An evergreen plant with a low, thick, semi-woody stem or root-stock, bearing a rosette of radiating leaves in the same fashion as a yucca. Leaves stalkless, 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 ft long, 2 to 31⁄2 in. wide, of somewhat lanceolate shape, sharply pointed, dilated at the sheathing base, rather glaucous, margins and under-surface rough. Flowers green, opening from June onwards on a stout, arching, red, branching scape, 4 to 6 ft long and 1 to 2 in. in diameter at the base. Towards the top the scape produces short drooping branches, each springing from the axil of a red bract and bearing three to five quite pendulous flowers. Each flower is about 2 in. long, the basal part consisting of a cylindrical ovary 3⁄4 in. long, the terminal part of the cylinder-like perianth carrying six linear segments 11⁄4 in. long. Fruit fig-shaped, about 2 in. long. Bot. Mag., t. 5203.
Native of Mexico; introduced some time previous to 1859, probably by Lord Ilchester. For a long time nothing was known of its origin, but early in the twentieth century the American botanist Pringle found it growing wild in the mountains above Pachuca, Mexico. It is not hardy at Kew but succeeds well nearer the south coast if planted at the foot of a south wall. Even at Cambridge, in the University Botanic Garden, planted against a greenhouse wall and covered every winter, it has borne flower-spikes 6 ft tall and is still grown there (1966). In the extreme south and west it is very fine and even grows well as far north as Inverewe in Wester Ross.
The flowers hang rather like fuchsias and their green colouring forms a not unpleasing contrast with the beautiful, rather rhubarb-like red of the main and secondary flower-stalks and bracts. It should be planted in good loam, well drained, and given the sunniest spot available. In its one known wild habitat it grows on a steep, rocky slope in a region where the winters are dry, which suggests that a soggy soil in winter may be as antagonistic to it as frost.