On Gardening: these hardy yuccas inject a jolt of color in any season

December 1, 2014

This is typically the time of the year I might tout hollies, conifers or even poinsettias, but as I was walking around a dark and dreary, rainy garden today it was a cluster of Color Guard yuccas that stood like beacons of welcoming color. If you are not familiar with Color Guard it is the best selection of the native Yucca filamentosa.

You may be thinking yucca and native doesnít pair up for your location, and you might be right; on the other hand, Iíll bet dollars-to-donuts that you didnít realize that this plant, known as Adamís Needle, was native from Texas to Michigan and from New York down the east coast to Florida. Thatís right it is native in 29 states, meaning just about anybody can grow it.

Many of us have gone to California and come back lamenting that we canít grow Phormium or New Zealand flax like they do, and many also find the Cordyline to be temperamental. This will not be the case with this colorful plant sporting native DNA and cold hardy from zones 4-10.

Color Guard yucca will reach two feet in height and two feet wide, perfect for creating garden excitement with green and gold variegated foliage and dagger-like foliage. As you might expect from a native, it is an extremely drought-tolerant plant that requires good drainage. If your soil is clay or muck that holds water, then by all means improve your soil and plant on raised beds.

Just outside of our cottage garden, we have them planted on raised beds and grown in combination with Prince Sago cycad (Cycas taitugensis) and torch lilies (Kniphofia). Iíve grown them in very non-traditional companionships with tall angelís trumpets and bananas, and a friend of mine partnered them with the lycoris, or red spider lily. You will find the Color Guard will work in almost every imaginable situation; just be bold and give it a try.

Though I love the green and gold of Color Guard, know that there are also great blue selections like Hofer that allow even more creativity in combinations and mixed planters. I may be raving about the foliage and architectural aspects in the garden, but each spring to early summer another amazing sight takes place as creamy white, lightly fragrant blooms are borne on 6-foot-tall stalks. These blooms are found to be a most delectable source of nectar for hummingbirds. As is typical of the agave family, it dies after blooming, but new pups (lateral shoots) form around the edges of the dying plant.

It is a rare week that goes by that someone doesnít ask me about deer resistant plants. If you find yourself the proud owner of a roving herd, then rejoice as the Color Guard yucca will not become Bambiís salad. The Color Guard yucca is showy 12 months of the year, the color doesnít fade or bleach, and though the sunlight garden is where we sing its praises, I assure you on cold dreary rainy day it is the plant that will command attention.



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