Variegated Yucca Shrubs

Written by jacob j. wright
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Variegated Yucca Shrubs
Variegated yucca plants produce flower spikes just like green-leaved types. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Rigid, swordlike leaves make yucca plants (Yucca spp.) among the most architecturally striking plants for sunny and dry garden landscapes. Mature yuccas also produce upright flower stems cloaked in numerous waxy, creamy white flowers. Variegated yuccas provide even more ornamental interest with green leaves lined with cream or yellow. Typically, wild yucca species naturally always produce variegated leaves. Through chance mutations, horticulturists selected variegated plants for garden use, giving them cultivar names.


Variegated yucca cultivars exist among five species of yucca commonly grown in American gardens. The variegated spineless yucca (Yucca elephantipes "Variegata") produces creamy white-edged green leaves with small teeth. Grow it in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and warmer. Variegated Spanish bayonet (Yucca aloifolia f. marginata), for USDA zones 10 and warmer, bears green leaves with thin white edges. Variegated Spanish dagger's (Yucca gloriosa "Variegata") yellow-lined green leaves look good across USDA zones 7 through 11. A wide array of variegated Adam's needles (Yucca filamentosa) cultivars exist for growing outdoors in USDA zones 4 through 11: "Bright Edge," "Golden Sword," "Variegata," "Color Guard" and "Garland's Gold." Yellow to cream lines the green leaves among the various selections. Another species is the variegated needle palm (Yucca flaccida "Golden Sword"). Its yellow and green leaves survive in USDA zones 5 through 9.


As long as ample sunlight reaches variegated yucca plants, new leaves continue to emerge from the top of the rounded rosette, mainly in spring and summer. Oldest leaves slowly hang downward and brown and can be carefully pruned off. In summer or fall, flower spikes point upward from the plant tops. Unlike agaves, yucca plants do not die after flowering. Some of the variegated yuccas, especially the Adam's needles, blush attractive shades of pink, apricot or peach over the yellow parts of their leaves in chilly fall and winter temperatures.


Variegated yucca plants require the same planting conditions and care as their green-leaved counterparts. There's no need to worry about reducing light to maintain or preserve the variegation -- too little sunlight may actually diminish the stark colour contrast in the variegated yucca foliage. Site variegated yucca where they receive at least six hours of direct sunlight daily in any soil that drains quickly and is never soggy. An evenly moist soil during the heat of summer promotes lushest growth.

Landscape Uses

Since variegated yucca plants display more colourful leaves year-round, their landscape use and visual impact potentially overshadows ordinary yuccas. All yuccas make exceptional tough and hardy plants for a rockery or hot hillside planting. They eventually multiply at their base to create a picturesque cluster of spiky plants. The coarse, rounded texture of yuccas look sespecially grand when planted atop fine-textured groundcovers like creeping junipers with bluish needles. Use variegated yuccas in a prominent garden location to show off the leaf colour, but plant them where no one would accidentally walk into the pointed leaves.

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