Yucca baccata Banana Yucca
up to 3 ft. high x 4-6 ft. wide
Full to part sun
USDA zones 5-11
Bold, gray-green sword-leafed accent. So named for the large clusters of big succulents, fleshy oval fruits that looked like bananas to early explorers, these plants are amazingly adaptable and can be found in woodland to open grassy habitats from about 1500 ft. to over 7000 ft. in most western and southwestern states. Before their fruits appear, thick flower stalks will form to hold big, cascading lush white and burgundy bell-shaped blooms that are visited by many pollinators but are only pollinated specifically by yucca moths. Their leaves are typically 2-3 ft. long at maturity forming around a basal clump, but rarely short trunked on older specimens. They typically form sizable persistent colonies in the wild. They are often associated with ancient indigenous sites across the southwest, where all parts of the plants were utilized by native peoples. Their leaves are usually gray green with thick curling strings tearing from the leaf margins. It is common for immature plants have shorter recurved leaves. Low to no maintenance with only removal or old dry leaves or cutting off old woody flower stalks being needed. Good drainage is necessary. They will accept and grow faster with more water as long as the soil is well-drained.
Yucca elata Soaptree Yucca
up to 15 ft. high x 4-6 ft. wide
USDA zones 6-11
Dynamic tree-form yuccas with large heads. These yuccas are moderate to slow growers, starting out as most do, as a rounded mass of narrow, green leaves with a tiny, pointed tip. Leaf margins have peeling white thread-like filaments throughout the entire head. These are arborescent yuccas that eventually form tall, leaf thatched trunks. Unfortunately, with recent nursery encouragement, some folks have begun lifting or removing this natural and protective skirt of leaves from many trunked Yucca sp. However, this practice is as inadvisable as shearing desert shrubs is. Yucca elata will accept moderate amounts of water, once established if the soil is well-drained. As with other yuccas, their speed of growth can be manipulated a bit by providing deep regular watering during the summer, but their roots are quite susceptible to rotting if the soil stays too wet, especially during winter. As with other Yuccas, they require little to no maintenance other than removing old woody flower stalks. They can grow tall, so be aware of any height restrictions in the landscape such as eves, or low-branched trees. Give them plenty of root initially, as they will not survive root disturbance or transplanting. Moving them is not an option once they are established.
Yucca faxoniana (Syn. Yucca carnerosana) Faxon Yucca
up to 15+ ft. x 6-8 ft. wide
USDA zones 6-11
Giant, evergreen durable yucca. These giant-sized, arborescent yuccas offer long-term striking silhouettes for southwestern landscapes. Just as you would with a Saguaro, give them root to grow and space them accordingly. They can be dynamic, and bold accents when grouped together, or pair them with other softer desert adaptable shrubs such as Dalea, Creosote, Desert Bird of Paradise. They produce long, dark green sword-like leaves to nearly 3 ft. and 2-3 inches wide at their base with a strong wicked terminal spine from wide woody trunks. They are typically single headed, from which comes a 3-4 ft. tall flower stalk in late spring that holds clusters of white, bell shaped blooms. They prefer good drainage and regular deep watering, especially in spring to summer with little to no supplemental water needed during fall and winter. Easy and adaptable Yuccas.
Yucca gloriosa Spanish Dagger
up to 10 ft. high x 3-5 ft. wide
Full to part sun
USDA zones 8-10
Spiked, dramatic foliage on multiple trunks. This is a moderate to fast growing arborescent yucca that performs best with protection from hottest western exposures in low deserts. Leaves are flat, bright green sword shaped with no sharp terminal spine, which makes them ideal for pool and patio areas. Native to southeastern U.S., they do not mind the heat, and they will accept more water, with less sun, if the soil is well-drained. These lush, tropical looking plants do well in large pots or as specimens in entryways or blended with other tropical foliage shrubs, perennials, or palms. In too much late afternoon sun, the leaves can yellow and become scorched. Acclimating them to full sun is possible, but takes some time.
Yucca rostrata Beaked Yucca
up to 20 ft. high x 8 ft. wide
USDA zones 5-11
These are moderate to fast growing arborescent yuccas that eventually form multiple heads, although as single head specimens they offer plenty of bold drama. The leaves are soft, narrow, silver blue that form a symmetrical round head of leaves about 4 ft. across. The narrow 1/2 in. wide, 2-3 ft. long blue leaves gently flutter with even a slight breeze. The leaves are armed with a slight terminal spine but due to their pliability they are not overly dangerous. These yuccas are accommodating to different soil types and moisture levels, but generally good drainage is recommended. They flower like other yuccas with woody stalks that stand 3-4 ft. above the foliage in spring to summer. Stalks are branched candelabra form from which hang big, white bell-shaped flowers that bees and other pollinators adore. Use them in mass plantings, as single specimens, around pools, patios, any landscape that requires or desires the nobility of a true queen.