A bold and dramatic, long-lived evergreen shrub, which makes an eye-catching focal point in the border or as a specimen plant. Despite its tropical appearance, the garden forms are actually quite hardy. The only exception is Y. elephantipes (Yucca gigantea), which is only suitable as a houseplant in the UK.
Botanical Name: Yucca
Common Names: Needle palm
Foliage: Evergreen, erect stiff, pointed leaves.
Flowers: Tall flowering stems covered with large, hanging, creamy white bells. The flower spikes can reach as high as 6ft (1.8m). Often scented.
Soil: Free draining soil (chalk, sand or loam). Any pH.
Conditions: Full sun. Best grown in a south or east facing aspect, in a sheltered or exposed location.
Habit: Tall, upright.
Origin: North America, Mexico and West Indies.
Hardiness: Hardy in most regions of the UK.
Good architectural plants, with all-year-round interest. At their best in summer when the impressive tall spikes appear covered in hundreds of white flowers. Some varieties won't flower until they are well established.
Hardy down to -12 deg C but needs some protection from winter rain to prevent crown rot. They have been known to die after flowering, so plant more than one.
Plant in an open sunny, well drained spot, in April or September. Container grown plants can be planted out at any reasonable time of year. Grows well in poor sandy and chalky soils. Avoid waterlogged conditions.
Smaller dwarf forms can also be planted in large tubs and containers.
Yuccas make a great substitute for cordyline and phormiums in colder areas of the country.
Water thoroughly until well established.
Cut out any dead leaves in spring. Cut down faded flower stalks in autumn.
Generally pest and disease free. Can be affected by leafspot.
Sow seeds under glass in spring. Alternatively, remove and replant rooted suckers in spring. These can be found growing at the base of mature plants.
Yucca aloifolia (Spanish dagger) produces spiky, sword-shaped leaves, topped by tall spikes of fragrant waxy-white bell-flowers. Very hardy and drought tolerant once established. Cultivar 'Purpurea' has striking green leaves with a dusky purple blush providing a rainbow effect of colour. Available from You Garden, Gardening Express.
Yucca filamentosa (Adam's needle, needle palm) has mid-green sword like leaves. Tall flower stalks with creamy white bell flowers. Height 750mm (2.5ft); spread 900mm (3ft). Available from Gardening Express, Thompson & Morgan. Cultivar 'Variegata' has striped yellow leaves and 'Bright Edge' has bluegreen sword-shaped leaves with golden margins (available from Van Meuwen, Gardening Express). For a compact form that has a very striking variagation choose 'Colour Guard', which has a broad, central, pale yellow stripe (available from You Garden, Gardening Express).
Yucca flaccida is a popular species with grey lax leaves and white flowers in July-August. Height to 5ft (1.5m), spread 4ft (1.2m). Good cultivars include 'Golden Sword' with a yellowish stripe on the leaves, and 'Ivory' which is popular compact free flowering form (availiable from Thompson & Morgan).
Yucca gloriosa us a tough plant with long, erect, deep green leaves, carried at the top of a slow-growing woody stem or trunk. The long flower spike are tinged with deep pink. Only mature specimens flower. Height and spread to 6ft (1.8m). Available from Gardening Express. The variegated form 'Variegata' makes a colourfull bold statement (available from Thompson & Morgan).
Yucca recurvifolia has long, arching, narrow leaves with tall stalks of cream flowers in July-October. Only mature specimens flower. Height 4-6ft (1.2-1.8m), spread 6ft (1.8m).
Yucca Rostrata (Hardy Beaked Yucca) is one of the most attractive and tallest of the desert yuccas with nearly spherical heads formed by numerous long blue-green to blue-grey leaves. Panicles of white flowers. Only mature specimens flower. Height to 4.5m. Available from Gardening Express.
Yucca whipplei (Our Lord's candle) is one of the taller yuccas, with lovely fragrant, green/white flowers edged with pink or purple. Height to 13ft (4m).
Yucca elephantipes (Indoor Yucca Tree) is a classic houseplant that is very easy to grow. They tolerate full sun and thrive on a minimum amount of care. They make an ideal choice for a well lit room or conservatory. Available from Gardening Express, Thompson & Morgan.