Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Little Piece of Texas

Like most of the US population, Kansans sometimes exhibit a little bit of Texas envy, manifested in the gardening population of Kansas by a desire to grow Texas Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush.  Since neither of the forementioned plants are reliably hardy in my climate (don't think I haven't tried!), I've turned to another native Texas plant to satisfy my yearnings; Red Yucca, also known as Texas Red Yucca or Red False Yucca.

Of course, since I've only been in Texas once, not counting a few hops through the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, I was introduced to Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) in Las Vegas, where it serves as a common xeri-landscape plant.  I'm sure any native Las Vegans, if in fact there are any, could identify the plant on sight, but I suffered on that particular trip from being in a foreign climate where a) I had no real idea what I was looking at, and b)  neither did any of the people working for the hotels and casinos that I asked.  From experience, I'm guessing that casino dealers and hostesses as a general rule don't spend a lot of time admiring the casino landscaping.  Identification had to wait for my return home and access to a computer, where I recognized Hesperaloe on the High Country Gardens website as the plant I'd just spent three days lusting after.

Hesperaloe parviflora 'Yellow'
Red Yucca is found native to the Rio Grande and northern Mexico area, in the Chihuahuan desert, where it matures to a 2-3 foot high and 4 foot wide succulent mound with narrow blue-green leaves and filamentous edges.  The plant flowers over a long period with inverted bell-shaped flowers of coral red, and it is well-suited for xeriscaping by its drought-tolerant, full-sun requirements and its preference for alkaline soil.  I was happy to see that it's a favored plant by hummingbirds and requires little or no maintenance beyond cutting down the flower stalks.  In fact, one helpful Internet gardener commented that it grows in very poor soil, "virtually no soil," so it seems made for my Flint Hills clay.  It's supposed to be hardy to zone 5, and evergreen to boot, so I'm giving this one a chance in my garden.  I've planted two different varieties from High Country Gardens, the red Hesperaloe and a yellow form (Hesperaloe parviflora 'Yellow'), both in somewhat well-drained poor-soil areas. Both survived the hot, dry summer we just had and needed minimal extra watering for establishment.   The yellow form, pictured at left, is doing great and probably has doubled in size since June, although it hasn't yet bloomed. I have great hope for it as I've seen reports of it growing in Denver, Colorado, and Shawnee Mission, Kansas, the latter just a hop, skip, and dead plant away.

So, once again, I'm stepping out into the murky waters of zonal envy and pinning my dreams for garden excellence on a whimsically-chosen plant glimpsed in someone else's climate.  You'd think I'd learn, expecting providence while staring from warm September down into the depths of a Kansas winter.  You'd think all gardeners would learn, but gardeners, more than all other human strains, seem to remain eternal optimists in the face of repeated failure.


  1. Wonderful! I'll send Texas good thoughts your way for success. They were very pretty here this spring and we all think they benefited from our colder-than-usual winter, so maybe that's a good sign.

  2. Hi Dr James, I've put a link to your Garden Tranquilizer post and would like to invite you to a game. Kindly check it out at


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