Big Bend Yucca

True to its name, Big Bend Yucca is a West Texas native that’s able to tolerate serious sun, heat, and drought.

The first week of August can be tough in local landscapes: spring blooms have long since faded, the grass is withering, and even the hardiest shrubs, trees and perennials are often feeling heat and drought stress.

So this week’s seasonal star is a plant with a carefree summer attitude, without the need for constant schedules, water and attention. Many of us hear “yucca” and run for the mall exits, but when you reach the exit, guess who’s often planted at the door, looking cool, big and blue: Big Bend yucca, a.k.a. Nordstrom’s yucca or Palmita.

A plant called Big Bend Yucca, true to its name, is definitely a West Texas native, able to tolerate serious sun, heat, and drought. It has the silvery-blue shades shared by so many architectural desert plants. But with its WaterSaver credentials beyond reproach, the “Nordstrom’s” moniker is a nod to this desert plant’s surprising civility. Here’s a succulent with soft, pliable needles that can stand in doorways without injury to customers, children, and pets. In fact, “Nordstrom’s” yucca is literally a reference to Nordstrom’s department store, because it was commonly used there on the West Coast and, increasingly, in Texas.

Unlike Spanish Dagger and Thompson’s Yucca, this yucca mostly grows with a single stately trunk, hence its other name, “Palmita,” the little palm tree: a Seuss-like pom-pom on a short trunk. The leaves form a shaggy skirt about the trunk. As long as it has enough sun, it grows fairly quickly to 8-10 feet. And since its sculptural quality is best displayed if given some space, it promotes a modern, minimalist (WaterSaver!) aesthetic.

Ideally, once established, no supplemental water need be provided. In fact, this yucca may find central Texas soils can be a bit too wet so if you’re in heavy clay, take this as a warning. Decomposed granite or aggregate can be added during planting to provide adequate drainage.

As always, plants in containers can be expected to need a little water during summer.

Picture of Brad Wier
Brad Wier
Brad Wier is a SAWS conservation planner. Years in South Texas landscaping and public horticulture gave him a lasting enthusiasm for native plants that don’t die when sprinklers -- and gardeners -- break down. He’d rather save time and water for kayaking and tubing. He is a former kilt model, and hears hummingbirds.
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