If you want a warm-climate plant that leaves your hands free for other things, red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) is an excellent choice. It is extremely low-maintenance, and reproduces willingly in two main ways: division of mature clumps and seeds. Among red yucca’s other selling points are its extreme heat tolerance and the fact that it blooms beautifully year after year with no extra help from you.
Also called red hesperaloe, red yucca is in the family Agavaceae and is not actually a yucca, but a hesperaloe -- hence its less frequently used common name. Hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10, red yucca is native to the southwestern United States and Mexico. Red yucca flowers year after year with no extra maintenance required, and has interesting-looking leaves that grow to about 30 inches long. The leaves are gray-green and stiff like straps. The margins are covered with curling white hairs, adding fun visual appeal.
2. Reproduction and Propagation
To propagate red yucca, save the seeds that develop on the flower stalks. They grow easily when planted in similar conditions to the mother plant, so this makes a good project to get kids out into the garden. You can also divide clumps of red yucca in the spring; they bloom in the fall. Before dividing, water the plants so they will not dry out during the division process. Dig up the plants and shake off loose dirt; then remove dead leaves and stems. Tear them apart at the root structure, or cut them apart using a spade or trowel. Replant the smaller clumps.
Red yucca can grow to be two to three times the size it reaches in the desert, where water supplies are much lower than in your garden. It tolerates a great deal of heat, so grow it in full sun. Red yucca prefers well-drained soil. Once planted, red yucca requires almost no maintenance aside from supplemental watering in the hottest months. Remove dead leaves, which lay flat on the ground, and dry flower stalks unless you want to save seeds, in which case you should leave the stalks on until they mature.
4. Garden Uses
Red yucca is grown for its pretty red flowers that develop on long stalks from early summer through fall. A yellow flower variety named “Desert Son” is available as well, and looks nice planted together with the red types. Hummingbirds feed on the flowers in summertime. Once the flowers are spent and develop seed, you can leave them on the plant to attract wildlife such as birds, which eat the seeds. If you want to propagate from seed, collect them once they are firm and dry and the outer hull splits.
- University of Arizona Pima County Cooperative Extension: Hesperaloe Parviflora
- Texas Native Plants Database: Red Yucca, Red Hesperaloe
- Arizona Cooperative Extension, Yavapai County: Red Yucca: Drought Tolerant and Colorful
- Arizona State University: Hesperaloe Parviflora
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Dividing Perennials