Beaked Yucca Tree: Yucca rostrata
The Beaked Yucca Tree is arguably one of the most beautiful Yuccas that you can grow. Anyone with an appreciation of architectural plants cannot fail to be impressed by a plant that has a long, stout trunk topped with perfectly symmetrical, shaggy pom-pom heads of long pale blue-green, almost silvery leaves.
This structural specimen tree is evergreen and will, therefore, impress all year round. It is at its most stunning during the summer when huge spires of hundreds of white, bell-shaped, scented flowers tower up to 1.5 metres above the head of the tree. And, when left in their natural unpruned form the dead leaves hang around the trunk creating what looks like a skirt, giving the tree the appearance of a person with big hair and a long floaty dress!
Cultivating these plants is extremely easy. They are highly tolerant of heat, drought and frost. They can withstand temperature down to as low as -23C so are safe to grow throughout the whole of Australia. They are generally pest and disease free and require minimal, if any, watering.
They are one of the hardiest of all the trunk forming Yucca and they also have less rigid leaves than some species making them safer for gardens with children, pets or areas with a high footfall. These softer leaves also add an element of movement and gentle sound to the garden.
Loved by Landscapers and Architects, they make excellent tropical-looking feature plants that provide a focal point sitting perfectly at eye level. They add year-round height and interest to any landscape from small size city courtyards to large scale rock and dry gardens. They look wonderful planted singly but truly amazing when planted in small groups.
Yucca rostrata has gained a reputation as being frustrating and difficult to grow but this is not true at all. The reason for this rumour comes from the fact that many plants on the market have travelled as unrooted cuttings from Mexico and therefore have been exposed to the trauma of separation from the parent plant, lack of growing medium during transport and a change in the climate.
We have a wide variety of Beaked Yucca and all have been grown on-site, from seed meaning they are already well-rooted and happy with their growing conditions. You can be assured that, when buying from Designer Trees, you are purchasing a plant that will transplant perfectly into your garden and give you joy, with no fuss, for many years to come.
Yucca Rostratas: Planting
The Beaked Yucca should be planted in a sunny position to flower well.
As it grows naturally in dry, rocky areas, ideally it should be planted in an alkaline, virtually soil-less substrate; a mixture of rough limestone, gravel and sand is considered perfect. It will grow in any soil as long as it is extremely free draining. So a normal garden soil or potting mix is ok as long as lots of gravel or sand is added to the mix.
Container grown plants should be raised slightly off the ground so that the water can drain freely away from the holes at the base of the pot.
Waterlogged soil is fatal to Yuccas as it brings about root-rot.
Yucca Rostratas: Ongoing Care & Maintenance
The Yucca is an extremely easy to care for plant requiring no ongoing maintenance when grown in the ground. Pot grown specimens will require infrequent watering but do so sparingly. Remember, this plant does not like to have its roots sat in water. Always allow the soil to dry out between waterings and keep it bone dry during the winter months.
No pruning is required but as the older leaves die off they will create a ‘skirt’ around the trunk of the tree which can be gently removed. Leaving this ‘skirt’ in place will give it a more natural look, they almost look like people with their rounded shaggy heads and long ruffled dresses!
The Beaked Yucca 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. Yucca leaf spot, blackfly and snail damage are the most common issues.
Yucca Rostratas: Propagation
Yucca trees are easy to propagate from both seed and cuttings.
Plants grown from seed are unlikely to flower until they are around 4-5 years old.
To grow from seed, harvest the pods once they have dried out in Autumn. Sow into a free draining seed compost with added grit or sharp sand. Place in a bright position away from direct sunlight, keep moderately moist and maintain an even temperature of around 15-18C.
Your seeds may take 8 weeks or more to germinate, in fact in some cases they can take up to a year so patience is required. Pre-soaking the seed in warm water for 24 hours prior to sowing may speed up germination time.
Root cuttings 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 in a bright indoor position, away from direct sunlight.
Your cuttings should root within 3-4 weeks.
Offsets or pups can often be found growing at the base of a mature plant, these offsets will grow easily into exact clones of the parent.
Carefully cut them 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 until a good root system has established. At this point, they can be planted out.
Yucca Rostratas: Taxonomy and naming
Species: rostrata (Meaning ‘beaked’ – a reference to either the shape of the flower buds or appendages on the fruit)
Synonyms: Yucca linearis, Yucca rostrata var. linearis
Common names: Beaked Yucca, Big Bend Yucca
Yucca Rostratas: Distribution and Habitat
The Beaked Yucca is native to South Western Texas, including Big Bend National Park from which it gets one of its common names; and the states of Chihuahua and Coahuila in Northern Mexico. It is usually found growing in dry regions approximately 300-800m above sea level – on rocky slopes and ridges, in canyons, and on plains. It grows best in rocky, almost soil-less substrates but has been found growing in all free-draining soil types.
Yucca Rostratas: Appearance
The Beaked Yucca grows to a height of approximately 2.4 – 5 metres in height and has a spread of around 1 – 3 metres. It usually grows a single, stout trunk but can be multi-stemmed. When left naturally untrimmed the trunk is surrounded by a ‘skirt’ of old leaves which can give it a silvery haze.
The trunk is topped with fantastic, showy, evergreen pom-pom heads. These heads are almost perfectly spherical and are made up of hundreds of pale blue-green, almost silvery, leaves. Narrow and sword-shaped, the leaves can grow up to 60cm long and 1.5 – 2.5cm wide. The leaves of Yucca rostrata are not as rigid as other types of Yucca and do bend slightly after their widest point. The leaf margins are edged with tiny teeth and the ends are spine tipped.
On mature plants (approximately 4 – 5 years old), a yellow-orange flower stalk appears in late spring and then bursts open over the summer. With large panicles of bell-shaped, scented, white flowers this flower spike towers above the head of the tree and can measure as much as 1 – 1.5 metres long.
The flowers may develop into fruit in warmer climates and oval seed pods appear all the way up the flower stalk and ripen during Autumn. Each pod measures approximately 2.5cm long and contains many small, hard, flat black seeds.
Yucca Rostratas: Ecology
The flowers of Yucca rostrata are attractive to hummingbirds and other pollinating insects.
Yucca Rostratas: Uses
Yucca in general have been used in a variety of ways throughout history. The plant fibres were often used in shelter building and for making rope, shoes and cloth. The roots contain saponins, a chemical compound which when mixed with water creates a foam, allowing it to be used for cleaning.
The fruits, blossoms and leaves were eaten and the roots were used to make a herbal tea. The fruits were reportedly fermented by the native Americans to make a drink that was used during rituals.
In the modern day, the medicinal properties of Yucca are being explored. It is thought to have the potential for treating a variety of skin conditions and for easing symptoms of colitis, hypertension, arthritis and migraine.