Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Feathery Cassia

If you like the fragrance of Alyssum (Lobularia maritime), you would love the scent of Feathery Cassia (Senna artemisioides). The sweet honey–like scent of these two plants in bloom are remarkably similar, but they are not even distantly related, other than they are both plants!

My Feathery Cassia has just bloomed, and it will continue to produce numerous, buttercup-shaped flowers until early May. Then, leguminous pods form, remain on the plant for a few months, and then drop off unless removed by pruning or shearing. I usually pick them off by hand, but this year, I’m going to prune because the shrub has over grown and needs sizing down.

This is a great shrub for the low desert. It is drought tolerant, (in fact, if over watered it becomes chlorotic) takes full sun and can withstand 15ºF temperatures. The Feathery Cassia lives about five or six years, and looks good for maybe four of those years. As it ages, it becomes woody, with sparse foliage.

New plants are easy to start from seed, but the seeds must be prepared before planting. Heat water until boiling, turn off heat and drop in the seeds. Soak for two days, and then plant the seeds close to the soil surface. New plants in no time!


Anonymous said...

When I was a little girl, I lived for a short time in Duncan, Arizona. I can appreciate your gardening efforts!

Anonymous said...

How interesting those yellow pod-like blooms look. Does the plant die off after five years, then?

Pudgeduck said...

I am glad mine didn't live very long! I hated the way it looked with all the pods-then the mess!!!!

GardenJoy4Me said...

Hello Aiyana !
I can just imagine how beautiful the sunrise is in the desert. Maybe one time you might sneak a picture in for me ? LOL
I love the thought that this plant is so aromatic ! .. I don't have enough experience with succulents to know which of them have scent but it sounds wonderful !
Should I be worried that my aloe plant is self pruning some of it's arms ? .. seems healthy other than that happening once in a while.
Joy : )

Wurzerl said...

Oh, I wanted to ask the same question. Does the plant die or is the habit of the plant very ugly in five years?
The Feathery Cassia remind me at our genista plants in Spring. Blooming until 5 month is a long time, wonderful flower and good in your garden.
Have a nice time. Wurzerl

kate said...

This looks like such a vibrant plant - it has a long blooming period. I like the scent of Alyssum, so I imagine I would love this one.

Have been thinking of you today and hoping that your husband is doing well ... sending lots of healing thoughts your way!!

Julie said...

Very interesting about the seed prep! I've not heard of having to drop a seed in boiling water and soaking for 2 days...good to hear that it actually works out and you end up with lots of pretties afterward!!!

Kylee said...

How pretty! Love the foliage as much as the blooms!

Anna--Flowergardengirl said...

I knew that plant was going to have a scent. I looked at it and just had to come read about it. I grew Lavender Cotton one time and let me tell you that is one good smelling plant. Scents in the garden get me every time. It's the best perfume.

No Rain said...


Thanks for visiting my blog. Desert gardening can be challenging with the harsh climate and caliche soil, but with some work (and a lot of cactus) the results are worth it.

nikkipolani & Wurzerl,

This shrub is considered a long-lived perennial, with five to six years as an averge age. It can a live longer, or shorter time. When it gets woody and the foliage gets thin towards the bottom of the plant becasue of age or repeated pruning and shearing, it can be considered ugly. This plant is used a lot along freeways and medians, and it is replaced every few years.


That is the most common complaint. I love the long-lasting fragrance, and planted it specifically for that reason, so I'm willing to put up with the mess, for a few years anyway.


Feathery Cassia is actually a perennial shrub rather than a succulent. Now that I think about it, I can't think of a succulent (not including cacti) whose flowers have a scent, other than the offensive scent of some stapelia. As Aloe grows, the bottom leaves will shrivel as new ones grow.
P.S. Someday I'll get up at dawn and snap a photo. Someday!


I think you would enjoy the fragrance of Feathery Cassia. I've located this one so that when I'm sitting on a swing on my patio, the scent drifts my way at the slightest breeze.
P.S. My husband's surgery went well, but it was a lot longer than expected because the problem was more extensive than originally thought. He's still in ICU, and will be for a couple of days. Hopefully things will continue to be positive. I appreciate your concern.


This shrub will reseed on its own if the pods are left on the ground. It takes several years and just the right conditions, but that's the hard way and not reliable, so most folks who want to propagate use the boil method.


The foliage is pretty--it's hard to photograph because the slightest breeze causes it to quake. It's easy to see why this shrub is called Feathery Cassia!


I'm also a sucker for fragrance--I will put up with extra care if the payoff is a great scent. I've never smelled Lavendar Cotton--sound lovely!