My husband loves tropical-looking plants, such as caladium, elephant ears and canna lilies, but it wasn't surprising to me when he proclaimed his disdain for one of the easiest to grow and most tropical-looking of them all, Yucca filamentosa.
His problem with the plant has nothing to do with its equatorial appearance, because even just the sight of a yucca growing and blooming in a garden somewhere reminds him of a battle he was involved in many years ago. A battle with a plant almost as stubborn as he is.
When we were first married and moved into our house, the lawn and landscape was a blank slate. We were young newlyweds without many dollars to spare, so my aunt generously gifted us with a truckload of plants from her own collection. An avid gardener her entire life, my aunt had plants that I had never seen in anyone's garden. I blame it on our youth and the fact that we didn't know what we were doing, that prompted us to plant things in all sorts of places without regard to whether they really belonged.
Two of those plants were Yucca filamentosa. Nearly 40 years ago there was no Internet where researching plants and their growing habits produced instantaneous results. In those days, most of common gardening books we could find at the library described only the most common plants. We planted and basically waited to see what would happen. It was amazing to watch how tall an ornamental grass could get or how much a handful of hardy mums could spread. In addition, I was delighted to see the tall flower stalks in late June emerging from the center of the yucca, flower stalks that were filled with the brightest, white flowers I ever encountered.
Unfortunately, the flowers were short-lived, seeming to drop off the stalk as quickly as they bloomed, but for a day or two, it was the prettiest view in the garden. We put the two plants beside each other near a small maple tree that we also planted from twigs that first year.
For several years, even though I knew it was coming, it never failed to surprise me when the flowers bloomed on those two plants. Over time, the maple tree grew taller and spread its branches over the yuccas' space. While they continued to live in what was now a somewhat shady spot, they didn't thrive and eventually stopped blooming.
I don't know why I didn't just try to move them to another place in the yard, but I gave my husband permission to take out the plants in whatever way he saw fit. He saw fit to mow them along with the rest of the lawn. But the yucca plants, with their long tap roots, didn't want to give up. They continued to sprout, only now they were coming up in different places. By this time, he was on a mission to mow everything yucca and after a few years, the plants finally gave up and stopped trying.
This is the time of year I miss them. As I drive throughout the county on various errands, I see them everywhere. Even when a privacy fence blocks the view of a landscape from the street, the flower stalks are hard to miss poking over the top. I envision groups of yucca planted in garden islands with ornamental grasses and those difficult, but husband-friendly elephant ears (Colocasia). (They are difficult because the giant bulbs need to be lifted from the ground at the end of summer).
Yucca filamentosa is a hardy species related to many tropical and southwestern variations. Although the plant is native to the southeastern states, it is commonly used in xeriscape gardens in the southwest, due to its hardiness under drought conditions. The leaves are long and narrow, spear-shaped and somewhat thick. The leaves are lined with small, sharp threads called filaments, which is how the plant earned the species name, filamentosa.
Gardeners may have to experiment a bit to find the best spot in the garden for this plant. I suspect my plants would have fared better with longer-lasting blooms if I had put them in a site with full, mid-day sun.
Some day I hope to add yucca back into my garden landscape. I'm sure after all these years, the plant and the husband can bury the hatchet and be friends.
l There is still time to get your entry in for the Annual Amateur Flower Garden contest. Entry forms are available in the Tribune Chronicle. The contest is open to all Trumbull County amateur gardeners who are not affiliated with the Tribune Chronicle or Trumbull County OSU Master Gardeners. Gardens will be judged by certified Master Gardeners and the winners will be announced Sept. 4.