Yuccas have been popular garden plants since Victorian times for their bold form and ease of culture but the last couple of decades have seen an influx of more ‘exotic’ species than ever before. And for my money the pick of these is Yucca linearifolia, more usually offered mislabelled as Yucca linearis.

 1020 Fig 1Y linearifolia Galeana

Fig. 1   Yucca linearifolia in habitat near Galeana

Only described as recently as 1995, it is native to a broad geographical range including the Mexican part of the Chihuahuan Desert in north-east Mexico, where it is generally found on the north side of sharply sloping sites.

 1029 Fig 2 Y linearifolia Saltillo

Fig. 2   Yucca linearifolia just east of Saltillo

As you would expect from such a large range, Yucca linearifolia can be quite variable in appearance. Generally it forms a densely packed dome, around 80cm across, of very narrow, stiff foliage on top of a trunk that can reach up to around 2m or so. In time it can offset around the base to make a small colony. Most forms have blue-ish leaves, some have green. One large blue form from Galeana has been selected. After several years the leaves dry off and fade to a parchment colour, persisting as a petticoat that clothes the trunk down to ground level. However, larger plants available from nurseries generally have this petticoat removed.

 1029 Fig 3 Y linearifolia

Fig. 3   A perfectly shaped Yucca linearifolia growing in a north Essex garden

On mature plants flowers are produced in early summer – a lofty branched panicle of creamy white bells. To my knowledge seed has never been set in Europe – it is apparently rarely set even in Mexico – so propagation is by removal and rooting of offsets. Some clones have been tissue cultured including a variegated form with white leaf margins given the ignominious cultivar name of ‘Line Dance’. After flowering the trunk may divide and/or produce offsets although neither is certain.

1029 Fig 4 Y linearifola flower 

Fig. 4   Yucca linearifolia flowering in Paul Spracklin’s garden

This is an exceptionally attractive and garden worthy plant. It is far more tolerant of moisture at the roots than most yucca species and is known to withstand temperatures down to as low as –20°C in middle Europe. It will re-root readily following root disturbance and ‘cuttings’ taken from the top of stems will root and generally force offset production from underground.

Paul Spracklin


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