How to Grow Desfontainia


Desfontainia is a genus of flowering plants in the family Columelliaceae. It comprises three species, all of which are endemic to Chile, and one species (D. spinosa) is found in Argentina.

Desfontainia spinosa is a shrubby perennial plant with shiny green lanceolate leaves growing up to 2 m tall and spiny stems that can reach 3 m in height. The flowers are tubular, yellow-green or whiteish, with five petals and anthers twice the length of the petal lobes. The fruit is an ovoid capsule containing numerous brown seeds.

All species of Desfontainia possess medicinal properties which have been used for centuries by indigenous people living in the Andes region of South America. The most commonly used part of the plant is its root, which is believed to have analgesic, anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties.

In addition, Desfontainia spinosa has been traditionally used as a remedy for kidney stones and urinary tract infections. It has also been reported to possess antimicrobial activity against a range of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. Recent research has revealed that extracts from D. spinosa possess multiple bioactive compounds with potential therapeutic applications in areas such as cancer treatment and immunomodulation.

Desfontainia is listed on the IUCN Red List as “near threatened” due to its restricted range of distribution and population decline caused by habitat loss and overharvesting. Conservation efforts are being developed to ensure its survival in the wild. These include habitat protection, reintroductions into natural habitats, and sustainable harvesting of the plant’s parts.

The genus Desfontainia is named after French botanist Joseph de La Fontaine (1730-1810), who was one of the first European botanists to describe South American flora. The species name spinosa refers to the spiny stems of this plant. It is commonly referred to as “chilca” or “espinacas” in Spanish speaking countries, and it has also been used for centuries by indigenous communities for medicinal purposes.

Today, Desfontainia is still used in traditional medicine, as well as by pharmaceutical companies to produce medicinal products.

Overview How to Grow Desfontainia

Desfontainia is best grown in dry, well-drained soils. It prefers full sun and does not tolerate excessive moisture or waterlogging.

When planting Desfontainia, it is important to dig a large hole and ensure the root system is completely covered with soil. The plant can be propagated from cuttings or from seed, with the latter requiring scarification prior to sowing.

Desfontainia is a relatively slow-growing species and may take several years to reach its full size. Once established, it is quite drought tolerant but should receive regular watering during dry periods. It can also be pruned regularly to maintain an attractive form and encourage new growth.

Despite its limited distribution, Desfontainia is an attractive plant that has a wide range of uses in traditional medicine and ornamental horticulture. It is a useful addition to any garden and can be grown with relative ease if the proper care is taken. With conservation efforts underway, it is hoped that this species will continue to survive and thrive in its native habitat for many years to come.

10 Ways How to Grow Desfontainia

Seed propagation

Scarify the Desfontainia seeds by rubbing them lightly between two pieces of sandpaper or filing the seed coat with a nail file. This will help to break down any hard coating on the seed and speed up germination.Soak the seeds in warm water overnight before sowing in pots filled with a well-draining potting mix. Place the pots in a warm area and keep them moist until the seeds germinate, which may take several weeks or months.


Take semi-ripe cuttings from the current season’s growth of Desfontainia, making sure to use a sharp knife or pair of scissors. Dip the cuttings in a rooting hormone and place them in a well-draining potting mix. Cover the pots with plastic wrap or clear containers to retain moisture, keep the cuttings warm, and protect them from direct sunlight until they are established.


Layering is another method of propagating Desfontainia. To do this, bend a low-growing branch down to the ground and cover it with soil or potting mix. Keep an eye on the area over the next few weeks until you see roots growing from the buried section. Once established, cut off the rooted portion of the branch and replant.


Grafting is a technique that can be used to propagate Desfontainia. This method involves attaching a piece of one plant (known as the scion) onto the stem or rootstock of another. To ensure successful grafting, use stock and scions from plants of the same genus and species.


Divide large Desfontainia clumps into smaller sections, each containing several stems and roots. To do this, use a garden fork or spade to carefully loosen the soil around the plant and lift it out of the ground. Use a sharp knife to cut through the roots and remove any dead or damaged material before replanting the sections.


Young Desfontainia plants can be transplanted to a permanent location in the garden once they have reached a few inches in height. When transplanting, dig a hole twice as large as the root system and fill it with soil amended with compost or other organic material. Make sure the crown of the plant is even with the surface of the soil, and water thoroughly after transplanting.

Root division

Established Desfontainia plants can be propagated through root division. To do this, carefully dig up the clump and remove any dead or damaged material before dividing it into sections with a sharp knife or pair of scissors. Replant the divisions as soon as possible in a sunny spot in well-drained soil.


Desfontainia can be propagated through the process of suckering. This is when new plants form from underground runners or root systems. Keep an eye out for any new shoots forming around the base of established plants, and use a sharp knife to carefully dig them up and transplant them to a sunny spot in well-drained soil.

Tissue culture

Tissue culture is a method of propagating Desfontainia plants using plant cells in an artificial medium. This method is usually done in a laboratory setting and involves culturing small pieces of the plant in sterile conditions until they form into new plants. The process can be time consuming, but it is effective for producing large numbers of identical clones.

Offset division

Offset division is a method of propagating Desfontainia plants from small side shoots that form at the base of the plant. Carefully dig up the offsets and transplant them to a sunny spot in well-drained soil. Once established, these new plants can be divided as necessary for further propagation or left to grow into larger clumps.


Desfontainia can be propagated through a variety of methods, including cuttings, layering, grafting, division, transplanting, root division, suckers, and tissue culture. With patience and care, you will be able to successfully propagate Desfontainia plants in your own garden. No matter which method you choose to use, make sure the plants are planted in a sunny spot with well-drained soil for the best results. Happy propagating!

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