In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
May, 2011
Regional Report

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Stagger masses of red and yellow yucca for maximum effect.

Red and Yellow Yucca

During strolls along community walking paths this spring, I have been impressed with how eye-catching the red yuccas (Hesperaloe parviflora) have become over the years. Many of them are at least 15 years old, and I've watched them expand in size from small transplants in five-gallon pots to vigorous clumps spreading 4 feet in diameter, sending up dense forests of flower stalks.

I thought it would be nice to see some of the yellow flowered variety (H. parviflora 'Yellow') mixed in with those reds. The very next day, while driving in another part of the Valley, I came upon a gorgeous planting of the two colors. Alternating masses of red and yellow flowered yuccas lined a public walkway, looking fabulous even at high noon.

Depending on your elevation, Hersperaloe parviflora will bloom from late spring/early summer through fall. They provide an extended season of color for you and nectar for hummingbirds that flock to the blossoms. Regardless of flower color, Hesperaloe parviflora is one of the easiest plants to grow and maintain. Once established, it is drought tolerant, and about the only maintenance required is to remove spent flower stalks when they dry up and the seed pods have popped for the birds. They are cold hardy to about minus 20 degrees.

Transplant in full sun for maximum bloom, although they will also take partial shade. Make sure they have good soil drainage because like most desert plants, they do not tolerate wet feet. Because they will clump and increase in overall size, place them where they have room to grow so their stiff leaf points don't impinge on walkways and driveways. Cutting back their tips ruins the overall natural shape. Once established, they will get along on rainwater in most locales, although will perform better and bloom more profusely with supplemental water during extended periods of drought and during summer heat.

Some gardeners report that javelina or deer munch these plants. Ouch! Just goes to show that when animals are hungry and thirsty, spiky chewy plant parts are not a deterrent. Erect a sturdy wire cage around new transplants for protection until they get established.


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