soldier on, yucca ‘color guard’

yucca color guard 3IAM NOT SURE IF YUCCA ‘COLOR GUARD’ EVER HAS A BAD DAY, hair or otherwise. This flashy, white-whiskered creature is regarded as among the best in a genus of plants that I didn’t even like, or grow, until this variety came along. Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’ is a must when a never-say-stop attitude and a lot of color-power is called for—much appreciated right about now, with the garden going largely toned-down.

‘Color Guard’ was brought back from Japan by a man who knows a thing or two about foliage plants, hosta breeder Paul Aden of Long Island (who introduced ‘Sum and Substance,’ for instance, and so many other standouts). Despite the very different swordlike shape, its creamy-yellow-centered leaves are not unlike those of the most dramatically variegated hostas, but the yucca is a creature of sunnier spots.

This is a perennial-like shrub for every day, and for gardens in most every zone, or at least Zones 5-10, growing in clumping fashion to 2 to 3 feet across and high. That is, except in spring, when 6-foot-tall stalks erupt with fragrant white bell-shaped flowers.

Mine (still in its nursery container) has been showing off despite being “temporarily” plunged into a large pot on my terrace since May. It will soon get plunged again, plastic pot and all, this time into the empty vegetable garden to overwinter, before maybe finding a permanent home next spring. Or then again, maybe not.

The reason I don’t normally like yuccas is because they’ve been so badly used in gas stations and other hell spots. Perhaps my eye prefers the yucca just the way I used it this year, and it will become a tradition here, not unlike my potted hostas. If only the pot were a 365-day type…

  1. chigal says:

    Your garden outshines any gas station, yucca or no yucca. Good luck with that bear — I was relieved to read that this isn’t your first encounter with one of those beautiful brutes. Hope you have a good vantage point indoors.

    I think I’d spend the rest of my life (except maybe during blizzards) in my northwoods camping gear. Ankle bells, pepper spray, pocket knife, maglite, walkie talkie…exceptionally unattractive DEET perfume…cigarette lighter…(hunters are laughing right about now)…

  2. deb says:

    Oh I’m so glad when I find other yucca haters. I live in Ontario, where half dead tropical plants look horribly out of place either as focal front yard shrub alternatives, or back yard trying to nestle amongst the echinacea intruders.
    And they hurt when your face gets a little too close.

  3. gail says:

    I love my color guards. I have one planted on either side of my driveway and I love to see the leaves sticking up out of 2 feet of snow. One has even been run over and recovered nicely. They haven’t flowered again since the first year I bought them but I’m sure they will soon as they have developed a few offspring. Even without flowers they are a standout.

    1. Kathy says:

      Hi Gail, I just bought 2 yucca color guards (I believe Adams Needle). I love them and also think they are striking! They were Striking for a couple of months July & August but now their once striking needle stems are drooping and it does not look so good that way. I have done a lot of research on this plant and it appears I am not doing anything wrong. I have been trying so hard to find out why the stems are drooping. The plants look healthy except for those drooping stems at the top which are about 10-11 stems. The other plant has about 7-8 drooping stems. I have noticed in some pictures of this species some do have some drooping stems. Should I cut the drooping stems off or not? I planted it in a little larger container but that did not seem to make a difference. One of the garden nursery workers said I shouldn’t plant it in a much larger container because it could get root rot. I live in Port Charlotte Florida. Any suggestions on what I should do? Thanks much!

      1. Kathy says:

        I have the same problem; when the adams needle stems are drooping it does not look attractive to me either. It was very striking when I bought my two plants with stems shooting upward with no drooping. Still trying to find out what causes the drooping and can anything about it!

  4. Tammy says:

    “gas stations and other hell spots” too funny. I don’t like yuccas either (I put them in the same category as my neighbor with the banana plant – WT?), but this doesn’t look like one to me. Love it. Would definitely have to go the pot routine though, no space.

  5. Fred from Loudonville, NY says:

    I was given a yucca plant about 18 years ago, by my nextdoor neighbor. She was given a few by a friend, who was getting rid of hers. I really, at that point, was not interested in the plant, and it sat in a DISH PAN, out back for a whole summer. I just, as fall arrived, popped it anywhere in my vegetable patch (on the edge) to get it in the ground before the ground froze. I was going to move it some where the following year. WELL 17 years have passed, and the vegetable garden has changed shape, and it is still where I first placed it. The plant is much bigger, and has produced many flower spikes, and I like it. The yucca is up there with daylilies, hostas, and COCK ROACHES when it comes to its ability to live through anything!

  6. Bobstere says:

    So my inherited Yucca has been cut to the quick more times than I can count…and year after year STILL keeps coming back. It’s not a beauty like colour guard. Will NOT go away…Fred I’m with you…cockroaches are likely less hardy. Fibrous or fleshy roots I’m guessing are fueling the demon plant that won’t die.

  7. calgalinmichigan says:

    I have never particularly cared for yuccas, especially since the time when I was about 10 and was forced to go for an endless drive with my family out to “Yuck, a valley”. But you know, as I look around in the gardens of my neighborhood here in Michigan, the absolutely only plant with any green on it (and it really still looks fabulous) is the yucca. Maybe its time has come. My boyfriend’s 87 year old mother calls them “yooooccas”. (Rhymes with hooka!) That sounds much more exotic than yuck-a. Think we could persuade the industry to change the pronunciation?

  8. jamie says:

    I have a large, bountiful garden of perennials, shrubs and trees in northwest connecticut that consumes inordinate amount of my psychic as well as physical energy — but which gives so much back I can’t stop. But I am looking for ways to be more efficient. so my question is about mulch: For years, in the fall I have chopped upleaves and spread them in depths of 4 inches or so over the gardens once the ground is frozen. Then in the early spring, I have raked off the mulch so I could plant, etc. Then I have reapplied mulch to keep moisutre in and suppress weeds during the summer… is there a simpler way to do this?

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Jamie. I use one mulch only, a composted stable bedding (sort of small wood chip/shaving particles that animals used and then someone piled up to compost and age). I let it deteriorate into the soil, and replenish as needed — always adding more each spring. This way the underlying soil gets more and more loaded with organic matter and more crumbly by just mulching and letting nature do the rest.

      I do not mulch in winter here, or at least nothing extra. So your shredded leaves are great…or some other mulch that can just decay right in place and feed the soil…but why remove them? Maybe you put on too much, but all I do is sort of push aside my mulch and plant, then move the mulch back or add more. It is best to do this with pre-composted mulch, though, so maybe pile up all the leaves, shred them, and let them rot a bit and apply next spring. Again, I don’t use winter mulches except for things like marginally hardy roses (I used to grow a few and protect them), and newly planted things that might be extra vulnerable, but even then, not so much.

  9. Marie says:

    I found three of these colorful little gems late in the season of 2009. They made it through last summer, though on our high hill with lots of wind, we are more of a zone 4 than 5 climate. Not only did they now make it through 2 winters, but were the first to perk up this year, and really add a kick to the front borders! I hope they flower this year… in spite of our traditional home, town, and gardens, this is a welcome change.

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