Yucca elata, also known as the Soap Tree Yucca, is a perennial plant native to the southwest United States and northern Mexico.
Plants flourish in dry desert conditions, but they also do well in the cold.
It can grow well in zones 7 to 11, and as it is tolerant of most frosts it can be readily grown in the UK and most of Europe, though it is important that Yucca plants grown in colder areas have access to very well drained soils/sand. They require a lot of sunlight in order to prosper.
Soaptree yucca (Yucca elata) at White Sands National Monument photograph by Miguel Vieira.
Yucca elata start out looking like bunch grass, but as they grow, they develop a trunk like stem.
For thousands of years, Native Americans in the southwest United States used the fibers of Yucca elata to make sandals, mats, and baskets. Inside the stem of the plant is a soapy substance traditionally used as a shampoo. It is also believed to help stimulate hair growth and prevent hair loss.
Like many desert plants, the Yucca Elata grows very slowly. In one year the plant may only grow one inch (2.5 cm) in height. Thus, it may take years before it reaches full height.
They are, however, a great option for those who want to grow a Yucca plant, especially outside of the Americas, and is usually the best Yucca choice for the UK climate.
Their cold weather durability makes them versatile, but they require very dry soil and a lot of sunshine.
Although once it is successfully planted in a good spot, it requires little maintenance. It does not need to be frequently watered and is resistant to pests such as rabbits and deer.
The flowers that bloom on it are lightly dented and produce seeds that are true and can be readily used to grow more plants.
The attributes of the Yucca elata make it a wonderful option for those who are looking for a durable, low maintenance plant to add to their garden.