Thursday, February 16, 2012

Y is for Yucca

In the Midwest, Yucca Filamentosa is typically seen in older gardens, cemeteries, and public areas.  In more arid parts of the country yucca may grow nearly everywhere and often wild.  They can, also, be grown as a house plant.

I don't see yucca in many local nurseries and certainly there aren't a lot of varieties hardy to our zone.  I bought my yucca at the Garden Station in Monticello, Indiana.  My variety is "Golden Sword" and is hardy to Zone 4.

Yucca is a good plant to consider if you're wanting to water less - or - designing a xeroscape garden.

Yuccas should be planted in poor soil, have excellent drainage, and full sun.  They especially don't like standing in winter water.  Raised beds with good drainage work well.  The root neck especially should not get soggy.  It's why you see some outstanding yucca plants with a 2 inch layer of small stones or granite chips as mulch. 

If planting in a large hole or raised bed, put a 7-15 inch layer of gravel in the bottom.  Set up a drainage bed especially if you have clay soil.  Add gravel to clay soil to make it 50% soil-50% gravel.  This isn't a picky plant, but it will certainly die from rot if it doesn't have good drainage.

I've never had one live that had been transplanted from other people's gardens because they don't like to be moved.  It's suggested buying from a garden center.

If neatness is your thing, you can cut off dead leaves.  ALWAYS wear thick garden gloves when planting or working with a yucca; the leaves are sharp and can cut a finger off - yes off.   That brings me to a word of caution:  If little children or others can run into the plant - you may want to either not have a yucca, put where there is no traffic, or have a barrier around the plant.

My yucca has beautiful striped two-toned leaves, the reason for the name.  It turns a bright pink in the winter.  Some of the old varieties are a dull medium green or blue green year round. 

Most yucca bloom.  The flowers are often on tall (6 ft.) stems, cream colored and are called fragrant.  The fragrance is a mild soap smell.  They bloom summer through fall.  It's alright to cut the flower stalk off after it blooms. 


Cool information:  They are used by certain moths for mutualistic pollination which includes food for the larvae.  It's an interesting little series of moth events if you'd like to read more.  Some species will not pollinate without the Yucca Moth.  To flower, some species need more than one plant.

Stuff:  There are different species and sub species so it's best to read before you buy.  They have had many practical uses for the Native American Indians.  Some of the new hybrids stay relatively small - others may become trees. 

Common names:  Yucca: Pale; Spineless; Spoonleaf; Palm; Banana. Adam’s Needle, Soapweed, Joshua Tree, Ghosts in the graveyard, Spanish Bayonet, Spanish Dagger, Palma China, and Datil.

I'm still hoping to put a couple beside my driveway.  I like the look of sentinels standing watch.  They are almost like giant gate posts.  It will take lots of soil prep since I'll be dealing with field clay.  They do make outstanding feature or accent plants.  Plant them right and they will be there probably longer than the homeowner.

Top two photos are from my garden.  Bottom two photos are from   Most of their plants are not hardy up here although they can be great houseplants.  It is where I get my very favorite plant tags and stakes: DooHickey    

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