Nolina longifolia (Mexican Grass Tree) – A slow growing interesting, unusual and beautiful small tree that can grow to 10 to 15 feet tall by as wide given enough time. It starts off looking like a single stemmed Bottle Palm, Beaucarnea recurvata, but with very long (3-5 foot) and pliable narrow gray-green leaves that when young hide the base of the plant completely. While it lacks the wide swelling basal caudex of the Bottle Palm, its thick trunk and stems develop a corky bark-like texture and with age this feature with the corky stems at height holding the attractive crown of pendulous leaves is quite dramatic. Mature plants flower in spring or summer with to 4 to 5 feet tall spikes holding many tiny unisexual white, sometimes tinged purple, flowers.
Plant in full sun in a well-drained soil and irrigate only occasionally to infrequently. Cold hardy to short duration temperatures down to at least 20° F. This is very showy plant in the garden or for a large container. Some consider it the most elegant of the Nolina species. It is drought tolerant and not bothered by deer.
The plant originally described as Nolina longifolia grows in seasonally dry forest in Oaxaca and Puebla but is often synonymized with the more widespread Nolina parviflora, which typically is described with narrower more erect leaves. The genus is named for 18th century French arboriculturist Abbé C. P. Nolin and the specific epithet is Latin meaning "with long leaves".
Massive specimen plants of v can be viewed in older gardens in California, including at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, the Desert Garden at the Huntington Botanic Gardens, the Arizona Garden at the old Hotel Del Monte in Monterey that is now part of the Naval Postgraduate School and the Santa Barbara Cemetery. Existing specimens can be also be found growing in Palo Alto and on estates in Montecito. The 2nd image from this website is a picture of a large specimen on the Las Tejas Estate next to Lotusland that was planted there in the late 19th century. When Francesco Franceschi (AKA Emanuele Orazio Fenzi) first arrived in Santa Barbara in 1895 he documented this species growing in numerous estate gardens.
The information about Nolina longifolia displayed on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources we consider reliable. We will also relate those observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments we receive from others and welcome hearing from anyone who has additional information, particularly when they share cultural information that would aid others in growing it.