In the Garden

What's in Bloom?

There's always something to see at The Ruth Bancroft Garden! Pick up a "What's in Bloom" guide when you check in for your tour. To see what's blooming this month click here to view pdf.

Check out our Flickr Photostream as well! With photos organized by the month they were taken in, you can see what the Garden looks like throughout the year.

September 2017 Plant Highlight: Hesperaloe tenuifolia

by Brian Kemble

The genus Hesperaloe is a small one, with 5 species and one additional subspecies, and they are all native to northern Mexico, with one extending across the border into central Texas. They are members of the Agave Family (Agavaceae), which in some classification systems is treated as a subfamily (Agavoideae) in the Asparagaceae.

The best-known species in Hesperaloe is Hesperaloe parviflora, which is a widely used landscaping plant in the southwestern U.S. Its tubular red flowers resemble those of an Aloe, and this is the reason for the genus name, with Hesperus referring to the Evening Star, since these plants occur in the Western Hemisphere, unlike the true aloes. The resemblance is the result of convergent evolution, since Hesperaloe is actually related to Yucca and Agave rather than to Aloe.

Hesperaloe tenuifolia image

Hesperaloe tenuiflora

Hesperaloe tenuifolia has a very localized distribution in southern Sonora in northwestern Mexico, where it grows in hilly terrain in pine-oak forest at about 5,000 feet altitude (1500 m). It was discovered relatively recently, and was given its scientific name in 1997.

The leaves of H. tenuifolia are blue-green, narrow, and up to 3 feet long (.9 m). The newer leaves at the center of the rosette are upright, with the older leaves on the outside arching gracefully outward. Fine fibers curl from the edges of the leaves. Plants make occasional offshoots from the base to form a small clump in time. This species is smaller, finer-textured and daintier than the other species in the genus.


As with other species of Hesperaloe, H. tenuifolia has a long flowering period, beginning in the spring and continuing on through to the fall. Its slender flower stalk is up to 70 inches tall (1.8 m), with a few small side-branches. Each side branch, and the upper part of the main stalk as well, has attractive pink buds, which open at night into white-faced flowers about a half-inch across (13 mm). There are 6 petals (properly, these should be referred to as “tepals”, a term used when it is hard to say what is a petal and what is a sepal), and these curl outward to show off the yellow pollen at the center. Although the flowers do not usually stay open in the middle of the day, their pink outsides remain an attractive feature. Rather than opening in sequence from bottom to top, as with an Agave inflorescence, the flowers of H. tenuifolia open in no particular order, and there are seldom more than a few open on any given day.

hesperaloe tenuifolia flower
The fruit of Hesperaloe tenuifolia is a dry woody oval capsule, with a rough texture due to bumpy transverse ridges. Eventually, the capsule splits along its seams to spill the flat black seeds.



Plant Donations to The Garden

Many people express interest in donating plants to the Ruth Bancroft Garden. These include plants that have grown too large for their space, may no longer be desirable for the owner, mature landscape plants that are being removed to make way for new plantings, or were owned by friends or loved ones. Plant donations to the garden are most appreciated but must be approved by staff prior to drop-offs. Many donations are repotted in our nursery and sold at our plant sales to raise money to support the garden, while a choice few plants will be accessioned into our collection, depending on the species and whether it is represented in our collection.

If you are interested in donating plants, we request that you email digital images of the plants along with any identifying information you may have to our Garden Curator, Brian Kemble or Nursery Mananger, Steven Wexler.  They will be happy to determine which plants are appropriate for donation.

Garden Plant Information

The Ruth Bancroft Garden Tree Map

What's New in The Garden? Look here for interesting garden updates from the RBG gardeners' perspectives

Ruth's Tips
The Ruth Bancroft Garden Staff has been contributing "Ruth's Tips" articles to the Home & Garden section of Bay Area newspapers since 2005. We are currently in the process of scanning the printed articles to make them available online. Scanned articles are available here.
Plant Highlight Archives
View list in order of publication.
View list in alphabetical order.

To Plants in the Nursery

What's in Bloom?

Plant Highlight

Plant Donations

Garden Plant Information

Ruth's Tips Article

Plant Highlight Archives


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Mission Statement
The mission of the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Inc. is to preserve this exceptional example of garden design and to continue to develop its collection of water-conserving plants for the education and enjoyment of the public.  
Grant Funders

The Ruth Bancroft Garden would like to recognize the following grant funders:

The Quest Foundation for funding our Education Coordinator’s position

The Mervyn L. Brenner Foundation and The Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust for funding our directional signs

The California Horticultural Society for funding towards our restoration projects

The Bonita Garden Clubfor funding restoration and education projects


The Ruth Bancroft Garden GardenConservancy