2018-07-13 / Home & Garden

Texas Red Yucca—taking heat at the border and beyond

Stopping to smell the flowers
By Arlene Marturano

One native plant covering the Chihuahuan Desert and the state of Texas has journeyed to Columbia recently.

Texas Red Yucca aka Hummingbird Yucca and Coral Yucca are misleading common names. Although the stemless plant has characteristics resembling our native white yucca with narrow 2-3’ long strap-shaped grooved grey-green evergreen leaves with margins covered in threadlike peeling white fibers, red Yucca is not a yucca at all. It is Hersperaloe parviflora, a member of the Agave or Century-Plant family.

The succulent grows in upright clumps of thorn free foliage from which racemes of coral-pink tubular florets appear on branching central flower stalks up to 5’ tall from late spring through to fall. Leaves turn plum colored in autumn.

Hesperaloe is a heat, drought, and cold tolerant low maintenance plant recommended for USDA hardiness zones 5-10. Growing conditions are a full sun location and well-drained soil. Fall and winter are ideal planting times in the Midlands. The plant adapts to annual rainfall but will do best with supplemental irrigation during extended hot or dry periods.

Five foot long flower stalks support beautiful coral floral racemes. Five foot long flower stalks support beautiful coral floral racemes. At the end of the flowering season, remove spent flower stalks and decaying leaves from the base of the clump with a hand pruners or loppers. Never shear or weed whack red yuccas. The plant would have difficulty reclaiming its natural form again.

Wherever the red yucca grows there is wildlife. Seed-eating birds harvest the seeds. In the flowering season, hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to the floral nectar. Night-pollinating moths are drawn to nectar after dark. Deer browse the foliage.

Red yucca is a sculptural, textural, and colorful accent plant punctuating rock gardens, Mediterranean or desert landscapes, xeric gardens, perennial borders, and pollinator plots. Public gardens site the plant along the margins of pathways. The strong vertical aspect of the clumping perennial makes for an ideal accent plant at a mailbox or in a large patio planter. Or, site red yucca en masse with grasses for a native grassland effect.

Coral-pink tubular florets attract pollinators. Coral-pink tubular florets attract pollinators. Municipalities use the pollution tolerant succulent in roadside and median strip plantings and shopping center parking lots. The key to success with red yucca is to have excellent soil drainage.

Red yucca may be propagated from seed, clump division, or pups. Ripe seed pods contain black seeds. Sow seeds outdoors in spring or anytime if starting seed indoors. Germination time is 4-5 weeks. Red yuccas from seed grow slowly and will not produce flowers for 4-5 years. Clump division provides plants ready to relocate or passalong to others. Offsets known as pups emerge at the base of the parent plant similar to other agaves.

Hummingbird yucca is another common name. Hummingbird yucca is another common name. The carefree, tough red yucca is ready to take the heat in your border, backyard, and beyond.

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