Yucca Filifera

Yucca filifera is one of the largest and fastest-growing Yucca trees. With its long stout trunk, rosettes of dramatic foliage and towering flower spikes it makes a wonderful specimen tree in any kind of landscape design. It is a carefree and durable tree with architectural features that are loved by landscapers and designers around the world.

The Yucca filifera is drought and salt tolerant and is hardy down to -8C, meaning it is safe to grow without frost protection throughout Australia. It makes a perfect addition to dry, tropical or coastal planting schemes and provides structural interest within the beds and borders. It also looks great when planted into decorative containers and used as a feature tree in the patio or courtyard gardens.

Here at Designer Trees, we have a wide range of Yucca filifera specimens to choose from. As well as the commonly found single-stem specimens you will also find a variety of multi-stemmed trees; from young to old, large to small you are sure to find your perfect tree here.

As we grow many of our trees on-site, you can be assured that when buying from us you are purchasing a healthy, well-rooted specimen that will transplant with ease into your new planting scheme.

Yucca Filifera: Video

Yucca Filifera: Planting

Yucca filifera should be planted in a very free-draining soil or compost, in a sheltered spot in full sun. Yucca filifera is drought, wind and salt tolerant and usually, perfectly hardy throughout Australia. Although they will survive in sites that are shady or exposed to harsh winds, their appearance is much better when they are provided with full sun and a little protection.

It will grow in any soil type, acid or alkaline, as long as it is well drained. Waterlogged soil is fatal to Yucca trees as it brings about root rot. The addition of sand or gravel to the planting area will assist with drainage in heavier soils. Container-grown plants should always be raised slightly off the ground so that the water can drain freely away from the holes at the base of the pot.

To reduce any risk of loss in colder areas it is essential that the yucca is sited correctly. They seem to be able to resist much lower temperatures if positioned in ideal conditions – in a sheltered spot, in full sun, ideally near a wall and essentially, in bone-dry soil during winter.

Yucca Filifera: Care and Maintenance

Plants that are grown directly in the ground, do not water at all in winter and only during prolonged periods of drought in summer. Always water at the base of the plant. Watering at the crown will cause it to rot.

Container-grown specimens should only be watered when the compost has completely dried out during the summer and not at all in winter.

No pruning is required but, the ‘skirt’ of dead leaves can be removed from around the stems to improve the overall appearance. Over-large plants can be cut back in late spring and new branches will reshoot from the trunk.

Yucca filifera is not particularly prone to pests and diseases but it is always good practice to inspect your plants regularly for early signs of any potential problems. Flower spikes may be attacked by aphids and they can be susceptible to Yucca leaf spots.

Yucca Filifera: Propagation

Yucca trees are easy to propagate from seed, stem and root cuttings and also from offsets.

Yucca filifera is a hermaphrodite (meaning it has both male and female organs) so is self-pollinating. To grow from seed, harvest the pods once they have dried out in Autumn and sow the seed into a free-draining compost with added grit or sharp sand. Place the pot in a bright position away from direct sunlight. Keep moderately moist and maintain an even temperature of around 15-18C until the seed germinates.

Stem cuttings of Yucca filifera root very easily, usually in around three months. Almost any stem length can be used for propagation; from 10 – 15 cm up to as much as a meter or two in length! Remove any leaves from the bottom section of the stem cutting and place them into a free-draining potting mix, firming the soil gently around the stem.

Grow on in a warm, bright position out of direct sunlight keeping the soil moist but not waterlogged (the stem will rot if kept too damp).

In 3 – 6 months a good root system should be established, and your new tree can be potted on or planted out.

Offsets or pups can sometimes be found growing around the base of a mature plant and they will grow easily into exact clones of the parent.

Carefully cut the offsets away from the trunk, at a point just under the soil level and include a section of root if possible. Pot them up into a free-draining potting mix and grow on for a few months until a good root system has established. At this point, they can be planted out.

Root cuttings are also successful and can be taken from the parent plant in winter.

Dig up the rhizomes and cut them into approximately 7.5cm sections. Each section should contain a small amount of root and shoot/bud if possible. Plant the cuttings shallowly in a free-draining potting mix and place them in a bright indoor position, away from direct sunlight. Your cuttings should root within 3-4 weeks.

Yucca Filifera: Distribution and Habitat

Yucca filifera is native to the Chihuahua desert in North-Eastern Mexico and is the most common Yucca species in Mexico. It is commonly found at altitudes of 450-2400 metres above sea level, in areas with an annual rainfall of around 300-625mm. Yucca filifera is found growing naturally on plains and along roadsides. It can form vast forests at the foot of mountains in deep soils made up of limestone, rhyolite and other volcanic rocks. It is also found in desert scrub, grassland, thorn scrub and occasionally in oak or pinyon-juniper woodland.

Yucca Filifera: History

Yucca filifera was discovered in the 1840s in North-Eastern Mexico by explorer Josiah Gregg. It was introduced to Europe and scientifically described in the 1870s.

Yucca Filifera: Taxonomy and naming

Family: Asparagaceae

Genus: Yucca

Species: filifera (From Latin ‘filim’ meaning thread; and ‘fera’ meaning carrying – a reference to the threads that hang from the leaf margins)

Synonyms: Yucca baccata var. filifera, Yucca canaliculata var. filifera

Common names: Palma China, Chinese Palm, St. Peters Palm, Tree Yucca

Yucca Filifera: Appearance

Yucca filifera is a tall, well-branched evergreen tree that will reach an eventual height of 8 – 12 meters and a spread of 2.5 – 4 meters in 20-50 years. The trunk usually branches at around 3-4 meters and can develop a huge spreading base when old. Cultivated trees are often seen with a single, short trunk.

Spherical clusters of straight, sword-shaped leaves grow in rosettes at the end of each branch.  The leaves are spine-tipped, rigid and olive green in colour. They measure approximately 30 – 55 cm long and 2 – 3.5 cm wide and the brown margins often peel away at the edges to form long curling fibres. Old leaves can remain attached to the stems, forming a ‘skirt’ around the base of each rosette.

Large flower stalks (inflorescences), up to 1.5 meters in length appear in early summer and open out into large pendulous clusters of creamy-white, bell-shaped flowers. Each branch will often flower at a slightly different time.

Fleshy, 5-7 cm long, oblong fruits follow in autumn, ripening to dark brown husks which contain many hard, flat black seeds.

Yucca Filifera: Uses

The indigenous people used the leaves of Yucca filifera as a roof covering and as a source of fibre for handcrafting.

The flowers, fruit and stem were eaten raw or cooked and the flower spike was cooked and eaten like asparagus. Yucca filifera can also be dried and crushed for use as a flavouring.

Although not considered ‘toxic’, the root does contain saponins which are difficult for the human body to digest. Plants containing saponins can be crushed in water to create a foam so were often used for cleaning.

Saponins in general have a number of potential, modern-day medicinal applications as they are found to exhibit anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties and have antibacterial effects. They are thought to help reduce cholesterol levels, kill bacteria, and inhibit tumour growth.

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