Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today


NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


Plant Profiles

Striped Dianella



A giant spider plant?  Striped Dianella is even better.  The sword-like leaves bring bright energy to shade gardening year-round if you're gardening where Winter brings only light frosts.  Dianella is so easy in containers, though, that it can jazz up any garden.


I have four pots of it—the plant divides as easily as a spider plant—and I put one inside each corner of a pergola.  They're in shade when the sun's overhead but can also enjoy the milder indirect sun of the morning and afternoon.




The foliage is fibrous and tough, one reason Dianella is such a durable and consistent performer.  But it's also the reason you can't just give a quick yank to old leaves like the brown-tipped ones at the bottom of the picture: You'll pull out a section of the plant with them.  Instead, groom Dianella with a pair of the same small, light clippers you'd use to cut flowers for bouquets.  Follow a damaged leaf down into the heart of the clump and clip it right at the base.


It takes only a minute every month or two.  Make it a meditative minute; just you and your Dianella.  When you're done, you'll both be better.    



Here's how to grow this easy shade-loving perennial:


Latin Name

Dianella tasmanica 'Variegata'

Common Name

Variegated Flax-Lily


Xanthorrhoeaceae, the Grasstree family.

What kind of plant is it?

Broadleaved evergreen perennial.


Zones 9 - 11.  


Clumping with thick-growing strappy foliage similar in size to that of irises and daylilies, but with the stripes and coloring of a spider plant, Chlorophytum commosum 'Variegatum'. 


The plant is especially arresting at first acquaintance:  While the foliage looks exactly like that of a spider plant, it's much too thick and long to actually be a spider plant.  And there aren't any spiders, either—which only increases the "What IS that amazing thing?" mystery.  The foliage is upright in the center of the clump, but nods farther and farther outward at the periphery, making each isolated clump an informal half-dome of foliage.

Rate of Growth


Size in ten years

A clump of foliage two to three feet across and two feet tall; in bloom can be three feet tall.  (Under ideal circumstances, the straight species can top six feet.) 


Spiky, bright, and high-energy.

Grown for

its foliage: The daylily-like foliage is boldly bordered at either side by a broad band of near-white, with narrow partial lines of white in the green center as well.  The foliage is as vibrant as that of any of variegated cultivars of the other "flax lily," the sun-loving Phormium tenax, but on a comparatively smaller scale.


its year-round appeal: In frost-free climates, Dianella is an ever-present performer, whose only seasonality is the tall sprays of small blue flowers and their arresting blue berries. 


its flowers: Quirky more than showy, the small blue-violet flowers are on wiry stems, and dance above the dense foliage.  They mature to bright blue berries that are—like all blue berries—a surprise as well as a joy.


its toughness: Dianella is tolerant and enduring, and is a functional groundcover even with sustained neglect.  Periodic grooming to remove spent foliage, though, will improve its looks dramatically.   

Flowering season



Full sun only in cool and foggy climates like that of coastal California.  Otherwise, morning sun only, or part-shade to shade all day so the foliage doesn't scorch.  Dianella's plentiful roots, similar in bulk and durability to those of daylilies, give it a corresponding toughness.  As long as you plant in any reasonable soil where it doesn't get blazing afternoon sun, water occasionally during droughts, and groom every few months, Dianella will be there for you with style and commitment. 

How to handle it

Dianella is tough and thick enough to work as a groundcovering mass planting.  No doubt there are acres of shopping-mall strips planted with it.


It's also an easy and dramatic container plant in any climate, but is especially welcome where it isn't hardy in-ground.  Summer containered Dianella outside in part shade, watering faithfully, and fertilizing monthly.  Overwinter in bright window light or, up North, full sun in a greenhouse.  Cool but frost-free temperatures keep the plant dormant during the Winter so you can store it in an out-of-the-way spot instead of in prime locations with full light and full warmth.  Only water when the plant truly needs it.

In-ground or in containers, go over the clump every couple of months to remove foliage that has gotten damaged or has matured to brown.  You'll need to clip it off, though.  The leaves are so fibrous that even long-dead foliage doesn't pull free.  But few things look worse than dianella (or phormium) whose foliage has gotten clipped off only at the tips or only part-way down; clip all the way down or not at all.  (Or rather, if you can't make the commitment to "deep clipping," Dianella isn't the plant you should be growing.)  Reach deep down into the clump to clip off the foliage as low as possible without, though, also cutting off the modestly-branching base from which it arises.  This would remove otherwise fresh foliage.  Occasional reversions to all-green, though, can be cut out right down to the roots.  Grooming a Dianella clump needs to be a present-in-the-moment and even meditative activity.  Don't worry about the rest of life; just focus on your Dianella for a few minutes, and you as well as it will both look better when you're done.


Clumps can be thoroughly divided in early Spring, or in Fall in subtropical climates with Summer drought and Winter rains.


Dianella is effective as a solo specimen but can be partnered with lower groundcovers with contrasting color and texture.  Asparagus fern (Aspargus sprengeri) is another tough groundcover in the subtropics and tropics, and would be a marvelous fluffy "context" for occasional clumps of Dianella.  True ferns, let alone tree ferns, would be as inspired.  Larger partners include bananas, bird-of-paradise, and elephant ears, beneath which a swathe of Dianella foliage would be a grassy and bright shag rug.  A grove of tree ferns erupting from a swimming-pool-sized bed of Dianella?  Shimmering.  Twenty feet of Dianella with just one of the purple-leaved bananas, Ensete maurelii?  I really should start doing resort landscaping in the Pacific. 


None that I can think of, except that the plant looks awful if hacked back by string trimmers or hedge-pruners.


Only a few, none of which will supercede 'Variegata'.  'Yellow Stripe' is variegated in yellow instead of white, and is therefore less showy.  'TasRed' has green leaves flushed red at the base, and growing more widely red in cooler weather.  The straight species, all-green, is a workhorse groundcover but not notable as an ornamental.


On-line and at retailers.


By division in Spring.

Native habitat

Dianella tasmanica is, indeed, native to Tasmania, as well as to southeastern Australia.

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