Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
The yuccas are among the most common native succulent in North America. There are around 30 to 40 species in the area. Some also occur in the West Indies and Central America as well.
These evergreens are found in a range of different habitats and climates. Some grow up to 8000 feet or so in elevation. They grow wild in deserts and the plains as well as in sand dunes.
The hardiness varies from one kind to another. Some are hardy to zone four or five, while tender ones are only suited to zones twelve through 15.
The growth habit of yuccas can vary widely, depending on the species. Many are rosette forming. Others are shrub-like, and up to 30 feet in height with a matching spread. The shrubby or tree-like ones can resemble small trees or rounded shrubs. In some species, there will be five or more multiple stems or trunks.
These long lived plants are best known for their sturdy, attractive foliage. This is lance shaped to linear. Typically, they’re toothed. The leaves, which can be up to two feet long, have sharp tips. There are varieties with brightly variegated leaves. The foliage forms neat rosettes, and has a leathery, stiff texture.
Yuccas are very well known for their attractive blooms. These are white or cream. Often, there are tinges of purple or green in the flowers. Typically, they’re bell shaped. Sometimes, they’re nodding. The individual blooms are only two inches or so in length. These open in branched panicles that are up to three feet in length. On a single flower stalk there can be 200 blossoms. Only about a third of these will develop into fruits and seeds. The blossoms must be pollinated by the yucca moth. The plants bloom throughout the summer and fall.
Generally, yucca plants are about five years of age before they bloom.
The tender species can be grown as indoor or greenhouse plants. They need a winter rest. Keep them dry during that time. When grown as a container/house plant, fertilize once a month with a balanced fertilizer. When grown outdoors, these need full sun and a very well drained soil.
Yuccas can be propagated from suckers as well as seeds. Dig the suckers from around existing plants.