Thursday, October 5, 2017

Why your Florida garden needs Yucca plants, and how to grow them

Yucca plants are evergreen plants with interesting, usually spiky, leaves that bloom into bunches of flowers. There are over 20 species of yucca and three are native to Florida. These are the Spanish Bayonet, Moundlily Yucca, and Adam's needle.

Spanish bayonet (Yucca aloifolia) 
Photo credit: Shirley Denton

Growing yucca plants in Florida is a great way to encourage indigenous plants to thrive, while benefiting birds and pollinators. If you grow native Florida plants, they also require less TLC because they're in their natural environment. Here’s what you need to know about Yucca plants.

The three species of Yucca plant that are indigenous to Florida are beautiful ways to encourage a more creative and healthy garden. Here's how to identify them so you can choose the one that feels perfect for your garden and needs.

1. Spanish Bayonet (Spanish Dagger)
This evergreen plant is marked by sharp tips and two-foot leaves. It can reach up to 20 feet in height, so it's beautiful for spacious gardens. Its heavy, full top can be a great spot to create shade in the garden, too. Spanish Bayonet blooms in white and purple flowers, but it needs lots of sun and well-drained soil to thrive.

2. Moundlily Yucca (Yucca Gloriosa)
Naturally found in areas such as Northeast Florida, Moundlily Yucca has long, pointed that tend to turn downwards. In the hot months, they bloom into upright purple and white flowers. Moundlily prefers sunny areas, although it will tolerate semi-shade. Unlike the Spanish Bayonet, the Moundlily doesn't have extremely sharp leaves, which makes it a softer touch in the garden and safer for small children.

3. Adam's Needle (Yucca Filamentosa)
This trunkless yucca plant blooms in bell-shaped flowers on a central tall stem. Adam's Needle is a shorter yucca plant than the other varieties, and tends to grow no taller than three feet. It's extremely resistant to dry climates, so it's perfect for droughts and rocky gardens that don't require much maintenance. However, make sure you plant it in sunny areas as it worships the sun.

Spanish bayonet (Yucca aloifolia) 
Photo credit: Shirley Denton

How To Grow Yucca Plants So They Thrive
Yucca plants are generally low-maintenance, so you don't have to do much to ensure that they're healthy and look beautiful. Whether you're an amateur or pro gardener, you can easily grow yucca plants. However, there are some issues you need to consider so that you avoid any potential problems. Here are important ones to note.

·            Be Careful When Transplanting Yucca Plants From Containers

If you’re transplanting your yucca plant from a container into the ground, you need to make sure the hole is at least several inches wider and deeper than its container. Make sure there's a layer of sand and pebbles at the bottom. This provides adequate drainage for the yucca plant as it needs well-drained soil.
·            Don’t Be Too Generous With Water

One of the mistakes to make when planting yucca is to overwater it. Yucca is a water-savvy succulent plant that should only be watered when the top third of its soil is dry to the touch. If the ground gets too wet, this can cause fungal diseases or rot. These plants need great drainage, so avoid rich or impenetrable soil.
·            Prevent Fungus With An Easy Tip

If your yucca plant gets fungus, you'll be able to identify it by its strange spotting or growths that are a different color from the plant’s leaves, such as white. You want to prevent fungal infections and you can do so in a natural way.

Baking soda is a natural deterrent to fungus because of its bicarbonate that kills it, so add one tablespoon of it to half a teaspoon of liquid soap and a gallon of water. Spray this mixture on the yucca plant weekly to protect it against fungus.

Choosing The Best Spot For Yucca Plants             
Yucca plants need lots of space, especially since a fully-grown plant can reach up to three feet in width. They also have roots that extend into the ground. Ensuring a good amount of space between yucca and other plants, as well as walkways or garden paths, is also a good idea since yucca plants with sharp leaves can be dangerous to small children.
Wherever you decide to plant your yucca, make it the star of the show. Yucca are attractive and eye-catching so ensure they take center stage, especially in the summer when they blossom. Since they're evergreen plants, they'll keep your garden looking beautiful all year round.

Creative Landscape Designs For Yucca Plants
If you're not sure how to design your garden for your yucca, consider a rocky landscape or a more tropical design. These are creative ideas that do justice to your interesting Yucca plant, while also helping you to combine it with other plants in the garden in a harmonious way.  

1.     A Rocky Landscape
You can create a stunning architectural landscape by combining yucca plants with other succulents, such as cacti, and using rocks as landscape design. If your yucca plant has soft leaves, use spiky cacti to create contrast. On the other hand, if you're using spiky yucca, the other succulents should be softer, perhaps with rounder leaves. Play with textures to create a beautiful urban and visually appealing design.

2.    A Tropical Design
However, yucca plants can also be used in a "tropical garden" design because of their bold greenery and pretty blossoms. The Spanish Bayonet with its full leaves and column-like shape that bursts into thick flowers is an example of a yucca plant that calls to mind island getaways. You can team it up with other plants that bear colorful flowers to add a burst of boldness to your garden design.

Yucca plants are striking and low-maintenance, while being perfect for the Florida climate. Add indigenous yucca plants to your garden to make it more unique, for all-year-round visual interest and natural beauty.

Author: Jackie Edwards, FNPS Suncoast Chapter

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