Friday, August 17, 2007

Red Yucca Adds Texture to Arizona Landscapes

Hesperaloe parviflora

When walking through my garden, I never seem to notice the Hesperaloe parviflora, (not parvifolia, as some think,) probably because it is so ubiquitous here in Arizona. The shrub has narrow, stiff leaves that have white, hairy fibers on the margins. A few times a year, it sends up tall spikes that carry salmon pink, tube-shaped flowers that eventually form walnut-sized seedpods. The numerous black seeds, packed tightly into the four quarters of the pod, look remarkably like Pringles®. Hummingbirds and butterflies love this shrub when it’s flowering, so that makes up for its nondescript appearance when the flower stalks are gone.

H. parviflora (Red Yucca) is not a yucca at all, but closely related to the yucca genus (not the aloe genus, as some think). Red Yucca is native to the Chihuahuan desert (not the Sonoran desert as some think) and it grows in USDA zones 5-10. This slow-growing shrub can take temperatures from freezing lows to the harshest summers, but it won’t take heavy, constantly wet soil.

The flowers are long lived. Most folks cut the stalk back as it begins to dry, but the stalk with just the seedpods adds interest and texture to the garden. I love to see this shrub planted in large groupings of five to seven, especially when the grouping includes a few of the newer, H. parviflora ‘Yellow’ cultivar. The grouped shrubs send up hundreds of flower stalks that last for months, brightening even the most barren landscape.


Dana said...

Interesting. When I went to Nevada, I was amazed at the number of hummingbirds and never really did understand why they seem to thrive in those environments. I love the look of desert gardening...but it wouldn't go down too well here in Nebraska!

RUTH said...

I love the colour of these flowers. Not sure how well this plant would do in our climate but I did get my first Yucca flower this year :o)

sisah said...

If I read about this Yucca´s hardiness, I wonder if it would be possible to grow it here in our Brandenburger sandy soil, it seems as if you only have to afford a winter-dry place for it. On the other hand, I am afraid we got no hummings-Birds though.

Aiyana said...

No pruning necessary. If you don't like to see the dried leaves near the ground, you can trim those, but it's not necessary. Also, if you don't like the stalks with the pods drying, once flowering is complete, those can be trimmed off. If you live in an area where they use Red Yucca in medians, you can occasionally see how maintenance crews butcher these plants to make them look like pineapples. They do that--either because they don't know any better or else to control the size and/or debris near the ground. I do not like the look. It's like squaring off or rounding shrubs to look like blocks and balls. Pruning does nothing for the plant, in fact, it's stressful. Hope this helps,

Anonymous said...


Aiyana said...

No idea where you live...locally in the Phoenix area there are seed pods on the yellow variety after bloom in many public common areas. Just pop off one of the pods and you will have about 100 seeds. Landscapers just cut off the stalks and send them to the landfill. You might ask a landscaper to save you a few pods.