Yuccas are large succulent plants from the agavaceae family. If their cultural requirements are met, they are easy to grow. They are very drought-tolerant and are the perfect solution for hot, dry sites. Some are cold hardy, while others must be grown in warmer regions. Most are large clump-forming plants that develop tall flower stalks. Historically, they supplied basket material and were a food source for Native Americans.
Designing With Yuccas
There is no way to play down the architectural presence of a yucca. They instantly evoke the feeling of the desert. They have long, thin, strap-like foliage. Most are very stiff and even sharp. They have tall flower spikes lined with rounded bell type flowers. Most blooms are creamy white. Since they are sun-loving plants that need impeccable drainage, pair them with plants that need the same conditions. This includes other succulents like cacti, agave and aloe.
One hardy member of the agave family (Hesperaloe parviflora) resembles a smaller, thin-leaved yucca but develops red or yellow flower clusters loved by hummingbirds. Also pair yucca with with New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax), a similar-sized colorful grass. Phormiums come in an array of colors such as red and bronze, as well as some with yellow and pink variegation. Average sizes for phormium and yucca plants are 3 to 4 feet tall. Sun-loving grasses of all sizes can also complement yucca plantings.
One big differing factor between most yucca species is their hardiness zone. Some can tolerate low temperatures but others will not tolerate the slightest frost. They all like good drainage and little or no irrigation. Never plant them where there is standing water at any time. You can create a raised bed or add sand or rock to the soil to improve drainage. They are sun-loving plants; the hotter the site, the better. If these requirements are met they will thrive on neglect, needing little else.
Yucca are native to North America, South America and dry portions of Canada. In the United States they can be found in southern, coastal and mountainous regions of California, Arizona, North Carolina, Florida, Texas and as far inland as Nevada. Some species can adapt to more temperate areas.
Caring for Yuccas
As yuccas mature they will develop brown fronds at the base of the plant. This is a normal shedding process of most evergreen plants. They can be trimmed away with a knife, scissors or pruners to keep the plant tidy. The spent bloom stock can also be cut away. Many yucca bloom once and then develop offshoot plants which will be the next area of bloom. The thick, fibrous foliage will remain for a long time, but to ensure future flowers' nurture or transplant the new plants that form.
Good Landscape Yuccas
Another group of yuccas is cold-hardy to all regions. The most adaptable and well-known landscape yucca is Adam's needle (Yucca filamentosa). This yucca can withstand cold temperatures, and more water than most others. A similar species (Yucca flaccida) is generally found as a variegated hybrid called "Golden Sword." Banana Yucca (Yucca baccata) is a cold hardy yucca that produces edible pods.
Other yuccas are suitable for temperate regions between USDA zone 7 and 9, such as Spanish Bayonet (Yucca aloifolia), pendulous yucca (Yucca recurvifolia) and Our Lord's Candle (Yucca whipplei).