April 28th, 2006
Red Yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora

photo: Hesperaloe parviflora red yucca
Tall spikes of small pale red flowers shoot up from a clump of red yucca.

I like that the Texas Aggies classify red yucca as an “evergreen shrub”. Unless you garden in the American southwest, you probably think of shrubs as multi-stemmed woody perennials, such as roses, azaleas, yew, box, and lilacs. But down here in Texas, we have to use a bit of imagination. Truth be told, red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) isn’t a yucca either.

The last few years red yucca has become very popular in commercial landscapes and median plantings around Austin. They really strut their stuff in a mass planting where the pale red flowers seem to float like a cloud of butterflies above the green spikey base.

I don’t have room for a mass planting in my garden, so I found it a bit of a challenge to site a single plant among the cottage garden plants. I stuck it in a sunny spot between the ‘Penelope’ and ‘Prosperity’ roses and I don’t think it quite works. However, I’m happy that after four years, it has finally decided to bloom.

photo: Hesperaloe parviflora red yucca
A single red yucca almost disappears into the foliage of more traditional shrubbery. It works better in a starker landscape or when planted en masse.

Red yucca is reputed to attract both butterflies and hummingbirds, but I haven’t noticed either around my plants. [2008-06-13. Saw a hummingbird on the red yucca this morning.]

I think red yucca is better described as heat-tolerant, than drought-tolerant. High temperatures don’t seem to bother it, but in Austin it requires some supplemental water during the worst of summer to thrive. Just be sure that it has good drainage. (One thing to remember about so-called drought-tolerant plants…just because a plant can tolerate drought conditions doesn’t mean they perform their best. It’s more of a comparitive term. A red yucca can get buy with a lot less water than a hosta. But it doesn’t mean you can just plant a red yucca and forget about it.)

Red yucca forms clumps and you can divide them in the winter. I found it easy to start red yucca from seed, too. However, it grows very slowly. The seedlings I started two years ago are only six inches tall.

Zanthan Gardens History

Tuesday June 4, 2002
Plant 1-gallon red yucca. (Home Depot).

April 15, 2006
First flower, ever, on the red yucca.

Friday June 13, 2008
My lucky day. I see a hummingbird sucking nectar from the red yucca.

by M Sinclair Stevens

26 Responses to post “Red Yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora”

  1. From bill:

    I often do see hummingbirds on our yucca. We have a solitary plant also but it is planted near some other red stuff they like, for instance, flame acanthus.

  2. From pam christian:

    My red yucca is doing well at the bottom but it appears that the flower spike is dead. Can I prune this off. If so, how far down should I prune it.

    Thank you.

    Prune it all the way back. — mss

  3. From Rudolf:

    How can I force my red yucca to bloom?

    I wish I knew. Mine’s not blooming either, even though I see them blooming all over town right now. — mss

  4. From anna, gilbert Az:

    That is very good information. thanks

  5. From Jennifer Austin TX:

    I was wondering if the seed pod had to be dried before starting it or if you can just put the entire green pod in the ground and start watering? I’ve got a green seed pod but may have been taken too soon from the plant? Thanks.

    If a pod is green, then it’s unripe and there are no viable seeds inside. Fruit has to ripen and dry before the seeds inside are mature and can be planted. This is true with every type of plant. — mss

  6. From pat howell franklin, tn:

    I’ve grown hesperaloe parviflora red here in Tennessee (zone 6b or 7) for the past 4 years and it has flowered since the second year, sending up one or two flower stalks from each plant. Hummingbirds love it and the flowering stalks (4 to 5′ long) last a long time. My 3 plants are in a sunny corner of my flower garden and have required no special care.

  7. From Theresa Barstow, CA:

    I want to get my new red yucca plant established (large 10 gallon purchased from Home Depot) but afraid to overwater. The heat in Barstow is very high…102 and higher…during the summer. I see a few spikes turning black on the end. Overwatering or drying out? I am new at this and any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.

  8. From Robert, Orange, CA.:

    I had a similar problem with the tips of my spikes turing black. I backed off on the water and they improved over a couple of weeks. I have red yucca’s in a pot on the patio and in the ground. First saw them in Phoenix. They’re flourishing in a sunning spot in central Orange County. Good luck.

  9. From fort worth, texas:

    i like these plants, and would like to know more about how to take care of them,

  10. From fort worth, texas {adolfo]:

    i am new to this and dont know much about them, any thing would be helpful

  11. From Penny, western NY:

    I started 4 Hesperaloe parviflora from seed two years ago. All four were planted in the ground last year. This winter something pulled all four out of the ground never to be seen again…squirrels or deer? None of our local nurseries carry this plant. Do you have a suggestion for a seed source so I can start some new plants? I really want these plants to put in the back of one of my dry south facing hummingbird beds.

  12. From Jill Gatwood, Albuquerque:

    You can order the seeds from http://www.highcountrygardens.com They have a very useful website, too.

  13. From Jacki Kruse, Bishop, California:

    I have saved a lot of my hesperaloe seeds from a very healthy plant. I have yet to start any from the seeds yet but plan to. I have extras if anyone is interested.

  14. From Bob Janssen:

    I have a single red yucca planted at a sunny corner of my yard here in Ashland, Oregon. It is now about 4 years old and is flourishing in the decomposed granite soils of this hillside community (elev approx 1800′). The first year it sent up one stalk, the second year two stalks, and this summer I have 5 stalks almost 6 feet tall…all covered with flowers. I prune the stalks back to the base in the fall after they’ve dried and the flowers have died. This plant seems to love it here.

  15. From pat smith, austin, tx:

    I have a series of Red Yucca along my drive. They are about nine years old. I have divided them in the past. The foliage is spotted and discolored. They do not look healthy but have always bloomed. Do I cut them all the way back? They are very large and most of the leaves look poor. Suggestions?

    No. Sorry. The same thing happened to mine a few years ago. They were covered with insects so I’m assuming the spots were insect damage. I pulled all mine out. The person to ask in Travis County would be Daphne Richards at the Extension Office. — mss

  16. From Janet Ft. Worth, Texas:

    I have 4 red yucca’s for 4 years now. Just this year I have noticed weird bugs on them, sort of lobester shaped. Any one else have that problem?

  17. From Bonnie, Bryan Texas:

    When I think of lobster-shaped bugs I think of scorpions. Is that what you have? I don’t know of any connection between scorpions and yuccas except that they often are found in the same type of climatic conditions. That being said, I have a bed of red yuccas and I have also seen scorpions in that bed, so maybe there is a connection??? Not sure.

  18. From Matt Austin TX:

    The red yucca is a great plant. It’s funny though that the name is very misleading, the flower is more of a pink color not red and it is not a true yucca. Anyway I use them quite a bit in new beds for customers since they require such little maintenance. I would also classify them as a shrub even through they grow much like ornamental grass.
    Nice post though! Texas Red Yucca

  19. From Donita:

    We love our Red Yucca, 2 yrs old and blooming for the first time – 2 multi-branched spikes about 7 ft long. BUT PRAY DO TELL ME ABOUT THE SCORPIONS! I send my hand underneath blindly removing weeds, and new baby Red Yuccas, which would fill my garden if I let them!

  20. From Bob:

    Do you feed them anything?
    Wimberley, TX

  21. From Bob:

    Planted today, May 7, 2011 in large pot. Do you use fertilizer? If so, what?

  22. From Bob:

    Do you fertilize/ If so, with what?

    No. Most desert plants do not require fertilization as they are native to quite lean soils. However, if you are gardening on heavy clay soils, you should add some well draining soil in and make sure they are on raised mounds or raised beds so that they get good drainage. — mss

  23. From Marion, Austin, TX:

    I bought one at Home Depot and planted it last summer. It didn’t bloom at all last summer, but sent up three stalks this summer. The deer got one and the other two are blooming and have gazillions of seed pods. I’d love to know more about drying/planting the seeds and also about how to divide them.

  24. From Holger, Rarotonga, Cook Islands South pacific:

    Kia orana
    I am living in the Cook Islands, South Pacific, our climate is hot and sometimes very humid. I would like to try to grow red Yucca. Seeds not available in this part of the world. Someone out there how might be able to help? Drop me a line, so we can come to some arrangement.
    Thank you, meitaki maata

  25. From Sandra:

    My Red “Yucca” bloomed the 2nd year it was planted. I ended up with two seed pods that seem to be drying out as I did not cut the stalks. Any help would be appreciated as the neighbors want to plant some in their yards. We are in southern New Mexico and they are quite an addition to any yard. My blooms were a beautiful cool to hot pink and lasted all summer and fall.

    It will take years to grow flowering-sized red yuccas from seed. I plant seed close to the surface in pots to sprout them. But it would probably be more cost effective in the long run for your neighbors to buy some from a local nursery. — mss

  26. From Tim in Austin:

    my red yucca is in a pot on my balcony, and has done well for a couple of years; recently the spikes are all leaning over weakly instead of sticking up straight — is this from too much watering? (my new wife has taken over the plants but she is not familiar with yuccas)