The Yucca plant comes in many types and varieties. Yucca plants are most useful as specimen plants or as substitutes for shrubs, and are evergreen throughout the winter. Find facts and information on growing the yucca plant and a list of some of the best yucca species.
Yucca Plant Facts
Yuccas, also go by other names, such as, Adam’s needle, and Joshua tree. They are members of the Agavaceae family of plants and usually have large spiky, hard-leaves that is usually associated with semitropic or desert areas. These herbaceous or woody perennials grow in colonies and do well planted in within rock and gravel, rock gardens, and areas with drought tolerant landscapes. Some cultivars will also have variegated leaves. There are some species that are suited for hot, southern areas, as well.
Yucca plants (yucca tree) are hardy perennials that grow in Zones 4 to 10, depending on the species. All types will withstand high heat and cold and will reach heights of 5 feet or more when in flower. They prefer full sun but will tolerate bright dappled shade.
The Yucca flower varies in colors of greenish to ivory-white or lavender. They are bell-like flowers and inch or more wide, in hugh spires. Most yuccas will bloom in summer in most regions, and any time of the year in hot climates. *Be aware that yuccas can have very sharp spines that can cut very easily.
The soil should be well-drained as yuccas prefer sandy soils with a pH of 6.5-7.5. Space yuccas at least 3 feet or more from each other to give them plenty of room to grow. Fertilizing is done by applying well-rotted manure, an all-purpose fertilizer, or a fertilizer high in phosphorus.
Other Uses of Yucca
Yucca is also a popular plant with many uses. You will see yucca food and yucca recipes consisting of yucca chips and yucca drinks made from the root of the yucca plant.
- Start seeds indoors 1/4” deep in small pots filled with moist potting soil. Water, cover, and keep at 80 degrees until the seeds germinate. Grow seedling in a sunny area or a few inches below a fluorescent light fixture at 60 degrees to 85 degrees. When they become crowded they may be moved to larger pots or outdoors.
- Sow seeds outdoors, when the weather warms, to about 1/2 “ deep and 4” apart. Thin seedlings grown outdoors to their permanent spacing when they are 4 or more inches tall.
- Yucca plants may be divided, if necessary, by cutting off and replanting offshoots during cool weather and spring in cooler northern regions. *Tip- Wear gloves and use a sharp knife! Do not cut individual plant rosettes in half, simply respace those that are crowded. Some plants die after they flower, so it is important to cultivate offshoots.
- Water young plants whenever the soil becomes dry. Mature plants thrive in dry conditions, so this is not a concern when the plants are older.
- Fertilizer the plants lightly at the time of planting and periodically during growth.
- Pests and diseases are seldom problems.
- Mulch plants with 2 to 3 inches of bark chips, shredded leaves, or other mulch if you wish, but do not bury the crown of the plant.
- Seedpods stalks may be removed unless you want to keep the seeds.
Best Species of Yucca Plants
Yucca filamentosa, is used throughout the United States. It has a prolonged rosette stage, followed by a 5 foot tall flowering stem that bursts open into a tower of white, bell-shaped flowers in the summer. This species is hardy in Zones 4 to 10 and reaches about 2 foot tall. It has spiky evergreen mounds of green or bluish-green leaves.
Yucca guatemalensis, (syn. yucca elephantipes, or yucca gigantea) is a yucca tree that grows 20-30' tall in Zones 9-11. It is grown mostly for its foliage, but it has yellow to gold flowers appearing in late spring to summer.
Yucca gloriosa (curved leaf yucca) grows 6-8 feet in Zones 6-9. It has blue-green foliage that may cause allergic reactions. Flowers bloom in mid-summer and are white.
Yucca baccata ( Spanish bayonet) forms short-stemmed clumps of tough, swordlike, 2-foot-long leves with 2 foot tall clusters of red-brown and white flowers in summer. This species grows in New Mexico and other southwestern areas. Seeds should be sown in the spring.
Yucca glauca (Narrow-leaved yucca) grows in Zones 3 to 9, form South Dakota to New Mexico. It has stiff, pointed leaves that make a moundlike base for slender, 4 foot tall flower spikes of white or rose. Plant their seeds in fall,
Yucca elata (Soap tree yucca) is a very showy type that is the state flower of New Mexico. It has lily-like white flowers that appear on trunk-like stems up to 20 feet tall.
Yucca rostrata is an evergreen grown for its foliage in Zones 5-11. It grows in full sun and may reach from 4 to 15 feet, depending on the variety. The flowers are pale yellow and appear in mid-summer. They have very sharp spikes as do many other varieties.