It is an evergreen perennial plant forming dense stands, spreading by way of its creeping rhizome, which is sometimes above ground, sometimes underground. Its stiff leaves grow vertically from a basal rosette. Mature leaves are dark green with light gray-green cross-banding and usually range from 70–90 centimeters (28–35 in) long and 5–6 centimeters (2.0–2.4 in) wide, though it can reach heights above 2 m (6 ft) in optimal conditions.
The plant exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide using the crassulacean acid metabolism process, which is only present in a small number of plant species. It allows them to withstand drought.