18 Unusual Yucca Plant Varieties With Care Tips

Yucca is a beautiful tall growing succulent with large rosettes of blade like, long and thin (and sharp!) leaves and massive, long lasting panicles of white and bell shaped flowers. In fact the blooms can last for months. And many of the species in this genus are very cold hardy.

For this reason, gardeners love yuccas: beautiful, generous, tough and, in many cases, even edible! But which yucca is best for you?

There are about 40 to 50 species of yuccas in the world, some are more tree like, others more shrub like.

The range goes from the large Joshua tree (up to 70 feet tall) to dwarf yucca (only 8 inches tall!) Thus, there is a range that goes from landscape planting to hedges, beds and even small spaces, like pots or small rock gardens. There are couple of varieties like Yucca guatemalensis and Yucca aloifolia which can be grown indoors as houseplants.

And to help you make the perfect choice, we have searched far and wide and found out the best yucca trees for different conditions, types of gardens and spaces.

Here are 18 popular yucca plant varieties for your landscape, along with our best tips for growing these drought-tolerant architectural plants in your garden or container.

Yucca Plant Overview

Yucca is a genus of 40 to 50 species of perennial plants, shrubs and trees native of the Americas and Caribbean islands. They are distinctive because of their sharp, sword like leaves (they actually can cut you) arranged in a rosette at the end of stems.

These stems often look woody, like trunks. But they are succulents, and succulents have no trunks as such, but stems. In fact, they are classed as shrubs, and not trees. Nevertheless, the stems often have a very upright habit, which makes them very decorative, as the ensemble looks a bit like the silhouette of a palm tree.

Where To Plant Yuccas In Garden: For this, they have a “sultry exotic look” as they are associated with dry places, like the Joshua Tree National Park in California. But they also have excellent architectural qualities. Yucca plants like arid growing conditions and they cannot stand swampy places.

Their natural areas are deserts or semi-deserts where it rains little, but also where the soil is sandy and very well drained. You will need to try to reproduce these conditions if you want healthy plants. On the other hand, the arid deserts and semi-deserts they come from also have very cold nights.

This means that yuccas are usually very hardy, they can withstand even sharp changes in temperatures and many species are actually cold hardy.

Some varieties will survive in USDA zone 5 (even 4!) and it’s not unusual to see them in the snow… I have even seen them – hold yourself – in full bloom under a coat of snow! For this reason, yuccas are different from many succulents, and gardeners love them very much.

Bloom time: They are very generous bloomers, with a huge number of long lasting flowers. Sometimes, they can bloom for virtually a whole year, including through the winter, depending on the species and conditions. The flowers are also often edible (they have a very sweet and delicate flavor, a bit like vanilla).

Soil: They are very tough plants, often very cold hardy and at the same time drought resistant and adaptable to most types of soil, as long as well drained, including infertile and poor ones. For this reason, they are very low maintenance.

And now you are about to find out what they have in common, how to grow them and how they all differ as well.

Yucca Care Factsheet

  • Botanical name: Yucca spp.
  • Common name(s): yucca, cassava, Joshua tree, Spanish dagger, Adam’s needle and thread, Spanish bayonet, aloe yucca, needle palm, yucca palm.
  • Plant type: perennial evergreen succulent shrub.
  • Size: from 8 inches tall and in spread (Yucca nana, 20 cm) to 70 feet tall (21 meters) and 30 feet in spread (9 meters) with Yucca brevifolia (Joshua tree). However in most cases they remain within 40 feet in height (12 meters).
  • Potting soil: for small species, cactus soil is fine; add perlite for drainage.
  • Outdoor soil: loam, chalk or sandy soil as long as very well drained.
  • Soil pH: around the 6.0 point.
  • Light requirements indoors: west facing, bright light.
  • Light requirements outdoors: full Sun.
  • Watering requirements: only water when the soil has dried up. It is drought resistant.
  • Fertilizing: very rarely and with light fertilizer (cactus fertilizer if in a pot). Outdoors, once a year in spring, with some compost.
  • Bloom time: it depends, but usually from summer to fall.
  • Hardiness: depending on the species, usually USDA zones 5 and above.
  • Place of origin: Americas and the Caribbean.

18 Types Of Yucca Plants For The Sunny Landscape

These are 18 types of yucca, all with great foliage, beautiful flowers, but also all different, large, small, wild looking or very sculptural, for all sorts of gardens:

1. Spanish Bayonet (Yucca Aloifolia)

Spanish bayonet

Spanish bayonet is a classical looking yucca. It has very rounded rosettes on top of light brown, grayish and tapering stems and branches that start from the base of the plant. It is very elegant and the rosettes are very dense and each leaf can be 2 feet long (60 cm). The foliage is bright green.

The flowers are white but sometimes purple, and very abundant. They start in spring, early for most yuccas, and they can last through the beginning of summer. They come on panicles that can be about 2 feet long (60 cm). This is a very elegant and architectural variety.

  • ​Hardiness: USDA zones 7 to 11.
  • Blooming season: spring and summer.
  • Size: 5 to 10 feet tall (1.5 to 3 meters) and 3 to 5 feet in spread (90 cm to 1.5 meters).
  • Ideal for: hedges, gravel gardens, urban gardens, modern gardens, large terraces, minimalist gardens, “outdoor rooms”.

2. Soaptree Yucca (Yucca Elata)

Soaptree yucca

Soaptree yucca is very unusual yucca plant. It starts off as a ball of thin needles that grow close to the ground. As it grows, though, the old leaves dry out and become “the fur” of the stem, which looks very much like a palm trunk. It is very slow growing and it has very thin needles for a yucca, almost like filaments.

The flowers come on spring on along stalk (up to 6 feet, or 1.8 meters) and they are white with dashes of green or pink some times. After blooming, the plant will produce beautiful brown capsules that will last till fall. It tolerates drought as well as frost too.

  • Hardiness: USDA 6 to 11.
  • Blooming season: spring and summer.
  • Size: 6 to 20 feet tall (1.8 to 6 meters) and 8 to 10 feet in spread (2.4 to 3 meters).
  • Ideal for: landscape planting, when small it looks great in a succulent flower bed, as an isolated tree, desert gardens and Mediterranean gardens.

3. Our Lord’s Candle (Yucca Whipplei)

Our Lord’s candle

Our Lord’s candle is a very sculptural variety of yucca. The rosette of narrow bluish gray needles, with very pointed tips. The color may change with light and the tips often turn brown, adding to the effect. The rosettes grow straight on the ground.

The flowers come on a very long stalk (up to 14 feet tall, or 4.2 meters!) This will happen in summer and the panicles will be huge too, up to 3 feet long (90 cm). They have a very strong sweet scent and they are cream in color with a touch of purple. Winged capsules will follow. This plant can withstand freezing temperatures, down to 10oF (a whopping -12oC)!

  • Hardiness: USDA zones 7 to 9.
  • Blooming season: summer.
  • Size: 5 to 6 feet tall and wide (1.5 to 1.8 meters), when un bloom up to 14 feet tall (4.2 meters).
  • Ideal for: large flower beds, rock garden, desert gardens, gravel gardens, formal gardens, large pots, architectural gardens.

4. Spineless Yucca (Yucca Elephantipes)

Spineless yucca

Spineless yucca is a giant variety; it can grow to 40 feet tall (9 meters), it has a large “trunk” with upright habit and many still upright branches. The rosettes are large and lush, with green to bluish green fairly broad leaves that can reach 4 feet in length (1.2 meters each). The flowers will come in summer, on a long stalk, and they are cream in color.

This variety has edible flowers, and they are actually very rich in potassium and calcium. It is also very much drought tolerant and very low maintenance. It is a winner of the prestigious Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society.

  • Hardiness: USDA 9 to 11.
  • Blooming season: summer.
  • Size: 15 to 30 feet tall (4.5 to 9 meters) and 15 to 25 feet wide (4.5 to 7.5 meters).
  • Ideal for: xeric gardens, desert gardens, landscape planting, as an isolates specimen, hedged and windbreaks, large gardens, public gardens and tropical gardens.

5. Weak Leaf Yucca (Yucca Flaccida)

Weak leaf yucca

Weak leaf yucca is a small evergreen plant with rosettes that will stay close to the floor. The leaves are straight, sword shaped and pointed. They are shorter than other yuccas, reaching a maximum of 22 inches in length (55 cm). They are of a dark green color and the effect of the rosette is “bushy”.

The flowers grow on stalks that hover above the rosette. They will form many white to cream flowers, grouped in floating panicles. There are also cultivars of this yucca, notably ‘Golden Sword’ and ‘Garland Gold’. It is excellent for smaller gardens and spaces, including large containers. It is also very cold hardy.

  • Hardiness: USDA zones 4 to 10.
  • Blooming season: summer.
  • Size: 2 feet tall 60 cm) and 4 to 5 feet wide (120 to 150 cm). When in bloom it reaches 5 feet tall (150 cm).
  • Ideal for: containers, flower beds and borders, smaller gardens, rock gardens, urban gardens, gravel gardens and even cold places.

6. Beaked Yucca (Yucca Rostrata)

Beaked yucca

Beaked yucca is a stunning, showy tree-like type of yucca. The rosette is made up of a multitude of thin, needle like leaves of a light blue to silver color.

These have an almost “fluffy” appearance, especially as they cone on top of a single trunk like stem, which coated in the  whitish (yellowish) fibers of the old leaves.

It is, basically, “the Cousin It of yuccas”. However, don’t be deceived by the look; these leaves are so sharp they can easily pierce and cut.

The flowers are white with with purple shades, and they come on large panicles every year. It is quite an early bloomer for a yucca, and it too is very cold resistant. This fluffy giant has many surprises indeed!

  • Hardiness: USDA zones 5 to 11.
  • Blooming season: spring.
  • Size: 6 to 15 feet tall (1.8 to.5 meters) and 4 to 10 feet in spread (1.2 to 3 meters).
  • Ideal for: xeric gardens, desert gardens, landscape planting, isolated tree, informal gardens, large hedges.

7. Buckley’s Yucca (Yucca Constricta)

Buckley’s Yucca

Buckley’s yucca has a different look form most yucca varieties. The rosettes tend to face upward, and they are made of many thin, hunter green to olive green needles, which do not look very orderly at all.

They grow at ground level and look a bit like tall grass. It has a “wild” look, and it lacks in the “desert and tropical” look other yuccas have.

It will also have filaments, like strings, that grow among the foliage, and this adds to its wild, rebellious look. The flowers will grow on tall panicles that look like feathers far above the foliage and they are white.

  • Hardiness: USDA zones 8 to 11.
  • Blooming season: summer.
  • Size: 2 feet tall (60 cm) and about 4 feet in spread (120 cm). The blooms can reach 5 feet tall (150 cm).
  • Ideal for: flowerbeds and borders, rock gardens, informal gardens, mixed in with other plants in desert gardens.

8. Twisted Yucca (Yucca Rupicola)

19 Unusual Yucca plant Varieties With care tips 1

Twisted yucca is very original and decorative. It is also called Texas yucca or rock yucca. It has broad and short leaves, very bright green in color, and they are not straight. In fact, they twist. This makes the plant very sculptural and dynamic. They grow straight on the floor, with no stem, and they can come in beautiful clumps.

This is a flowering plant too, like all yuccas. The flowers come on long stalks that grow higher than the rosettes, about 5 feet tall (1.5 meters). The flowers have the classical bell shape of yucca flowers and they are white.

  • Hardiness: USDA zones 7 to 11.
  • Blooming season: summer.
  • Size: 2 feet tall (60 cm) and up to 4 feet in spread (120 cm). When in bloom, they are 5 feet tall (1.5 meters).
  • Ideal for: containers, patios, terraces, flower beds, rock gardens, gravel gardens, urban gardens, even formal gardens.

9. Adam’s Needle (Yucca Filamentosa)

Adam’s needle

Adam’s needle is a favorite yucca with gardeners. In fact it won the Cary Award in 2012. The rosettes are very elegant, with spaced sword like leaves, and they grow at ground level, The leaves are if a bright green color, pointed and they look very stiff and fairly sculptural.

The blooms come on a stalk that grows straight from the middle of the plant, and this is where the plant gets its name. They will grow much taller than the rosettes and have lots of large and cream colored flowers, each 2.5 inches long (6 cm), which is quite a lot for yuccas.

  • Hardiness: USDA zones 5 to 10.
  • Blooming season: mid summer.
  • Size: 2 feet tall (60 cm) and 4 feet in spread (120 cm). When in bloom, it reaches 8 feet in height (2.4 meters).
  • Ideal for: gravel gardens, large flower beds, patios and containers, formal gardens and urban gardens.

10. ‘Color Guard’ Adam’s Needle (Yucca Filamentosa ‘Color Guard’)

‘Color Guard’ Adam’s needle

‘Color Guard’ Adam’s needle is a bright and variegated cultivar of Yucca filamentosa. It has broad and pointed leaves with stripes of green and yellow. You will understand that the effect is striking. The rosettes grow on the ground, and the effect is that of a sculptural houseplant growing in the open air with a marble surface.

This winner of the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society too will grow beautiful panicles of white flowers, and quite large ones at that, as they reach 2.5 inches in length, or 6 cm. It is also one of the hardiest yuccas.

  • Hardiness: USDA zones 4 to 10.
  • Blooming season: midsummer.Size: 3 feet tall and in spread (90 cm). When in bloom, it reaches 6 feet in height (180 cm).
  • Ideal for: gravel gardens, flower beds, xeric gardens, containers, large rock gardens, urban gardens, architectural gardens and formal gardens.

11. Spanish Dagger ‘Bright Star’ (Yucca Gloriosa ‘Bright Star’)

Spanish dagger ‘Bright Star’

Spanish Dagger ‘Bright Star’ is a dramatic and very sculptural cultivar of Yucca gloriosa. It has very striking, decided and perfectly spherical rosettes with regular and bold leaves that grow at ground level. These are striped, usually yellow at the sides and green inside.

But with strong light, they can turn purple and cream too!The flowers too are special. They are large and spaced on the panicle, broad and white. But when they are still in bud, they are magenta purple. The effect of the two colors is actually showy and very striking too.

  • Hardiness: USDA zones 7 to 11.
  • Blooming season: mid and late summer.
  • Size: 3 feet tall and wide (90 cm).
  • Ideal for: very decorative flower beds, borders, containers, gravel gardens, desert gardens, Mediterranean gardens, exotic gardens, rock gardens and urban gardens.

12. Mojave Yucca Plant (Yucca Schidigera)

Mojave yucca plant

Mojave yucca plant takes its name from the desert in California and Nevada where it comes from. And it has the perfect “desert look” in fact.

It is a “tree like” shape, like Joshua trees, and a large trunk like stem, grayish brown which branches out to “hold” rosettes that look a bit like hands, or “scissor hands” to be correct.

The green, long leaves look like teeth or claws and the plant looks a bit like a man in the desert.The panicles grow straight in the middle of the rosettes, and they have white flowers with a yellow to green tint.

The flowers are super abundant and the panicles are massive, reaching 3 feet in length (90 cm) and 2 in width (60 cm)! It is also a late bloomer too.

  • Hardiness: USDA zones 9 to 11.
  • Blooming season: early fall.
  • Size: up to 20 feet in height (6 meters) and 10 feet in spread (3 meters).
  • Ideal for: a wild looking garden; landscape planting, large clumps, xeric gardens, public parks, as an isolated tree, desert gardens.

13. Banana Yucca Plant (Yucca Baccata)

Banana yucca plant

Banana yucca plant has a very, very wild, almost “alien” look. The bluish leaves look like tentacles and they grow on stalks that preserve the dried leaves, which become like dark gray filaments that drop from the rosettes.

They have the great “desert” look on them, but they also appear disheveled and unusual, like a plant you would expect on Mars.

The flowers are original too. They are large, and they look like bananas being pealed, hence the name. While the preserve the main bell shape, they have better divided petals than other yucca varieties. The outer petals are purple, the inner ones are white.

  • Hardiness: it is hardy to USDA zones 5 to 9.
  • Blooming season: late spring.
  • Size: 3 feet tall (90 cm), and up to 6 feet wide (180 cm).
  • Ideal for: wild looking gardens, unusual gardens, gardens where you want an “alien” and harsh look, in beds, borders, rock gardens, containers or gravel gardens.

14. ‘Excalibur’ Adam’s Needle (Yucca Filamentosa ‘Excalibur’)

‘Excalibur’ Adam’s Needle

‘Excalibur’ Adam’s needle is a plastic and sculptural cultivar of yucca. It has very straight, gray blue leaves, regularly arranged in a striking rosette and with the most perfect blade shapes. They are very pointed and sharp. At the sides, there are light blue filaments that curl like metal shreds.

This plant has a very striking “industrial” look. In fact, it may look like a metal sculpture, or a sculpture you can find in a museum of industry and technology.

The flowers are large and bell shaped, and they can reach about 2.5 feet long (6 cm). They grow in tall panicles which will hover above the statuesque foliage underneath. It is also salt tolerant.

  • Hardiness: USDA zones 5 to 10.
  • Blooming season: early and mid summer.
  • Size: 2 to 3 feet tall (60 to 90 cm) and 3 to 4 feet wide (90 to 120 cm). When in bloom, it will reach 5 feet in height (150 cm).
  • Ideal for: gravel gardens, very sculptural gardens, urban gardens, rock gardens, containers and patios, coastal gardens, even formal gardens and gravel gardens.

15. Dwarf Yucca (Yucca Nana, Now Renamed Yucca Harrimaniae)

Dwarf Yucca

Dwarf yucca may be small, but it is very beautiful! It forms perfectly round rosettes with straight olive green to bluish green sword shaped leaves, very regularly arranged.

It looks like a little work of art, and it has delicate curly filaments at the edges of the sharp leaves. These are white and very decorative.The flowers appear in what is a spike, rather than a panicle.

It cones from the center of the plant, and the flowers are tightly packed together and placed horizontally. They are white in color and bell shaped.

  • Hardiness: USDA zones 5 to 10.
  • Blooming season: spring and early summer.
  • Size: 1 foot tall and in spread (30 cm). When in bloom, it can be 2 feet tall (60 cm).
  • Ideal for: containers, terrariums, terraces and patios, rock gardens, gravel gardens, flower beds.

16. Spanish Dagger ‘Variegata’ (Yucca Glosripsa ‘Variegata’)

Yucca Glosripsa ‘Variegata

Spanish dagger ‘Variegata’ is another sculptural cultivar of yucca. It has leaves that look like Romans swords, and they cut like them! They are regularly arranged in the rosette and they are green blue with grayish cream stripes at the sides.

It is so decorative and sculptural that it won the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society.The flowers of this variety of yucca are classical: they come in panicles that grow just above the foliage, they are bell shaped and their color is cream. This is a salt resistant plant too, so, it is ideal for gardens by the sea.

  • Hardiness: USDA zones 7 to 11.
  • Blooming season: early summer.
  • Size: 2 feet tall (60 cm) and 4 feet wide (120 cm). When in bloom, it reaches 4 feet tall (120 cm).
  • Ideal for: sculptural gardens, rock gardens, flower beds, containers, patios, terraces, urban gardens, formal gardens, coastal gardens.

17. Thompson’s Yucca Plant (Yucca Thomsoniana)

Thompson’s yucca plant

Thompson’s yucca plant looks a bit like beaked yucca, but it is smaller. It has very spherical rosettes, with sharp, thing and light silver green or silver blue leaves. The effect is that of light and airy “fans” or palm trees.

In fact, they grow on thin stems and they too preserve the old dried up foliage, like palms, which end up looking like Hawaiian skirts under the rosettes.

The stalks with panicles will grow just from the middle of the rosettes and point straight upwards, giving rich inflorescences of may cream colored and cup shaped flowers.(Yucca thonpsoniana)

  • Hardiness: USDA zones 5 to 10.
  • Blooming season: summer.
  • Size: 1 foot 4 inches tall (1 meter) and up to 2 feet in spread (120 cm).
  • Ideal for: patios and containers, flower beds, rock gardens, gravel gardens and urban gardens.

18. Joshua Tree (Yucca Brevifolia)

19 Unusual Yucca plant Varieties With care tips 2

And we close with the giant of yuccas: the Joshua tree. Despite being the tallest of them all, it tales its Latin name (brevifolia) from its short leaves.

But this gives it its distinctive look, with a tall “trunk”, imposing branches still covered in the old dried foliage and… at the very end, small and compact rosettes of rapier shaped green leaves.

This look is very iconic of American deserts! The flowers come in panicle that can be 20 inches long (50 cm) at the end of the rosettes, and they are profuse and white.

However, they need a specific moth to pollinate them, called Tegeticula antithetica. It is bold statement in a garden, and one that will last, as this is a very long lived yucca: it can last for 150 years in fact!

  • Hardiness: USDA zones 6 to 10.
  • Blooming season: spring.
  • Size: up to 70 feet tall (21 meters). Most plants, however, do not exceed 30 feet (9 meters). They can be 30 feet in spread too (9 meters).
  • Ideal for: landscape planting, large gardens, desert gardens, xeric gardens and as isolated specimens. 

The Perfect Desert Plant For All Sorts Of Gardens With Yucca Plants

This has been a journey in a large desert, where you can fond iconic yuccas like the Joshua tree, and more sculptural ones like Adam’s needle‘Excalibur’ or Spanish dagger ‘Variegata’, tiny dwarf yuccas and wild and alien looking ones like banana yucca. Some are giants, some fairly big, some medium sized and some tiny…

But as you can see, there are yuccas for all tastes, most types of garden and even for small containers. Now you only need to choose the one that stole your heart…

Amber Noyes

Written By

Amber Noyes

Amber Noyes was born and raised in a suburban California town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of California as well as a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers’ markets, and plant nursery, she understands what makes plants thrive and how we can better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially organic gardening, houseplants, and growing plants in a small space.

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  1. Avatar photo Holly Mac says:

    Really thorough & informative! This information was exactly what I needed to find.