Yucca Filamentosa Equally at Home in Southeast, Northeast

Adam's needle in bloom
David Beaulieu

Adam's needle is a great plant for Southwest-themed landscaping. Known in plant taxonomy as Yucca filamentosa, it is a broadleaf evergreen shrub. Adam's needle is related to many other commonly grown cacti and succulents, and the family to which it belongs reveals another interesting relative: asparagus.

Appearance and Foliage

Adam's needle grows to a height of about 2 to 3 feet (not counting the flower stalk) at maturity, with a spread slightly smaller than the height.

The leaves are blade-like and form a basal rosette (beginners may think that the leaf shape resembles that of bearded iris, although long-time gardeners may disagree) The slender leaves, which end in a spine, can reach a length of over 2 feet long on large plants. Curled threads line the edges of the leaves, giving it its species name—filamentosa, meaning a thread or "filament".

The flower stalk that grows up from the center of the foliage in late spring can double the height of this yucca plant over time, sometimes growing to over 8 feet tall. The flower cluster usually appears right around the beginning of summer (in a zone-5 landscape). The individual blooms take the shape of nodding, white bells. It can take a long time for a new Yucca filamentosa to bloom for the first time—often about three years.

Growing Zones and Sun and Soil Needs

Although native to the Southeastern U.S., this hardy succulent has naturalized farther north.

You can plant Yucca filamentosa in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 10.

Adam's needle needs well-drained soil, and it should be kept a bit on the dry side. It does not need a fertile soil, so it is a good choice for an area that has poor soil. It also does not seem to mind pollutants, making it suitable for roadside plantings.

it grows best in full sun but will tolerate a little shade.

Caring for Adam's Needle

This succulent is one of the easiest plants to grow outdoors. Very little care is needed for it. So if landscape maintenance is not your cup of tea, Yucca filamentosa could be an ideal plant for you. At most—and only if you're fussy about the look of your landscape—you might want to cut off the spent flower stalks at the end of the year, and occasionally remove old leaves that have turned brown.

Similar Yucca Plants

There are many other types of yucca plants besides Yucca filamentosa, including:

  • Yucca elata, or soap-tree yucca, a tree form that can reach 15 feet tall. It can be grown in zones 5 to 8.
  • Yucca glauca, sometimes called "soapweed," should not be confused with soap-tree yucca. This plant is suitable for zones 3 to 10.
  • Yucca flaccida derives its species name from the fact that its leaves stand fairly limp (those on most yucca plants are rigid); it grows in zones 4 to 10.
  • Yucca brevifolia, the well-known Joshua tree of the American Southwest and another type of tree-form yucca.
  • Yucca filamentosa "Bright Edge," is a bicolored type of Adam's needle. Even brighter are the types with gold in their leaves, such as "Golden Sword" and "Garland’s Gold."

    Outstanding Features

    The calling card for Adam's needle may well be, first and foremost, that it is a tough plant. It is a drought-tolerant ground cover that is also salt-tolerant. Pests and insects give it very little trouble, and it is both deer-proof and rabbit-proof. Adam's needle attracts butterflies but also draws earwigs; however, these pests are unlikely to do any serious damage to the plants.

    Uses in Landscaping

    The potential uses for this yucca plant in your yard are many, based both on how it looks and how tough it is. Even though Yucca filamentosa is a native of the Southeastern U.S., it is a great fit in a Southwestern theme, since it looks like it belongs in a desert. You can also make use of the fine texture of its leaves by growing it next to plants that have foliage of a coarser texture, thereby creating contrast.

    Its well-known toughness makes Adam's needle a good fit in dry regions or problem areas of the landscape that seem too dry for most plants. Consider it as an option for xeriscaping, a form of sustainable landscaping. Yucca is also a great choice when growing a rock garden, and it works well on a slope, to provide soil erosion control.