Sentinels of the south-western deserts, Yuccas are extremely drought tolerant succulent evergreen grasses with waxy, arching, sword-shaped foliage arranged in rosettes. Many have leaves with razor-sharp edges and spiny tips, earning them the common name Spanish dagger. In summer, they produce grand flowers held high above the foliage on tall stalks that emerge from the centre of the plant, sometimes 3 metres tall. Most produce white or cream flowers, sometimes with a purple or pink tinge. Yucca's sharp-tipped leaves mean they're best planted away from paths, entrances and driveways and can be effective at fending off intruders when grown in rows.
Yucca plants make an excellent choice for drought-tolerant or rugged gardens. Smaller varieties are suitable for growing in containers, allowing them to be grown in colder parts of the UK where they can be over-wintered indoors and put back outside after the risk of frost has passed. In the border, they're best combined with other plants that also prefer a dry soil, such as sedum, salvia, lavender plants, Euphorbia and black-eyed Susan. Choose Yucca filamentosa for beautiful foliage decorated with long curly threads or "filaments" and Yucca Color Guard for eye-catching gold-centred leaves. All are unfussy providing they're grown in a well-drained soil and receive plenty of sunlight - just remove any brown leaves that have died back from the base in late autumn or winter.