Fundamental Facts

HARDINESS: Zones 5 to 10
PREFERRED SOIL pH: Adoptable
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Average
PREFERRED LIGHT: Sun to partial shade
ATTRIBUTES: Spiked leaves, spires of white flowers; for beds or as an accent plant
SEASON OF INTEREST: Year-round; blooms in summer
FAVORITES: 'Garland's Gold', 'Golden Sword; dwarf 'Bright Edge'
QUIRKS: Sharp leaves can injure; wear gloves and goggles when tending plants
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Artemisia, butterfly flower, coreopsis, euphorbia, rudbeckia, sedum
WHERE FT GROWS BEST: Sun, in dry or well-drained soil
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Root rot in soggy soil
RENEWING PLANTS: Plants live many years; divide crowded dumps and remove old plants
CRITTER RESISTANCE: Excellent
SOURCE: Bedding plants, division
DIMENSIONS: Plants 3 ft (1 m) tall and wide; flower stalks to 6 ft (1.8 m) tall

Yucca in the Landscape

With their erect, swordlike leaves radiating in all directions from the plant's base, yuccas are associated with the American Southwest, but they can find a place in any garden. These architectural garden plants are incredibly easy to grow and have many attractive features. The broad, stiff, evergreen leaves are usually green and may have loose filaments along the edges that shred into interesting curlicues. Some fancy cultivars boast leaves variegated in cream, white, or gold. Yucca filamaitosa 'Garland's Gold' is banded with yellow, and Y. flaccida 'Golden Sword' has yellow stripes. Most yuccas grow several feet tall and make a statement even before they send up flower stalks in summer that reach 6 ft (1.8 m). For small gardens, there are scaled-down cultivars that stand a mere 2 ft (0.6 m) tall, such as Y. filamaitosa 'Bright Edge', whose green leaves have broad yellow edges.

Yuccas tolerate almost any soil and weather conditions, including sand and salt spray near well-traveled roads and the seashore. Because of their drought tolerance, yuccas are perfect for garden spots that are out of hose and sprinkler range, and their ability to make do with what nature dishes out makes them ideal for weekend gardeners. They excel in large pots, surviving for several hot summer days without watering. And their evergreen foliage will mark the end of a path or driveway even in snowy winter. But because the leaf tips are pointed, make sure yuccas are spaced a comfortable distance from high-traffic areas.

Pair yuccas with other plants that love heat, drought, and sun. White-flowered zinnias combined with green-and-white variegated yuccas make a striking match. Yuccas with leaves striped in yellow combine well with chartreuse-flowered euphorbias. Use a line of yuccas as a hedge or low, prickly barrier to discourage human or animal intruders or mix them in foundation plantings under windows.

Growing Yuccas

Yuccas form tough, long-lived plants that send up leaves from a central base, or crown. In spring, just as new growth begins, plant yuccas 3 ft (1 m) apart in full sun, in very well drained soil. Excellent drainage is important because root rot, which develops in soggy soil, is one of the few problems to pester yuccas. Dig the planting hole as deep as the nursery container and twice as wide. When planting in heavy clay soil, improve the drainage in the planting hole by digging in enough coarse sand and organic matter, such as compost, to make the soil crumbly.

Plant in groups of 3-5 to make the plants a focal point in a landscape. In a small garden, however, a single plant will serve as an accent. To establish new plants quickly, water and fertilize with a balanced fertilizer according to package directions, but after initial pampering, leave yuccas growing in the ground untended.

For a neat appearance, remove old, discolored leaves and old flowering stalks while wearing heavy gloves to protect against the pointed leaves. If plants become overcrowded after several years, thin them in spring or fall, wearing protective goggles and gloves. The thick, prickly leaves of yucca effectively repel pests of both insect and four-footed varieties.


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