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How to Grow: Yucca
Full sun, Low light causes less flowers and thinner growth
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Blooms mid to end of summer
Mature Height x Spread
3 to 3 feet tall and wide, but with a flower stalk that can reach 6 feet tall. Some species grow into small trees.
Yucca is a drought tolerant evergreen that’s hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9. There are many species of yucca with some growing into small trees. The most common species for gardens (Y. filamentosa) or Adam’s Needle, grows about 3 feet tall and wide and flowers best in full sun. However, it can tolerate part shade, poor soils, and heat. In fact, yucca is often found growing in urban environments and is tolerant of the poor, gravelly soil, pollution, reflected light, excessive heat and winter salt spray. It’s one tough plant.
While the spiky, sharp needled foliage can be green, variegated green and yellow or green and white, the flower stalk that forms in summer is the show stopper for this perennial. It can stand up to 6 feet tall with clusters of cream colored, downward facing bell-shaped flowers with a sweet fragrance.
Most native yucca are commonly found in the Southeastern and Southwestern parts of the U.S., while Yucca filimentosa is one of the more cold hardy types overwintering outdoors in zone 4. This tough plant makes for a striking addition to the landscape, not only for the flowers but the colorful, distinct foliage.
When, Where and How to Plant
Plant yucca in early spring in a full sun location on well-drained soil. Yucca is tolerant of many different types of soil, as long as they are well drained.
Plant nursery bought perennials in a hole dug three times the diameter of the root ball. Remove the plant from the pot and wash off the potting soil revealing the root system. Prune off any circling or errant roots and plant, add water and the native soil to the hole. Although yucca are drought tolerant, keep well watered through the summer of the first year until established.
Yucca are best planted in a drought tolerant landscape or as a highlight plant in a rock garden or mixed shrub border. Don’t plant yucca too close to walkways, paths or places where you’ll come in contact with the needled foliage. They are sharp to the touch. Plant yucca also where the flower stalk can be appreciated. Yucca looks the most natural planted in groups with other drought tolerant perennials and shrubs.
Be sure of the location where you’re planting your yucca. Yucca plants form a tap root and are hard to move once established. Also, if you dig up the plant and leave any sections of roots in the ground, they will resprout into new plants. This makes yucca an excellent hedge and barrier plant, but a tough perennial to totally get rid of if growing in the wrong place.
Yucca requires little care once established. It grows well during dry periods, has few pests and its main problem is due to poorly drained soil that can rot the roots. After flowering in summer, remove the flower stalk to keep the plant neat. Also, as yucca grows the bottom leaves will dry up and brown. Cut these off in spring for a better appearance. Wear long sleeved shirts, pants and boots when working around yucca to avoid cuts from the sharp foliage.
If growing one of the tall yucca types and it’s grown too tall, in early spring cut the trunk to the desired height and a new shoot will form below the cut.
Companion Planting and Design
Grow yucca with other bold textured perennial flowers such as bear’s breetches, hibiscus, caster beans, and prickly pear cactus. It’s also a nice compliment to lusher foliaged plants such as canna lilies, dahlias and datura.
Yucca fits into any landscape that has a Southwestern theme with other agaves, aloes and cacti. But because of its ability to grow in cold landscapes, this evergreen makes a nice companion to temperate shrubs such as basket willows, spruce and hemlock.
The sword-like foliage of yucca can have different coloring depending on the variety. ‘Gold Sword’ and ‘Color Guard’ are green and gold selections with yellow streaks in the center of the leaf blade. ‘Bright Edge’ has the yellow streak along the leaf edge. ‘Hofer Blue’ has solid blue-green foliage. ‘Variegata’ has green leaves edged in white that takes on a pink tinge in winter.