Spanish dagger, or Yucca gloriosa, is a plant native to Central America and the southern regions of North America. In addition to being abundant in the wild, this hardy plant is also used in decorative landscaping. It goes by a number of alternate common names including mound lily yucca, soft-tipped yucca, Spanish bayonet, and Sea Islands yucca. Garden supply stores sometimes carry this plant and mature specimens also can be transplanted. Gardeners should be advised that this species can be invasive.
This member of the Yucca genus produces broad, blade-like leaves from a central stem. New growth occurs at the end of the stem, creating a tight ball of leaves, and older leaves tend to die off and drop away as the plant grows. Mature plants may have very long, bare stems topped with clusters of leaves. It is common to see several plants clumped together and single plants can put out multiple stems, creating an array of stems of various sizes.
In the spring and summer, Spanish dagger puts up very tall stalks of aromatic white flowers. Brownish edible fruit can develop if the flowers are fertilized. The plants propagate by dividing underground or seeding themselves in the surrounding environment.
This plant needs full sun and sandy, acidic soil to thrive. It can be successfully grown in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones seven through 11. Spanish dagger is designed for poor soil conditions and often does best when it is largely neglected by the gardener. The plants are drought tolerant and plants such as succulents, other Yucca species, and cacti can make good companion plants. For low water gardening, plants like Spanish dagger are a good choice, as their water requirements are very low. The low maintenance needs can be appealing for landscaping in harsh environments and locations where regular maintenance is not very likely, like the side of a highway.
Like other Yucca species, Spanish dagger can make itself very comfortable in an environment it likes. Once it is established, it can be extremely stubborn and very hard to get rid of. Before planting, gardeners should think carefully about whether they want to grow the plant and where they want to establish it. Once it has a foothold, the plant can only be eliminated by patiently digging up the entire plant and the network of roots, using a weed barrier for several months to prevent germination of new growth, and planting a new, fast-growing plant to take over the soil.