Astelia chathamica ‘Silver Spear’ (Silver Spear) – An evergreen perennial that comes from the Chatham Islands, located over 400 nautical miles east of the North and South Island of New Zealand. It has bold recurving leaves which are a pale green above and silvery-white below and form in a large upright rosette – a large clump – growing to about 4 feet tall and as wide. Plant in sun or part shade in rich well-drained soil with moderate water. Has a low water requirement once established. Rarely flowers and the male and female flowers are on separate plants. Neither are showy and are usually down in the foliage however the orange-red fruit of female plants are noted as attractive – our large plants’ inflorescences were too deep in the foliage for the fruit to be noticed. Hardy to about 20-25 degrees F. It is best to trim off old foliage, which withers and dries, to keep plant looking tidy. Feed with a long term, slow releases fertilizer in spring. There are 25 species of Astelia, 13 endemic to New Zealand. Astelia chathamica is likened to a silver flax and in fact has the common name Maori Flax on the Chatham Island. It is endangered in its native habitat. The genus name comes from combining the Greek words ‘a’ meaning “without” and ‘stele’ meaning a “trunk” or “pillar” in reference to these plants not forming a stem or trunk. They have long been considered part of the Liliaceae family but most recent treatment puts them in the Asteliaceae family in the Asparagales order with the relatively unknown genera Collospermum, Milligania and Neoastelia. The information on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources as well as from observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery’s garden and in other gardens that we have observed it in. We also will incorporate comments received from others and always appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information, particularly if this information is contrary to what we have written or includes additional cultural tips that might aid others in growing Astelia chathamica ‘Silver Spear’.
Astelia ‘Silver Shadow’ (PBR)
Astelia chathamica ‘Silver Spear’ Dear Crocus Team, I bought an enormous Astelia chathamica ‘Silver Spear’ plant from you at one of your open days in the spring last year. It is planted in very loamy soil, with lots of mulch next to a wall. It is now looking very ragged and forlorn. Most of its leaves are bent and look bedraggled. I was wondering if I should cut it down to the base to encourage growth or what else might help buck it up. Best wishes Kate
Hello Kate, These plants are not fully hardy, so it sounds as if it has suffered a bit during the harsh winter. These plants do not usually need pruning, however if it is looking very tatty, I would remove some of the worst leaves to their base. In another few weeks you can start to feed it, and next year I would try to protect it a little with a layer of frost fleece. I hope this helps. Helen Plant Doctor
Can I order a female Astelia? Last year I purchased a really great plant – Astelia Silver Spear and I’d like to order some more. On your website you’re clear that the female of the species has flowers – so is it possible to specify a female as part of my order?
I’m afraid that we cannot tell until the plants start to flower (and they are still too young to do this), if the plant is a female or not, so it is not possible to order a specific gender.
Add Sparkle to Shade with Silver Shadow Astelia
By Karen Chapman of Le jardinet
Is your shade garden a predictable muddle of green? Does your plant palette lack inspiration? Dare to be different and add some sparkle to the shadows with ‘Silver Shadow’ Astelia (Astelia chathamica x nervosa ‘Silver Shadow’ PP22195). Whether you enjoy this as an evergreen perennial or look forward to it as a summer annual, this metallic silver foliage will transform your shade designs.
Where hardy, this beauty can grow to a loose fountain of 2 to 3 feet high and 3 to 4 feet wide, its broad blades creating a stunning architectural focal point in the landscape. Try ‘Silver Shadow’ Astelia where dry shade is a challenge, or incorporate it into a waterwise design with other drought-tolerant plants.
Smaller specimens are ideal container candidates, suitable for transplanting to the garden when mature, or treated as summer annuals and removed at the end of the season. Rather than add it to the compost pile, try bringing astelia indoors and enjoying it as a houseplant during cooler months where it will thrive in bright indirect light.
Experimenting with containers is a fun way to explore fresh color and plant combinations. Here are two completely different looks to try featuring ‘Silver Shadow’ Astelia:
Think of a sleek, glossy black container as the classic ‘little black dress.’ Add ‘Silver Shadow’ Astelia for sparkle and you have a winning combination.
Repeat the color of the pot with the glossy black rosette-like foliage of Black Rose (Aeonium arboreum var. atropurpureum ‘Zwartkop’). This dramatic succulent adds contrast in leaf shape to make a bold statement.
To complete the look, introduce the shade loving perennial Jack Frost Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’). Each large heart-shaped leaf is overlaid with an intricate network of silver veins that catches the light and echoes the metallic sheen of the astelia. In spring, this herbaceous perennial blooms with azure blue forget-me-not type flowers, creating additional interest.
With just three steps and three drought-tolerant plants, you will have an eye-catching, but easy care display of crisp silver and black.
Prefer a softer look? Combine ‘Silver Shadow’ Astelia with the richly-hued leaves of Purple Pixie® Loropetalum (Loropetalum chinense ‘Peack’ PP18441) in a weathered stone urn. This delightful low maintenance, evergreen shrub will cascade over the container and add pink thread-like flowers to the mix in spring.
Next, include shade-loving annuals such as white or soft pink tuberous begonias or trailing fuchsias, and finish the scene with a ruffle of lavender or white Bacopa.
To achieve a professional-looking container design, limit the color palette to varying hues of pink, purple and silver. The result will be a subtle, yet lovely, profusion of flowers.
Whatever your design preference, ‘Silver Shadow’ Astelia is a versatile tool for adding style and sparkle to the shade garden.