INFORMATION ABOUT YELLOW CAT’S TAIL…
By: Nikki Phipps
Bulbinella is a genus of the Lily family with about sixteen species native to South Africa. One such species, Yellow Cat’s Tail (Bulbinella latifolia), formerly B. floribunda, is an interesting plant that grows from fleshy, bulbous roots. Yellow Cat’s Tail’s specific Latin name of ‘latifolia’ refers to its broad leaves. Its common name, Yellow cat’s tail, is simply an English translation for its African name of ‘geelketstert.’
This spring bloomer looks similar to the Red-hot poker, or Torch lily, but is yellow instead. Yellow Cat’s Tail is the largest species in this genus, usually reaching 3-4 feet in height, and looks quite attractive massed in mixed beds and borders where its bright color can be admired. In the wild Yellow cats tail is often found growing in dry river valleys and rocky gorges.
The Yellow Cat’s Tail tubers should be planted in the fall about 3-4 inches deep in areas of the garden receiving full sun and good drainage. Mass them in large groups in very well-drained soil enriched with compost. Yellow Cat’s Tail can grow in soils derived from shale or sandstone as well provided the sites have adequate drainage. Environments that mimic its native Mediterranean habitat are generally preferable as well. This plant requires plenty of water during its growing period, fall and winter, but be careful not to over water. Once summer arrives, however, dry conditions are necessary to prevent the fleshy tubers from rotting.
The flowers of Yellow Cat’s Tail are yellow to deep orange with a faint, spicy aroma. This plant is fast-growing and extremely drought resistant, as its fleshy leaves store water, making an ideal choice for dry gardens. Yellow Cat’s Tail also makes a striking background plant and wonderful for cutting too. Yellow Cat’s Tail also grows well in containers with a sandy mixture enriched with compost.
Yellow Cat’s Tail is well adapted to disturbance such as grazing and trampling as the plants regenerate easily from seed. Yellow Cat’s Tail propagates easily from seed or by division of the larger clumps. Seeds can be harvested in summer and autumn and stored until the return of warmer weather. The small plantlets on the side of a Yellow Cat’s Tail develop roots and you can break them off the mother plant and they will grow easily.
As with all of the Bulbinella species, Yellow Cat’s Tail is a succulent plant having horticultural value. This species is especially popular among traditional healers; its aloe-like properties are thought to aid with skin-related problems. Yellow Cat’s Tail is pollinated by insects and is relatively a pest-free plant; however, it may be prone to occasional fungal infections that cause dark leaf spots.