Texas Red Yucca – Hesperaloe parviflora
It may surprise you that a plant native to central Texas and northern Mexico thrives in Idaho, but it’s true. Hesperaloe parviflora has a condensed native range deep in the heart of Texas, where it tolerates extremely high temperatures and very dry soils. When grown in regions where temperatures drop below zero in the winter and snow piles up around it, it tolerates that too. It’s a tough Texas plant.
H. parviflora has a bevy of common names, including red yucca, hummingbird yucca, coral yucca, and redflower false yucca. “False yucca” refers to the fact that it is not a true yucca, but has yucca-like foliage and is in the same plant family as yucca. Its foliage is evergreen, forms a clump, and reaches at least 3 feet tall and wide. Its leaves are long and thin, like blades of grass, and are adorned with numerous threadlike hairs along the margins. The leaves lack spine tips, which are present on other members of the agave subfamily.
As beautiful as the foliage is, the flowers are the real show. They rise on tall spikes, reaching far above the base of the plant. Each plant can put up several spikes, and each spike is lined with bright pink to red bell-shaped flowers which persist throughout the summer. They call in the hummingbirds, along with numerous nectar and pollen seeking insects. Later, each flower forms a large fruit – a round, woody capsule filled with stacks of chunky black seeds. Left on the plant, the seed stalks offer great winter interest.
Visit Idaho Botanical Garden, and you will find Texas red yucca blooming now in the Water Conservation Landscape as well as in the beds near the greenhouses and the Old Idaho State Penitentiary guard tower. When growing your own, keep it in a dry, sunny spot with well-drained soil, and remove any leaf litter that collects around its base.
Written by IBG horticulturist, Daniel Murphy.