With planting care, yucca can grow into a small clump in a year or two. Easy care is limited to cutting off old bloom stalks and removing dead leaves. Yucca prefers full sun with good drainage and is hardy from zone 4 south to zone 10.
Wet yucca roots will rot, killing the plant. It grows easily in poor soil in the southern regions of the USA, and deserts of the southwest. Two popular varieties are the standard green leaf and the green leaf outlined in white, ‘Bright Edge yucca’.
There are 9 species and 24 subspecies of yucca. The plant has large, stiff, sword like leaves. Common names aptly describe this plant while pointing out dangers to humans and small animals. Names such as Spanish dagger, Spanish bayonet, and Adam’s needle warn folks not to touch or play football near this plant, which can puncture an arm or basketball with equal finesse. To prune use heavy gloves because leaves are capable of removing a finger.
White/Ivory blooms top two-foot tall bloom stalks on each plant. Sun, shining through the blooms makes a translucent statement of beauty that may be seen from a distance. Yuccas in the Mitchell garden were planted by Marjorie, Sam’s Mother, when she lived on the farm. Her plants have been carefully tended by Irene since she and Sam moved onto the property.
Yucca begin blooming in late spring, continue through summer, and into early fall. Established plants are difficult to remove because of deep, spreading roots and dangerous leaves. Yucca trees grow in the Mohave Desert.
I knew a professor who devoted many years working with parts of the yucca plant, trying to develop a cure for some types of cancer. He advertised each summer for blooms and leaves of yucca to use with his experiments. He died before his research was complete and no one continued his work.
If you would like to plant a yucca, locate it in full sun, well-drained soil, and in a location to the back of the border where it does not threaten family or lawn mowers. I have seen many yucca plants with the tips cut off their leaves in an attempt to protect family from danger. Removing tips is not sufficient because the entire leaf is sharp as a razor.
In rural Appalachian areas, leaves of yucca filamentosa, are called “meat hangers”, as its sharp spiny tips and tough fibrous leaves are used in puncturing meat as well as knotted in order to form a loop wherein meat can be hung in smoke houses or for salt curing.
Listed as deer proof in some research, hungry deer will eat anything, including yucca blooms.
A symbiotic relationship exists between the yucca and yucca moths from the family Prodoxidae. Different species of yucca serve as host plants for the caterpillar of the Ursine Giant-Skipper and several other butterflies. This is truly a plant for the right place and heavy gloves.