Yucca plants, with their distinctive sword-like leaves and large clusters of white or cream flowers, are a popular choice for garden landscapes. There are nearly 50 species of yucca trees and shrubs, each with its own unique appearance and growing requirements. These tough plants are ideal for a full-sun garden, and can thrive in dry, sandy soil. The foliage of yucca plants ranges from green to bluish-green, with some varieties featuring yellow or white variegation. With their tropical appearance and low maintenance needs, yucca plants are a great choice for adding architectural interest to your garden.
General Tips on Using Yucaa in the Garden
Yucca plants are a great addition to any garden or landscape, but it is important to take into consideration their mature size and sharp leaves when deciding where to plant them. They are best suited for drought-tolerant or rugged gardens and should not be paired with plants that require a lot of water. Smaller varieties of yucca plants make great container plants, which can be moved indoors over the winter in colder climates.
Top Yucca for the Garden
Here some top picks for yucca plants and highlighted important factors to consider for each one, so you can find the perfect fit.
Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’ is a stunning variegated yucca with yellow and green striped leaves that form rosettes. It grows as a clumping shrub that is 2-3 ft tall and wide, making it an ideal garden border plant. The bright foliage and large cluster of whitish flowers in midsummer add a sculptural touch to flower beds, gravel gardens, xeric gardens, and urban landscapes. The yucca is hardy in USDA zones 4-10 and reaches 6 ft in height when in bloom. The sharp leaves also deter animals and intruders.
The Weak-Leaf Yucca Plant (Yucca flaccida) is a small evergreen shrub that grows up to 2 ft tall with a spread of up to 5 ft. Its rosettes of pointed, dark green leaves fold down over time, giving the plant its common name. This low-growing yucca is native to the South-Central and Southeast regions of the United States and can be planted outdoors in zones 5-11. It is also a great option for smaller gardens and spaces, including large containers, and is very cold hardy. The plant produces white to cream flowers on stalks that hover above the rosette, and there are also cultivars of this yucca available, including ‘Golden Sword’ and ‘Garland Gold’.
The Red Yucca Plant (Hesperaloe parviflora) features grass-like leaves with a rosette shape and striking pinkish flowers that grow on tall, narrow spikes. This bushy shrub has spineless leaves that turn reddish-bronze in cold weather, giving it a distinct look. It produces dainty bell-shaped flowers in shades of red or dark pink on 5-ft. (1.5 m) stems, similar to traditional yucca plants.
This yucca-like plant is drought-tolerant and ideal for planting in borders, containers, and Mediterranean gardens. The spineless leaves pose no threat to humans or animals. The Red Yucca grows well in USDA zones 6 – 11 and is native to the Chihuahuan Desert.
This plant can grow up to 6 feet tall and wide, with narrow green leaves and white threads along its margins. It is not commonly grown as a houseplant but thrives outdoors in zones 5-10. Pair it with plants like Prickly Pear Cactus, Autumn Sage, Purple Skullcap, and Blackfoot Daisy to enhance its beauty in your garden.
The Red Yucca plant is a great option for attracting hummingbirds, as its showy blooms start blooming in March or April, just in time for the birds' migration. Planting alongside Turk's Cap, Flame Acanthus, and Autumn Sage will further entice hummers. The evergreen leaves offer textural interest throughout the year and the brown seed pods are a unique touch. For a striking display, consider planting a group of three or more.
The Soapweed Yucca Plant (Yucca glauca) is a drought-tolerant shrub that thrives in desert conditions. Its low-growing habit reaches up to 2ft (0.6m) tall and wide, and is characterized by long, narrow, spiky leaves and a globular shape. During blooming season, the Soapweed Yucca produces pale green-white flowers on a 3ft (1m) tall flowering stem. This yucca shrub, also referred to as the Spanish Bayonet, is different from the Yucca Aloifolia species and is native to Central North America in areas such as Alberta, the Dakotas, and Texas. It is hardy to USDA zones 4-8 and can withstand cold and drought, but is not suitable for coastal areas. With proper care, this yucca plant is easy to maintain.
The Banana Yucca Plant (Yucca baccata) is a hardy evergreen shrub, native to arid deserts in the US and Mexico. Standing at only 3 ft. (1 m) tall, it features long, thin leaves that are between 1-3 ft. (0.3-1 m) in length.
This unique yucca plant has a distinctive appearance, with blue-green leaves that grow up to 30" in length and resemble tentacles, creating a wild and unusual look. Its flowers, which bloom in late spring, are large and have divided petals that give them a banana-like appearance. The outer petals are purple, while the inner ones are white.
Hardy to USDA zones 5 to 9, the Banana Yucca Plant is ideal for gardens with a wild or harsh look, as well as for use in beds, borders, rock gardens, containers, or gravel gardens. Its shorter flower stalks make it a good choice for areas with limited height. Unlike most yuccas, the Banana Yucca has soft, fleshy fruit that resembles short green bananas. This fruit was used by Southwestern Native Americans and Mexicans to make sun-dried cakes.
The Beaked Yucca Plant (Yucca rostrata) is a single-stemmed yucca tree featuring a round pom-pom shaped crown of bluish-green leaves, each 2 ft. long, extending from the top of the trunk. The foliage is accented by an annual large cluster of white flowers with purple shades.
This yucca tree grows 6 to 15 ft. tall, and is cold-hardy, thriving in USDA zones 5-11 and tolerating temperatures as low as -10°F (-23°C). It is not to be confused with the Mexican blue yucca (Yucca rigida), which is less cold-hardy and has stiffer leaves.
The beaked yucca's rosette is comprised of numerous thin, needle-like leaves of a light blue to silver color, giving it a fluffy appearance atop its single stem coated in whitish (yellowish) fibers of old leaves. Despite its fluffy appearance, the leaves are sharp and can easily pierce and cut.
Native to Southern Texas and Northern Mexico, Yucca rostrata may take up to 10 years for this plant to reach its maximum height of 15 ft. outdoors.
The Twisted Yucca (Yucca rupicola), also known as Texas Yucca or Rock Yucca, is a low-growing plant with broad, short, and twisted leaves. The bright green leaves have a sculptural and dynamic look, growing straight on the floor in clumps. This yucca is a flowering plant with white bell-shaped drooping flowers that bloom on stalks up to 5 feet tall during the summer. The leaves of the Twisted Yucca remain under 2 feet tall, with the plant reaching up to 4 feet in spread. This yucca is ideal for containers, patios, terraces, flower beds, rock gardens, gravel gardens, urban gardens, and even formal gardens. It can be grown outdoors in zones 6-10 and is native to Texas, where it thrives in full sun or part shade. When handling the Twisted Yucca, it is essential to be careful, as the leaves have sharp edges and pointed tips. Despite this, the plant is a stunning and original addition to any outdoor space.
Spineless Yucca, also known as Yucca gigantea or Yucca elephantipes, is a large and hardy species of yucca that is native to Central America. It is known for its thick trunks and rosettes of long, narrow leaves that are green to bluish green in color and can grow up to 4 feet long. The plant produces cream-colored flowers in the summer on long stalks, which are also edible and rich in potassium and calcium. The spineless yucca is a low-maintenance and drought-tolerant species that is ideal for landscaping.
This species is perfect for xeric gardens, desert gardens, and tropical gardens, as well as for use as an isolated specimen, windbreak, or hedgerow. It is also suitable for large gardens and public gardens. Spineless yucca is a winner of the prestigious Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society and is hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11.
The plant can grow up to 40 feet tall and 15 to 25 feet wide, making it a great option for landscape planting. Its lack of spines makes it easy to care for, and it is a great option for those who want to add a touch of greenery to their yard without having to worry about spiky leaves. In El Salvador, the edible flower of the spineless yucca is used as the national flower, adding to its cultural significance.
Buckley’s Yucca (Yucca Constricta) is a ground-level plant with upward-facing rosettes of thin, hunter green to olive green needles. The plant has a wild look, with filaments among the foliage that add to its unique appearance. The white flowers grow on tall panicles that resemble feathers above the foliage and bloom in the summer. The plant grows 2 feet tall (60 cm) and 4 feet in spread (120 cm), with blooms that can reach 5 feet tall (150 cm). It is hardy in USDA zones 8 to 11 and is ideal for flowerbeds, borders, rock gardens, informal gardens, and desert gardens mixed with other plants.
Spanish Dagger ‘Bright Star’ (Yucca Gloriosa ‘Bright Star’) is a cultivar of the Yucca gloriosa plant, known for its striking and sculptural appearance. With spherical rosettes at ground level, the leaves are bold and regularly spaced, striped with yellow sides and green interiors. Light exposure can cause the leaves to turn purple and cream. The broad, white flowers are spaced on a panicle and in bud, they are magenta purple for a showy contrast. This plant is hardy in USDA zones 7 to 11 and blooms in mid to late summer. It has a size of 3 feet tall and wide, making it ideal for decorative flower beds, borders, containers, rock gardens, desert gardens, Mediterranean gardens, and urban gardens.
Excalibur' Adam's Needle (Yucca Filamentosa 'Excalibur') is a cultivar of yucca with straight, gray-blue leaves arranged in a striking rosette. The leaves are sharp and pointed with light blue filaments curling at the sides, creating an industrial appearance. The plant is salt-tolerant and has large, bell-shaped flowers that grow on tall panicles. USDA hardiness zones: 5 to 10. Blooming season: early to mid-summer. Size: 2 to 3 feet tall (60 to 90 cm) and 3 to 4 feet wide (90 to 120 cm), reaching up to 5 feet in height (150 cm) when in bloom. Ideal for: gravel gardens, sculptural gardens, urban gardens, rock gardens, containers and patios, coastal gardens, and formal gardens.
Dwarf Yucca (Yucca Harrimaniae), formerly known as Yucca Nana, is a small plant with round rosettes of straight olive green to bluish green sword-shaped leaves, arranged in a regular manner. The leaves have decorative white curly filaments at their edges. The flowers are white and bell-shaped, appearing in a cone from the center of the plant, tightly packed and placed horizontally. It is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 10, blooms in spring and early summer, and grows 1 foot tall and wide, reaching 2 feet in height when in bloom. Ideal for containers, terrariums, terraces and patios, rock gardens, gravel gardens, and flower beds.
Thompson's Yucca Plant (Yucca Thomsoniana) is a cultivar that resembles beaked yucca but is smaller in size. It forms spherical rosettes with light silver green or silver blue, thin and sharp leaves that create an airy "fan" or palm tree effect. The plant grows on thin stems and retains old dried foliage that resembles Hawaiian skirts. The stalks with panicles grow from the center of the rosettes and produce cream-colored, cup-shaped flowers in the summer. It grows to a height of 1 foot 4 inches (1 meter) and spreads up to 2 feet (120 cm). This low maintenance plant is ideal for patios and containers, flower beds, rock gardens, gravel gardens, and urban gardens. Hardy in USDA zones 5 to 10, it thrives in sunny and well-drained locations. Thompson's yucca is native to Texas and Northern Mexico.
Yucca smalliana, also known as beargrass yucca, is a species of yucca native to the southeastern United States. It is prized for its soft and non-prickly leaves, making it a safe option for gardens visited by small children or others. The plant is also known for its luxurious and fragrant blooms, adding beauty and scent to any garden.
The beargrass yucca is hardy in USDA zones 7 to 9, thriving in well-drained soils and full sun conditions. It is relatively low maintenance, making it a great option for those seeking an easy-to-care-for plant. Its height can reach up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) with a spread of 3 feet (90 cm), and the blooming season is in summer.
This yucca species is a great addition to rock gardens, containers, or used as a specimen plant in larger gardens. Its unique and soft leaves set it apart from other yucca species, making it a sought after plant for those looking for a versatile and low-maintenance addition to their garden.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases
Yucca plants are relatively resistant to pests and diseases, but they may still experience issues with aphids, mealybugs, agave plant bugs, and fungal diseases. Agave plant bugs cause brown scars on the leaves by piercing and sucking the juices, while fungal diseases appear as black spots and are more likely with high humidity. To treat pests, use insecticidal soap or neem oil, and for fungal diseases, use a copper fungicide or neem oil. To prevent fungal diseases, avoid overhead watering and remove infected leaves.
Remember that when planting yucca in a dry garden, it is best to grow it alongside other plants with similar needs. They should be placed well away from walkways or play areas to avoid accidental injury from their sharp leaves. Also consider placing them away from softer plants such as Aloe that might be prone to scarring after contact the Yucca leaves. When selecting a yucca, consider the mature size of the plant and make sure it’s located far enough away so it won’t become a problem in the future.