Discover how to grow and care for Red Yucca, a drought tolerant beauty and hummingbird favorite.
There are many reasons to plant Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora). Not only is this flowering perennial succulent a low maintenance garden plant, but it's also drought-tolerant, making it a great choice for the water-wise, climate-conscious gardener.
What's more, the reddish, pink bell-shaped flowers are a hit with hummingbirds and the architectural foliage provides interest when not flowering. The sun-worshipping Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) is popular among gardeners blessed with hot and sunny gardens. But while the Red Yucca is a stunning addition to rock gardens, xeriscape gardens, and desert-scapes, it is also more tolerant of cold temperatures than people think.
In arid, rocky regions like the Mountain West, it has surprising cold tolerance too, shrugging off bone-chilling temperatures in USDA hardiness zones 5 and up.
Ironically, Red Yucca is neither red (its flowers are coral-pink, and there’s also a naturally occurring yellow-flowered variety) nor a Yucca (it’s more closely related to Agave spp.). Even its botanical name is a misnomer: Hesperaloe means western Aloe. But nope, it’s not an Aloe either, although it does hail from the West -- southern Texas and northeastern Mexico, to be exact.
Never mind all that, though. Red Yucca wows with multiple long, slender flower stalks rising 4 to 6 feet and bejeweled with tightly held, tubular flowers that hummingbirds go mad for.
A mass planting of Red Yucca in full bloom stuns with color and height, its rosy-pink flowers lifted high on swaying wands, while retaining an airy quality thanks to low-growing foliage. Olive-green, strappy, thornless leaves form a stiff, grass-like clump, about 3 to 4 feet high and 2 to 4 feet wide, which holds its own through winter, remaining evergreen and tinged with purple or reddish bronze in colder climates.
Red Yucca care
As a native desert plant, Red Yucca shrugs off extreme heat and shriveling drought. But it can also thrive in wetter regions provided it’s planted in very well-drained soil. These low maintenance plants are easy to grow and don't require much attention except the usual deadheading after the flowering season. Find out how to grow Red Yucca in our plant guide:
Where to plant Red Yucca
Try it along a driveway or in a hellstrip, where reflected heat and dry soil create challenging conditions. You can grow Red Yucca in a pot in a hot, sunny spot. When planting, especially if plants are small, allow a couple of seasons for them to mature enough to bloom. If your Red Yucca outgrows its position, just divide the plant and replant it elsewhere.
Red Yucca propagation
Are those pretty red spires the envy of your neighbors? Luckily, Red Yucca is easy to propagate either by harvesting the plentiful seed, dividing the plant or by planting the offsets, which you'll find at the base of the plant. The best time to propagate Red Yucca is in spring or summer. Keep the seeds in bright, indirect light and the temperature between 60 and 70 degrees and you'll soon have plenty to gift to friends (if you can bear to part with them).
Is Red Yucca deer resistant?
Unfortunately, gardeners aren't the only ones attracted to Red Yucca. Deer are too. And if you want to enjoy the flowers, plant only with protection from deer, for they devour the bloom stalks as soon as they appear, leaving only stick-like nubs behind.
When deer don’t trouble it, it has a long flowering season, making Red Yucca even more rewarding. In the hottest climates, Red Yucca may bloom year-round. In central Texas, the plants burst into bloom in late April or early May and flower all summer. In colder regions, Red Yucca may start blooming in midsummer.
Learn how to keep deer at bay here:
Along with the native coral- and yellow-flowering varieties, look for the compact, red-flowered cultivar ‘Brakelights’, which grows smaller than the species, to about 2 feet tall and wide, with bloom spikes of 4 to 5 feet. The smaller size makes it a good fit for flowering borders, and when massed, its stop-sign-red flowers may literally stop traffic. Growers like Mountain States Wholesale Nursery offer Red Yucca in other flower colors too, like burgundy Desert Dusk®, soft-pink ‘Pink Parade’, and pinkish-orange Desert Flamenco®. It’ll make you want to try them all!
What to plant with Red Yucca
Pair these plants with your Red Yucca to create a dramatic display.
In the Southwest, great Red Yucca companion plants include other desert plants like Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii), Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri), and Texas Ranger (Leucophyllum frutescens). Or pair it with tough, airy grasses like Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima), ‘Blonde Ambition’ grama (Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’), and Gulf muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris).
Photos: © Pam Penick