a genus of perennial flowering shrub-like plants that are native to the southern United States and Mexico. There are over 15 individual species, and, with their long, spiky foliage, they have an ornamental grass-like appearance.

As you would expect from plants native to these regions, they are known for being drought-tolerant and are popular additions in xeric landscaping.

Dasylirion texanum, known by the common name Texas Sotol, is smaller than most other species in the genus, with the main plant usually growing to reach around three feet in height. The tall flower stalks that emerge from the foliage, however, can reach up to 15 feet.

Texas Sotol has light green slim leaves that spread out in a rosette form from a thick, compact central trunk. Although the top of the trunk can sometimes be visible, it is often buried underground. The appearance of the leaves and trunk means they are commonly mistaken for yucca plants, although yucca have thinner and more elongated trunks and their foliage doesn't have such a dense growth habit.

This slow-growing, long-lived species is perfect for very hot and dry gardens as it is tough, low-maintenance, and particularly drought-tolerant. It's also surprisingly cold hardy too. With the right conditions, Texas Sotol can live for decades.

Because of the striking, tall flower stalks, Dasylirion texanum is a good choice for adding to the center of containers as the 'thriller' in thriller, spiller combos. Their neat symmetrical form also means they are well suited to being a focal specimen plant.

Because the leaves have very sharp serrated spikes along their margins, care should be taken if planting in a garden with young children. This feature, however, makes them a popular choice as a low-growing security hedge.

Texas Sotol can also help attract wildlife to your garden. The creamy white flowers that arrive through the summer are particularly attractive to hummingbirds, and you may be lucky enough to see them perched on the ends of the flower spikes.

Dasylirion texanum isn't just used in landscaping. There is an alcoholic drink called sotol that is made from the plant's fermented inner cores. The plant has also been used as a food source by indigenous people and to produce materials for baskets, roofing, and rope.

Botanical Name Dasylirion texanum - Scheele
Common Name Texas Sotol
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size Up to 15 ft. tall flower stalks
Sun Exposure Full Sun, Partial Shade
Soil Type Sandy, Well-drained
Soil pH Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Creamy-white, Green
Hardiness Zones 7 - 11, USA
Native Area North America
Toxicity Toxic when ingested

Plant Care

Dasylirion texanum is a tough and versatile plant, but it does need a well-drained site and a full sun position to thrive. It's known for being tolerant of urban pollution and is ideal for a hot, dry, xeric regions, or for somewhere that moisture conservation is required. The Texas sotols care requirements are commonly compared with those of a succulent.

Light

Dasylirion texanum does best in a full sun position. It can survive in partial shade, but expect to see more dead leaves as a result.

Soil

Texas sotols can grow in moist soil types and aren't fussy about pH levels. The site, however, must be well-drained and sandy soils are preferred.

Water

The Texas sotol is known for being drought-tolerant and tends to be self-sufficient with minimal watering required. In dry, hot summers it will remain healthiest and see the best growth rates if it is given occasional supplemental irrigation.

Despite their ability to cope with drought conditions, Dasylirion texanum are fairly tolerant of moisture too. They can handle the violent thunderstorms that their native regions are sometimes prone to in the summer. One thing they can't handle, though, is standing water and soggy conditions. This is why they need a well-drained site to survive.

When watering your Texas sotol, take care not to do this over the crown as they can rot if left too wet.

Temperature and Humidity

Although this plant is native to the hot, dry landscapes of the southern United States and Mexico, it is surprisingly frost-tolerant and has even been known to survive through short periods of hard frosts all the way down to 20 °F.

Ideally, though, Dasylirion texanum wants to be planted somewhere where the winter temperatures don't drop below 50°F. In weather colder than this, a sensible precaution would be to grow them in containers so they can be moved inside as the temperatures drop.

Is Texas Sotol Toxic?

The fleshy, spongy central stem of the Dasylirion texanum (sometimes referred to as the heart) is known for being edible. However, it is normally only consumed after being cooked in an earth oven for around 48 hours. This is because the long-chain carbohydrates need to break down, as do the bitter-tasting and toxic saponins the plant contains. Although they are unlikely to cause any serious damage if consumed raw, they could cause gastrointestinal upset if consumed in large quantities.

Pruning

Texas sotol are low-maintenance plants and don't need much attention in terms of pruning. The leaves that do die back, however, begin to sag and form a skirt around the lower trunk. In fact, this characteristic is where the literal translation of their botanical name comes from. Dasy means shaggy, and lirion means lily. So if you want to get rid of this shaggy appearance, pruning the dead leaves is all that is needed. Just be careful when handling this plant because of the spiky margins on the foliage.

How to Grow Dasylirion texanum From Seed

Growing Dasylirion from seed can be challenging. Germination success can be erratic. Soaking the seeds before sowing and using a seed warming mat can contribute to better chances of success.

If you are collecting your own seeds, don't forget that Texas sotol is a dioecious species and seeds can only be germinated from the female plants.