It has been almost 2 years since I wrote of my attempt to find and then to grow Red Yucca, or Hesperaloe parviflora, here in Kansas. I had first seen this native Texas plant used as a common xeri- landscaping plant in Las Vegas, so I thought I'd give it a try here in dry and windy Kansas. Originally, I purchased three Red Yucca and one yellow-form (Herperaloe parviflora 'Yellow') from High Country Gardens. The yellow-form Hesperaloe was a larger plant and it bloomed last summer and again this summer, growing slowly but steadily in a protected sunny exposure spot. In fact, right now, I'm starting to think it is in a spot that's a little too shaded by an adjacent Caryopteris clandonensis.
The small fragile Red Yucca plants, however, really got put to a test in the Flint Hills environment. All three were planted in a slightly raised bed surrounding a crabapple tree next to my driveway. This put them directly in one of my worst wind-swept, sun-burnt, winter-cold-exposed beds. Seriously, the next closest westward wind break for this bed is probably the Rocky Mountains. As an added bonus, the soil in this bed was originally dull orange subsoil clay. Daffodils, mums, petunias, you name it, they have all died in this bed.
I'm pleased to report, however, that the Red Yucca's have done well. From 4-inch tall plants with 3-4 leaf spikes each, all three now have a good clump of basal foliage about 12 inches tall, and two of the three bloomed this summer on top of three-foot-tall racemes, as pictured at the left. The blooms are red outside and yellow inside and are waxy enough to stand up well to the drying winds we've had on the recent hundred-degree days that cause the roses open and shrivel by the end of the day. And talk about your long-blooming plants! One of my two plants first started blooming at the end of May and still looks as fresh as it did at that time. I've been holding my breath, thinking that the prairie winds would surely break off the fragile-appearing raceme, but it has so far withstood the worst winds of the summer, including one blast with peak 70-80 mph straight-line winds. The second of my precocious bloomers opened up about two weeks ago and quickly reached the height of its neighbor.
As flowers go, you could safely say that I'm not personally excited by them, and at present this is a mere curosity. I may change my mind, however, if these plants reach the size and exuberance I saw in Las Vegas. I haven't seen the hummingbirds that this plant is supposed to attract yet, but I'll give it a few years to make a large mass before I call that part of the experiment a failure. Till then, other gardeners in the dryer climes of the MidWest might want to give this plant a try. Heck, as the climate here dries and changes, the native Hesperaloe may make their way to us anyway, becoming weeds in our gardens.