Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Plant profile: Yucca

Yucca guatamalensis
There are 40-50 species of perennials, shrubs, and trees known as yuccas, which are in the agave family. They're pretty common as houseplants, and grow well in San Francisco gardens too.

Latin name: Yucca spp. ("YOU-cah")
Common name: Yucca
Originally from: hot and dry parts of North America, Central America, South America, and the West Indies.
Blooms: Not very often, but when they do you'll see a big spike with whitish flowers on it.
Light: Full sun, or partial shade.
Water: Rain is enough.
Where to find in P. Garden: In a row along the wall, as well as several dotted around on the back slope by the compost heap, and one in the large middle bed.

Yucca guatamalensis
We got most of our Yuccas from dedicated plant finder John, who brought us about a dozen large branches of Yucca guatamalensis (Spanish Dagger). We let them sit for a while, and then planted them against the wall of Gary's building, where they are currently considering the option to root and be well-behaved, or die and make a fool of me.

(UPDATE: they all rooted and are growing well!) They're very tough plants, so I expect they'll take up the challenge and I'll be hacking them back with a machete before you know it. John also gave us a full-on rooted Yucca tree (top) which is very impressive and gives the other Yuccas something to aspire to!

Yucca recurvifolia
We have a Yucca elephantipes "Silver Star" by the steps - taking it's time to get going like any variegated plant, but it'll be nice when it does.

Then we have a row of Weeping Yuccas (Yucca recurvifolia) (left) along the steps donated by John. Weeping Yuccas are native to Georgia and Mississippi and are less likely to poke your eye out than the others, with their softer leaves.

Yucca linearifolia
Also by the steps is one of my favorite plants: Yucca linearifolia. This narrow-leaved plant will eventually grow a trunk with the mesmerizing pom-pom of thin leaves held aloft on top of it. In about 30 years. Oh well.

We also have several Yucca flaccida "Garland's Gold" which is a yellow and green variegated Yucca with floppy leaves, which has a compact form - it doesn't turn into a tree like many other types. Then we have three Yucca whipplei on the steps. Yuccas are lovely, bright, tough plants - I'd love to get more species of Yucca for the garden, too. Any suggestions?

Yucca flaccida
"Garland's Gold"
We've seen a lot of Yuccas growing in the front yards of Daly City and surrounding suburbia, and have noticed they are always immaculately trimmed with all dead leaves removed. Perhaps we will keep our Yuccas groomed like show poodles too... I've trimmed the big Yucca tree recently and it looks sharp. Both literally and metaphorically!

UPDATE June 2016:
Yuccas are now a staple at PG and PRG due to being impervious to drought, fire, freezing, direct nuclear strike... The Y. guatamalensis cuttings we planted on the cactus wall took off and we have since taken cuttings from them. We added several variegated Yuccas to the gardens as well and they are awesome: Y. aloifolia "Marginata"  Yucca "Bright Star"  Y. elephantipes "Marginata"  Y. gloriosa "Variegata" and a couple others.

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