Spanish Bayonet

Spanish bayonet with flowers

Spanish bayonet (Yucca aloifolia) in Sanibel, Florida. Photo by Jenny Evans, SCCF Native Plant Nursery.

Spanish bayonet, Yucca aloifolia, is a great accent plant for the Florida landscape. With its dramatic flower spikes and sharp, pointed foliage, this plant is sure to grab attention.

Sometimes called aloe yucca, Spanish bayonet doesn't just attract attention from human visitors—butterflies are also attracted to the fragrant blossoms of this striking plant.

Characteristics

Spanish bayonet has dark green, stiff, dagger-like leaves projecting from thick, trunk-like stems. This evergreen shrub can grow up to 15 feet in height, but often will flop over from its own weight, with new growth continuing to grow upward. Plants eventually form attractive, multi-stemmed clumps.

The leaves of Spanish bayonet are probably its most memorable feature, ending in sharp, needle-like tips. These spiked leaves have been known to pierce through even thick clothing, so select a planting location away from walkways and areas where people or pets could come into contact with the plant. Some people remove the tips with shears, but this could be difficult to maintain with a larger plant.

Savvy gardeners actually take advantage of this feature and plant Spanish bayonet as a security precaution, under windows and other areas of access, or as a living fence. Just be sure to plant it behind other plants, putting space between it and people.

An alternative is spineless yucca, which grows in a more tree-like form and has harmless leaves that lack sharp tips.

The fragrant, bell-shaped flowers of Spanish bayonet are white with tinges of light purple, and appear in spring or summer on tall spikes at the center of the plant, high above the foliage. The blossoms are edible, making a crisp addition to salads raw, or served battered and deep-fried.

While Spanish bayonet is great for providing year-round greenery, gardeners who'd like a little more color can try one of several culitvars, including 'Marginata' with yellow margined leaves, or 'Tricolor' with green and white leaves.

Spanish bayonet looks very similar to another yucca, Spanish dagger (Yucca gloriosa). Leaf margins on Spanish dagger are smooth, whereas those on Spanish bayonet are rough.

Planting and Care

Spanish bayonet can be incorporated into almost any landscape in Florida (zones 8b-12). It has a high salt tolerance, making it a excellent choice for coastal gardens, and will grow in most soil types, as long as the soil is well-drained. It grows best in full sun to partial shade, but can tolerate nearly full shade.

Spanish bayonet requires little maintenance; it's highly drought tolerant and once established, requires almost no supplemental irrigation.  

Spanish bayonet can grow quite large so keep this in mind when selecting a planting site. Mature height of Spanish bayonet is between 10 and 15 feet, and its spread will vary. This plant does grow slowly, so don't expect it to reach its mature size in a hurry. Propagation is by division of the suckers or by cuttings, but you'll find potted plants for sale at nurseries.

UF/IFAS Publications

Also on Gardening Solutions