Tag Archive: architectural

Yucca aloifolia flowers

Yucca aloifolia flowers

A genus of about 40 species of perennial evergreen shrubs or trees, Yucca is rosette-forming or woody- based and comes from hot, dry places such as deserts. sand dunes and plains in north and central America and the West Indies. It is also colloquially known in the Midwest United States as “ghosts in the graveyard”, as it is commonly found growing in rural graveyards and when in bloom the cluster of (usually pale) flowers on a thin stalk appear as floating apparitions. So striking are these flowers that early settlers of the south-western United States called them “Lamparas de Dios” or “Lanterns of God”. 

A member of the Agavae family, the yucca is closely related to the lily and has its origins in Mexico and Central America where it was prized by indigenous peoples for the medicinal and nutritional properties of the yucca flower.

North American natives, too, found the plant useful, using it to make clothing and soap (yucca roots are rich in saponins).

Cultivated for their bold, linear to lance shaped leaves and their erect (sometimes pendent) panicles of, usually white bell-shaped flowers. Many species also bear edible parts, including fruits, seeds,flowers, flowering stems and more rarely roots. References to yucca root as food often stem from confusion with the similarly pronounced, but botanically unrelated, yuca, also called cassava (Manihot esculenta).

They tolerate a range of conditions, but are best grown in full sun in subtropical or mild temperate areas. In gardening centres and horticultural catalogues they are usually grouped with other architectural plants such as Cordylines and Phormiums.

Joshua trees

(Yucca brevifolia) are protected by law in some American states. A permit is needed for wild collection. As a landscape plant, they can be killed by excessive water during their summer dormant phase, so are avoided by landscape contractors.

Several species of yucca can be grown outdoors in mild temperate climates where they are protected from frost. These include:-

Y. filamentosa

Y. flaccida

Y. gloriosa

y. recurvifolia

Yuccas are widely grown as architectural plants providing a dramatic accent to landscape design. They can be used as specimen plants in courtyards or borders and in frost prone areas can be grown in a cool or temperate greenhouse or conservatory. Pollination and proper yucca care are necessary for the formation of these flowers on indoor plants.

Be careful to site them away from paths or other places people could be scratched by their sharp leaves. Free-draining soil and sun is all yuccas require.They are fully frost hardy to frost tender and can be propagated by seed sown in spring. Rooted suckers can also be removed in spring and root cuttings can be taken in the autumn. They can be susceptible to leaf spot and aphid attack.

Yucca guatemalensis (syn Yucca elephantipes)

Yucca guatemalensis (syn Yucca elephantipes)

Further Information:


Yucca filamentosa- RHS guide

How to Grow Yucca

Yucca Care

Yucca- Plant Encyclopedia

Old School Gardener

Euphorbia characias sub species 'Wulfenii'

Euphorbia characias sub species wulfenii

A bit like Marmite, gardeners  seem to either love or hate Euphorbia (Spurge) – I love them!

This is a large genus of over 2,000 species, including annuals,perennials as well as shrubs and succulents. They originate from many different parts of the world and as a result their growing requirements differ widely. They include the red-leaved species commonly seen at Christmas, Euphorbia pulcherrima (Poinsettia)

Euphorbia pulcherrima (Poinsettia)

Euphorbia pulcherrima (Poinsettia)

Some are evergreen and hardy, others are semi evergreen or deciduous. Nearly all species have distinctive ‘cyathia‘- small cups of long – lasting bracts that can be green, yellow, red, brown or purple. These are ‘cupping nectaries’ containing insignificant flowers with much reduced parts. In the perennials and shrubs these cyathia are carried in dense clusters. The leaves are very varied  and often are shed quite quickly.

Some species are very invasive and are not really suitable for the garden (e.g. E. cyparissias and E. pseudovirgata) others will self seed prolifically so need to be used with care (e.g. E. lathyris, E. hybernia,E.coralloides and E.wallichii). Some species can be invasive in some climates (e.g. E. myrsinites in parts of the USA) but are less problematic in milder, wetter places.

Euphorbia cyparissias (Cypress Spurge)

Euphorbia cyparissias (Cypress Spurge)

Euphorbia myrsinites

Euphorbia myrsinites

All Euphorbias resent disturbance, so siting them carefully from the start is important for long lasting plants. Euphorbia suit every situation from desert to bog, formal courtyard to wild woodland. With a couple of  exceptions Euphorbia are easy to grow. They are also look great in the garden, the colourful bracts lasting many weeks.

Euphorbia look best if allowed to sprawl at will, but if space is limited, you may need to support the floppier ones.

The evergreens require no routine pruning – simply tidy them up when they start to look untidy. Deciduous ones should be cut down to ground level in autumn. New shoots will emerge from the crown in spring. The biennial forms such as E. characias produce new shoots from the base each year. Cut out dead stems in winter. They are not fussy as to soil, but most prefer good drainage.

The bigger, more sculptural forms look good with architecture – against steps or walls, or in corners of courtyards. E. mellifera is a superb statement plant. E. myrsinites can be used in raised planters to sprawl over the sides. E. griffithii ‘Fireglow’ looks great beside water, with bronzy Rodgersias and red-flushed Astilbes, but will also look good in a hot border, while E. ‘Whistleberry Garnet’ associates well with ferns, Hostas and the dark-patterned leaves of Geranium phaeum.

All parts of Euphorbia are useful in flower arranging either in the fresh or dried state.

However all Euphorbia are poisonous and bleed a skin irritant milky sap, whereas the flowers are highly allergenic, so be careful when cutting or handling these wonderful plants.

Euphorbia polychroma

Euphorbia polychroma

Euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow'

Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’

Euphorbia characias sub species 'Wulfenii'

Euphorbia characias sub species wulfenii

Further information:

National Collection of hardy Euphorbias

Growing Euphorbias

Euphorbia pulcherrima (Poinsettia)

Common varieties


Old School Gardener

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