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Gardening 101: Yuccas

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Gardening 101: Yuccas

April 26, 2018

Yucca: “Striking Sword”

With more than 50 different species of Yucca, these shrubs hold their own as distinctive and striking evergreen landscape elements. Native to the southwestern United States, yuccas are arid-loving, evergreen succulents. Their sword-like leaves and stature add a bold look to most landscapes and especially complement modern landscapes and xeriscapes.

Many other plants resemble and can be mistaken for yuccas, so let’s take a closer look.

A yucca blooms at the side of a trail in southern California. Photograph by Oncetherewasagirl via Flickr.
Above: A yucca blooms at the side of a trail in southern California. Photograph by Oncetherewasagirl via Flickr.

In my landscape designs I routinely use a few specific varieties because they require little maintenance, are drought tolerant, and are of no interest to marauding deer:

  • Yucca ‘Bright Star’, with its bright, yellow-margined leaves.
  • Fast-growing Yucca filamentosa, for its blue-cast green leaves and unique spires of fragrant white bells that arrive in the summer.
  • Hesperaloe parviflora ‘Red Yucca’ for its tall spikes of hummingbird-attracting flowers and tall spiking leaves.
Yucca filamentosa &#8\2\16;Color Guard&#8\2\17; cavorts with nicotiana and euphorbia. Photograph by KM via Flickr.
Above: Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’ cavorts with nicotiana and euphorbia. Photograph by KM via Flickr.

History: Yuccas are used in a surprising number of different ways, such as food, as material to weave baskets, as an ingredient in soaps and shampoos, and for medicinal purposes.

Cheat Sheet

  • Plant yuccas away from high-traffic areas such as sidewalks and narrow paths to avoid being sliced by the sharp leaves and having blood drawn by the shrub’s needle tips.
  • Leave space for a yucca to grow to its mature size because this is not a plant you can trim back to control the size.
  • Try planting yuccas in containers as bold centerpieces, alone or mixed with other drought-tolerant plants.

Keep It Alive

  • As long as the soil drains well, yuccas are forgiving and also can tolerate windy spots.
  • Browning, older leaves can be (carefully) trimmed to the base.
  • Native to the southwestern US, yucca naturally thrives in low-rainfall spots, can take full sun, and withstand temperatures that drop to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Yucca &#8\2\16;Bright Star&#8\2\17;. Photograph by Megan Hansen via Flickr.
Above: Yucca ‘Bright Star’. Photograph by Megan Hansen via Flickr.

Tip: Wear heavy gloves while trimming and planting Yuccas.

Above: While not grown for its flowers, yucca does produce blooms and will give you blossoms if grown in full sun. Photograph by Russellstreet via Flickr.

When the flowers finish blooming, trim back the entire flower stalk to the base of the yucca plant.

Read more growing and design tips at Yuccas: A Field Care to Planting, Care & Design. Are you trying to save water in the garden? See more of our favorite garden design ideas for xeriscapes:

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