Red Yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora: Tough Texas summer favorite shrub
Description: Red Yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora, has evergreen leaves that are thick, dark gray-green and sword-shaped, often with a graceful arch, with no dangerous tips. The leaves have interesting thread-like peeling leaf margins, adding to their attractiveness. The foliage reaches 2-3 feet tall and 2-4 feet wide. Red Yucca, a Central and Western Texas native, is a favorite for Texas landscapes. In spite of its common name, Red Yucca is in the Agavaceae, making it an agave, not a yucca. In the wild, it is found in prairies, rocky slopes, and mesquite groves in Central Texas to the western side of the Edwards Plateau and in the Chihuahuan desert in Arizona and Northern Mexico.
Flowers and Seeds: Red Yucca starts to send up flower spikes in mid-spring. A mature plant in full sun may sprout up to ten flower spikes that are usually 3-5 feet tall but can reach over 7 feet tall, making an impressive display. Each flower spike will have scores of individual tubular deep pink to coral to yellow flowers, about 1 inch across. Red Yucca blooms on and off until October. After pollination, woody seed capsules 2 inches in diameter develop. Seeds may be collected from the pods after they dry out and split open.
Planting sites: Red Yucca thrives in full sun and tolerates partial shade. It tolerates a range of soil pH and soil types, including poor soil.
Watering Instructions: Red Yucca should be given supplemental water at the time that it is first planted. After it is established, it is extremely drought tolerant, and does not need supplemental water. It does well in extreme xeric conditions. It will not tolerate “wet feet” – it must have adequate drainage.
Comments: Red Yucca is an outstanding choice for xeric, low-maintenance landscaping, needing no supplemental water and almost no attention in North Texas. Care involves a once yearly pruning of spent flower stalks in late winter or early spring. Red Yucca is extremely heat tolerant and also cold-hardy. It is easy to propagate from seed. Its flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and night-pollinating moths. Deer will eat the flowers, but not the foliage. Red Yucca is great in rock gardens. Planted en masse, Red Yucca makes quite a statement, especially when it is in bloom. Companion plants include Mexican Feathergrass, Lance-leaf Coreopsis, Winecup, Autumn Sage and true yuccas. In addition to normal Red Yucca, there is also a variety with butter-yellow flowers and a dwarf variety with crimson flowers starting to enter the garden market.
Written by Dr. Becca Dickstein