Fantastic to look at, easy to care for and tough as old boots. Beaucarnea doesn’t ask for much, but it gives plenty in return.
Colours and shapes
Beaucarnea doesn’t really look anything like a houseplant –it’s really more of a small tree. A rugged trunk emerges from a heavy base and is crowned with a cheerful tussle of curly ribbon-like leaves that grow out of a rosette. Officially it’s a flowering plant, but Beaucarnea rarely flowers indoors, and when it does, the flowers are very insignificant. This houseplant is also known as elephant’s foot and stands out not only because of its distinctive silhouette, but also because of its imperturbability. It grows slowly but steadily, and it can take a knock or two - the good news is that forgetting to water it occasionally won’t kill it either. The plant stores water in its base and trunk in order to survive dry spells. It can therefore look after itself to some extent, which makes Beaucarnea a very suitable plant for those starting their houseplant journey.
Beaucarnea symbolises strength and imperturbability. The name is a combination of Beau (beautiful) and carneia, a mythical Greek harvest festival that’s celebrated under various names throughout Europe. It refers to the primeval power of the plant, which almost always manages to recover. The common name ‘elephant’s foot’ comes from the wide base which looks slightly similar.
Although Beaucarnea is often mistaken for a palm, it’s actually a member of the asparagus family. Beaucarnea is native to the southern United States and South America, where it can easily grow into an eight metre high tree and a metre in diameter, and has a healthy lust for life: there are Beaucarneas in Mexico that are 350 years old. The Beaucarnea doesn’t grow as tall indoors, although it can still make an impressive indoor tree. Do make sure that the leaves can hang freely, because contact with a wall, cupboard or curtain can cause them to go brown. This also happens if the humidity is too low.