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YUCCA elata

Image of Yucca elata

Maureen Gilmer

Family

Agavaceae

Botanical Name

YUCCA elata

Plant Common Name

Soaptree Yucca

General Description

The beautiful soaptree yucca is native to the high deserts of Arizona, Utah, Texas and Mexico. It can be found at high elevations amidst dry land shrubs and grasses where winters are arid and summers wetter. For this reason, plants grown in low desert landscapes require regular summer water. Similarly, this yucca may struggle in areas where winter rainfall is high.

When young, this yucca forms neat rosettes of dense, narrow, upright leaves of gray-green with white edges. In time, it develops a broad, trunk-like base that elongates giving the plant a tree-like appearance. Mature specimens are multi-stemmed and have an elegant, open habit. This is a spectacular late-spring bloomer. Each rosette of foliage produces tall spires of iridescent white, bell-shaped blooms that are pollinated at night by moths. The flowers are followed by bulbous seed capsules that turn from green to dry brown and open to release their seeds.

Full sun and well-drained, average to poor, sandy loam are best for this resilient plant, and little care and maintenance are needed to keep it performing well. Avoid cleaning dead leaves from its trunk as these provide vital winter insulation. Mature specimens are next to impossible to transplant, so soaptree yucca is best planted when young. This bold desert ornamental creates an outstanding focal specimen for any large landscape.

The common name, soaptree yucca, refers to its saponin-rich roots, which were used by indigenous American tribe’s people for soap making. Root extracts were mixed with fats to make basic soap.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 2

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    7 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Perennial

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    8'-10' / 2.4m - 3.0m

  • Width

    6'-10' / 1.8m - 3.0m

  • Bloom Time

    Spring, Late Spring, Early Summer

  • Native To

    Southwestern United States

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Xeric/Desert, Drought Tolerant

  • Habit

    Upright/Erect

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Ivory

  • Fruit Color

    Green, Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Blue Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Blue Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Blue Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Blue Green, Gray Green

  • Bark Color

    Tan, Sandy Brown

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Foundation, Mixed Border

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes