Family: Asparagaceae
Habitat: Mexico
Cultivation: Exposure in shade or light sun, water sparingly in spring and summer and never in winter, warm temperatures and well-draininng soils.
Curiosity: The genus was described for the first time by André Michaux in 1803 and its name was chosen in honor of the French horticulturist Nolin, who lived in the 18th century.


Nolina is a genus of tropical xerophytic flowering plants belonging to the family of Asparagaceae, with the principal distribution being in Mexico and extending into the southern United States.

Nolinas grows in various dry habitats including gritty soils in mountainous habitats, where it receives quite copious water in the short growing-period, or either dry tropical deciduous forest on steep hillsides, along with massive columnar cacti and cycads. For example N. recurvata is often found growing together with Mammillaria vallensis, Mammillaria anniana, and Neobuxbaumia euphorbioides. Their altitude ranges vary according to the species and can range from 100-200 meters above the sea level to almost 3000 meters.

The taxonomy of this genus is still confused: previously, it was included in the family Ruscaceae, but some classifications place it in different families such as Dracaenaceae, Nolinaceae and Agavaceae. Also, botanists are uncertain whether to include genus Beaucarnea in genus Nolina. On the market, the same plant can be labeled as Beaucarnea or Nolina, depending on the nurseries.

They are large, dioecious plants, equipped with a caudex. A caudex is an evolutionary device typical of semi-arid areas and used as a stock for nutrients and water to face harsh conditions of dry environments. Dioecious, instead, means that there are “male” and female “plants”: the male ones produce only male flowers and the females produce female flowers. Compared to the hermaphrodite plants, the dioecious plants have an evolutionary advantage: their genetical structure is more complex and variegated and thus more resilient to climate change or any kind of adversity.

The most popular plant in this genus is undoubtely N. recurvata, also called Beaucarnea recurvata. It’s rather sought after for its cute bottle-shaped caudex, to which it owes its common name, “Pony tail palm” or “Bottle Palm”.

Nolinas, in general, are succulent trees or shrubs of various heights depending on the species. For example, N. recurvata and N. stricta, in their natural habitat, become up to 9 meters tall, while N. gracilis reaches 5 meters in height. In cultivation conditions, of course, it does not exceed two meters in height

Their stem is wooden and equipped with a massive caudex (up to 3-4 meters in diameter!), turtle-shaped in N. stricta, bottle-shaped in N. recurvata and N. gracilis. The caudex allows these plants to survive to the long droughts typical of their native environments. In some species, such as N. stricta, its bark is textured like a tortoise shell. From the caudex, a single, wooden stem develop and then produces few branches as the plant ages.

Nolinas have thin, lanceolate leaves, grass-like and narrow, sprouting in rosettes from the top of the branches. Their colour ranges from bright green to greyish-pale blue and they are often stiff and rigid but usually glabrous.

The inflorescence of these plants is usually a pyramid-shaped panicle (which is a kind of cluster-like inflorescence) of greenish or yellow flowers, whose color depend on the species. The flowers are usually rather small (a few millimeters in diameter). However, the abundant inflorescences create a showy, very decorative effect.

The fruits are elliptical ro globose capsules. A capsule is a dry fruit, dehiscent (this means that it is able to open up when ripen to spread its seeds). They host only one seed each. Seeds are very small (3 millimeter in diameter depending on the species) and are triangular-shaped.


Here below are a few species of Nolina:

  • N. arenicola
  • N. atopocarpa
  • N. beldingii
  • N. bigelovii
  • N. brittoniana
  • N. cespitifera
  • N. cismontana
  • N. durangensis
  • N. elegans
  • N. erumpens
  • N. georgiana
  • N. greenei
  • N. humilis
  • N. interrata
  • N. juncea
  • N. lindheimeriana
  • N. longifolia
  • N. matapensis
  • N. micrantha
  • N. microcarpa
  • N. nelsonii
  • N. palmeri
  • N. parryi
  • N. parviflora
  • N. rigida
  • N. texana

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Nolinas are very tolerant plant and thus not so hard to cultivate. Here are our cultivation tips:

  • Exposure from light shade to full sun will suit well your Nolina.
  • It can stand low temperatures if its substrate and the air stay dry, however their extact hardiness is unknown (it’s supposed to be around 0ºC). Shelter it from winter rains to avoid caudex rot.
  • Water it every time you notice that the soil is completely dry in Summer and reduce the watering frequency in Autumn, until watering very rarely in Winter: just the sufficient amount of water necessary´ to prevent leaves from withering.
  • Choose a very well-draining and rich in nutrients substrate.
  • The plants are very slow growing, so don’t expect a massive growth during the vegetative season. It can thus stay in the same pot for a few years before being repotted.
  • Fertilization should be carried out only once a year in Summer with a speciefic products for succulent plants.

Propagation can be carried out through seeds or either stem cuttings.

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