Doryanthes palmeri flowers

Doryanthes palmeri flowers

Doryanthes palmeri or giant spear lily produces huge flower scapes with bright red flowers.

It was previously classified in the Liliaceae and Agavaceae but recent molecular studies revealed that it is younger and so it was placed in its own genus: Doryanthaceae.

This is an easy plant but flowering takes place only after 10-15 years. In its habitat the plant blooms after a forest fire.

It is lightly frost resistant. Young plants can be grown in pot and brought inside in the winter.


Doryanthes palmeri is a xerofyte bulb plant that can grow up to 4 m high and 3 m wide.

It has sword-shaped, ribbed, in rosette growing leaves of up to 4 m long and 22 cm wide.

The flower scape can be 4-8 meters long with an inflorescence up to 1.7 m long that can carry up to 350 flowers. It droops with the weight of the flowers.

The flowers are red or red-orange, 5 cm long and 4-5 cm wide. They are pollinated by birds that are attracted to the bright red flowers.

The fruit is ovoid 7- and 9 cm long.

Each rosette blooms only once and after flowering the plant produces several new rosettes.


Roasted flower scapes were eaten by indigenous Australians.

The roots were mashed to a pulp for making cakes.

Doryanthes palmeri inflorescence

Doryanthes palmeri inflorescence


Common name:

Giant spear lily


Doryanthes excelsa var. guilfoylei, Doryanthes excelsa var. palmeri, Doryanthes guilfoylei, Doryanthes larkinii, Doryanthes palmeri var. larkinii


Doryanthes: from the Greek doratos (spear) and anthos (flower)
Palmeri: not explained by the author but given in the following references as honoring Sir Arthur Hunter Palmer (1819-1898), Premier of Queensland


Australia: north-eastern New South Wales and South East Queensland


On cliff tops, mountain heather near subtropical rainforest, warm temperate rainforest or wet sclerofiel forest. Sometimes in gaps on rock ledges in subtropical rainforest where they rarely bloom.


USDA zone 9-11

Doryanthes palmeri plant

Source: Own work

Doryanthes palmeri plant
Botanic Garden Meise



Poor soil, good drainage




Keep slightly moist but tolerates drought when older


Every 1-2 months with universal fertilizer which has been diluted to 1/2


Repot in the spring when the roots grow out of the pot


Older plants are slightly frost resistant: down to -4 °C for short periods.

In frost climates, it is recommended to grow the plant in pot and overwinter it indoors.

Can also be grown as a houseplant.


Seed, division

Sowing instructions:

  • in nature, the seeds are scarified by fire. This can be reproduced by treating the seeds with smoke water.
  • Another technique is to soak the seeds 8h in water
  • sow seeds in a moist substrate
  • room temperature
  • germination time: 2 weeks
  • repot seedlings when they are large enough to handle