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BellaOnline's Cacti and Succulents Editor

The Red Yucca

Drought remains a threat in parts of the U.S. Thatís one good reason to grow succulents. The red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) is a drought-tolerant native that is well suited to zones 7 through 10.

Red yucca is an outstanding perennial. The semi-succulent leaves appear in a clump-like mound. Up to four feet in length and an inch or so across, the foliage has a grassy appearance. Older leaves can remain on the plants for years. You might be able to tell from looking at it that the red yucca is a member of the Agave family (Agavaceae).

Overall, the plants can be three feet in height and twice as wide.

The plantís common name arises from its flowers, which are typically red. However, they may also be pink. Some yellow-flowering cultivars are also available. Blooms appear on eight-foot-tall flower stalks from spring through the fall. The individual, bell-shaped flowers are 1ľ inch long. Later in the season the large, distinctive seed capsules will appear. These contain flat black seeds.

Red yucca is native to some parts of the Southwest, including the Chihuahuan Desert into Mexico.

There seems to be some question about the plantís hardiness. Some say it is hardy to zero or 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Though some sources report that the plants are hardy to zone 5 (-20 degrees Fahrenheit), this may be pushing oneís luck. It is definitely recommended for USDA zones 7-10.

This slow growing perennial is drought tolerant, and is recommended for xeriscaping purposes.

In the landscape red yucca has numerous uses. It makes an excellent ground cover and accent plant, and is suitable for butterfly and bird gardens. Sometimes it is used for planting along roadsides.

These plants are enjoying tremendous popularity, especially in Texas where people want drought-tolerant species. Eventually this demand is bound to result in the release of new cultivars.

For optimal flowering, red yucca requires a sunny spot. It will grow in partial shade, but it just wonít bloom quite as well under those conditions.

A well-drained soil is a requirement.

Once the plants are established they require little attention. Some supplemental watering may be needed in very dry areas, but it is still considered a drought tolerant species. If desired, the old flower stalks can be removed.

Gardeners should fertilize red yucca sparingly in the spring when it begins actively growing.

Red yucca can be propagated by dividing the plants or by planting seeds, which is an easy method of producing more plants.

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