Growing Yucca Plant

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yucca plant

Growing yucca plant is not just for indoors.

The yucca plant’s sword-like leaves tend to add a distinctive look to any area, including your landscape.

Moreover, it is a perennial, evergreen shrub that comes in a number of species.

The yucca plant is a native of the southwestern United States and thrives in soil that tends to drain well.

This plant will need full sun to thrive well.

It is important to note that the yucca plant can withstand temperatures as cold as 10 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can grow this plant in a number of different climates.

The creamy white flowers tend to bloom best in full sun, during mid to late summer, with some yucca growing as tall as 10 feet.

Its leaves tend to reach about 2 1/2 feet in length.

Keep on reading to learn more.

Yucca Plant

The yucca plant is a genus of over 40 perennials plants, shrubs, and trees.

You can grow a few of them as houseplants, including Yucca gigantea (also known as Y. guatemalensis and Y. elephantipes) and the Yucca aloifolia.

It is important to note that the yucca plant is native to the American Southwest, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

These are visually interesting plants, looking just like agave or dragon plants.

Special Note: These plants are not the same as yucca or cassava plants, while edible, starchy tubers are common in Latin American cuisine.

Some of these plants are fast-growing plants that grow up to 2 feet per year, while others grow slowly, about 5 inches a year.

All are extremely drought-tolerant plants and most species of yucca will grow into room-devouring monsters.

yucca plant 1

However, this takes so long that you will get a number of years of use as a houseplant before it overwhelms your space.

Moreover, most can grow outdoors, withstanding cold snaps down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some varieties tend to survive subzero temperatures.

Make sure to plant them outdoors in the early spring, however, do not plant them too close to the house.

These plants are not invasive species but have invasive root systems that can damage your home foundations, sidewalks, and underground pipelines.

Thus, beware of the tips of long spiny leaves of the yucca plant, as they are sharp and pointy and can cause injury.

Furthermore, pet owners should take caution if adding yucca plants as all parts of the plant are toxic to dogs and cats, as well as horses.

Learn more about Poisonous Plants for Pets here.

Quick Facts about Yucca Plant

Some quick facts about the yucca plant are:

Common Name Yucca plant
Botanical Name Yucca spp.
Family Agavaceae
Plant Type Herbaceous, perennial
Mature Size 1-30 ft. tall, 3-15 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Partial
Soil Type Sandy, well-draining
Soil pH Neutral, acidic
Bloom Time Summer, fall
Flower Color White, pink
Hardiness Zones 4 -11 (USDA)
Native Area North America, Caribbean
Toxicity Toxic to pets

Growing Outdoor Yucca Plant

It is important to note yucca plant is native to the Southwest U.S. and they tend to prefer dry, sandy regions like the desert and Great Plains.

These plants naturalized from Florida to New England to the Mississippis River.

Moreover, they can tolerate poor, sandy, well-drained soils, in full sun, efficiently handling heat, drought, and salt spray.

Outdoor plants tend to have a higher chance of blooming regularly than indoor yucca plants.

In case you are planting yucca plants outdoors, make sure to locate them away from paths and sidewalks, as their leaf tips are sharp and can injure passersby.

Also, their roots can disrupt sidewalks.

It is important to note that an ideal place for this plant is in the sun, however, make sure it gets a few hours of shade during the day.

In case you are growing yucca plants indoors, but intend to bring them out during the summer, make sure to slowly acclimate them to life outdoors by hardening them off a few hours each day outside.

Gradually introduce your plant to outdoor life which can help to reduce the chance of leaf burn or systemic shock.

Yucca species that are not as cold hardy should return inside as the weather begins to turn cold.

Again, slowly harden off the plant so that they gradually get accustomed to indoor life.

Indoor Yucca Plant Care

Under the right conditions, yucca plants are not difficult to grow.

These plants thrive on a bit of neglect rather than too much attention and can easily get overwatering.

Moreover, soggy stems tend to signify too much water.

In the right conditions, they can live about five years as houseplants and up to 20 to 50 years if you grow them outdoors.

yucca plant 2

You will need to choose a bright corner with relatively low humidity and it is the best indoor conditions for your plant.

Additionally, it is important to note that the yucca plant is not prone to many pests, though scale insects can, in some cases, be an issue.

Over time, this plant will love its leaves, in nature they tend to droop, forming a skirt around the trunk that gives the plant a pleasant ‘tree-like’ appearance.

Light and Soil Requirements

A Yucca plant tends to thrive best in bright, indirect light indoors.

Growing these plants in too little light can cause this plant to be thinner and have slower growth.

While intense, direct sunlight can cause white spots on its leaves or crispy brown tips.

It is important to note that this plant naturally grows in sandy terrain.

Inside, make sure to plant it in a loose well-draining potting mix.

Low-maintenance yuccas will not need specially formulated or rich fancy soil.

Instead, you can get an inexpensive potting mix and blend in coarse sand and perlite to promote drainage.

Water, Temperature, and other requirements

It is important to note that the yucca plant is highly sensitive to overwatering.

Thus make sure to water your plant once a week during the spring and summer growing season.

However, make sure that the plant has excellent drainage and dries out between waterings.

When winter comes, make sure to decrease your watering cadence to once every few weeks or even less, and never let your plant sit in a tray of water.

Moreover, yucca plants are adapted to the desert, where the temperature tends to soar above 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

Thus, your plant is relatively adaptable to most indoor temperature conditions and fluctuations.

They tend to grow best with moderate humidity, however, as desert plants, they tend to b perfectly content in dry conditions and there is never any need to mist your plant.

Make sure to fertilize your indoor yucca plant during the growing season with the help of a liquid or controlled-release fertilizer according to label instructions.

A once-a-month feeding is often sufficient for this plant.

Removing a Yucca Plant

It is important to note that some species tend to be voracious growers with invasive root systems that can affect nearby foundations and structures.

To remove a yucca plant, cut down the plant aboveground.

Then dig under it and remove every last bit of the root system.

In case you leave even the smallest piece of root behind, you can expect the plant to sprout in its place.

Make sure to remove any young sprouts that come up, dig up their root systems, and as a last resort, douse the area.

Or you can drill holes around the area and inject the soil with stump remover or herbicide to reach any remaining roots.

Types of Yucca Plants

In desert areas like the southeastern United States, yuccas tend to be common outdoor plants where they tend to reach their full size.

However, indoors, people tend to stick with two species:

Yucca gigantea (also known as Y. guatemalensis and Y. elephantipes): In some cases, the spineless yucca or yucca cane, this plant tends to grow from a bulbous base with long, sword-like leaves that lack the typical leaf-tip spie.

Moreover, mature specimens tend to grow into small, branching trees with bare trunks that are topped with spiraled rosettes of arching leaves.

These are relatively slow growers and can live indoors for years before outgrowing their space.

This species is by far the most popular houseplant variety.

Yucca aloifolia: In some cases, also known as the Spanish bayonet, this plant features stiff leaves that end in sharp points.

The leaves tend to be up to 20 inches long and can be dangerously sharp.

In general, this is not a plant recommended for homes with small children.

plant care

Some common outdoor varieties are:

Banana yucca, Y. baccata: This one is a cactus-like succulent and has fleshy, sweet seedpods that tend to range from green to dark purple that is the size and shape of a banana, though they tend to taste more like sweet potatoes.

Joshua Tree, Y. brevifolia: This iconic, slow-growing evergreen is commonly grown in the Mojave Desert in the southwestern United States.

Moreover, it is the largest yucca species, that grows over 30 feet.

Adam’s needle, Y. filamentosa: This one is a slow-growing broadleaf evergreen shrub, a stemless plant with long blade-like leaves.

Pruning and Propagating Tips

While indoors, yucca plants occasionally will need to be pruned when they grow too tall for your space.

However, doing so is a bit unconventional, especially if you prune it as a traditional landscape plant.

Make sure to cut back in early spring.

When pruning this plant, remove the plant gently from its pot and use a saw or sharp pair of loopers to cut the trunk in half.

Then repot the rooted end of the trunk and water it well, continuing to care for the plant as you traditionally would.

Moreover, in just a few weeks, the plant will start producing new leaves, eventually appearing much as it did before, just shorter.

You can also plant the top portion of the yucca to try to propagate a second plant.

It is important to note that there are a few ways to propagate a yucca plant.

In case your yucca has outgrown its space, you can cut the plant stem in half and repot the pruned top portion to lead to a second plant.

However, propagating from divisions or pups, i.e. offshoots is a more successful method of creating new plants.

Here is how to do it:

  • you will need to propagate yucca in the fall, and the growth of the plant tends to slow in the fall and causes less damage to the plant
  • remove a mature yucca plant from the pot
  • then separate the rhizome of the plant and plant in a new pot to propagate by division
  • in order to propagate by pups, make sure to wait until they are green
  • when the pups are green, they will have enough chlorophyll manufacturing capacity to survive independently
  • pale, whitish pups tend to be too young to remove, as they tend to rely on the parent plant for survival
  • make sure to use a sharp knife, to slice off the pup from the parent plant, including a portion of the root of the parent, with the pup attached
  • then replant the pup in a new pot with fresh soil
  • water well and make sure to keep the soil moist, not soggy
  • pups should quickly root in a few weeks and will produce new growth shortly thereafter

Growing from Seed

You will need to gather seed pods as they begin to dry, however, make sure to do it before they split.

Once dry, crush them to remove the seeds.

It is important to note that yucca plants will need a chilling period before germinating.

Keep seeds in moist sand in the refrigerator for at least 90 days and they can keep longer if in a tightly sealed container.

Moreover, make sure to start the germination process indoors in March and it will begin at 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Growing from seeds tends to have a 45% to 98% success rate, according to the Natural Resources Conservative Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

You can have greater germination success if you soak the seeds in water for 24 hours at room temperature, scarification, or remove the hard seed coat.

It can take about 4 to 5 weeks for seeds to germinate.

Here is how to sow the seeds:

  • you will need to use a sterile, soilless mix or seed starter mix
  • then tamp down the soil in the mot, leaving about an inch of room at the top of the pot
  • place the seed on the soil and then cover it lightly with about 1/8 inch of soil
  • make sure to keep the soil moist at about 55 degrees
  • once the plant sprouts put it in the bright window or under a grow light until the plant is large enough to plant in a permanent location

Potting, Repotting, and Overwintering Tips

Yuccas tend to do well if they are slightly pot-bound as long as they do not become heavy enough to tip over their container.

You will not need to bother them with repotting for at least two or three years.

Moreover, repotting larger yucca plants can be hard, so larger plants can be refreshed with new potting soil by digging out the top 2 inches of the container and then adding new soil.

During a typical repotting, you can remove the yucca plant from its container, and then increase it by one container size, always using fresh potting soil.

Container-grown seedlings should be kept inside and protected from frost the first winter.

It is important to note that mature plants can get winter burns on their leaves in regions with cold, windy winters.

As these plants enter dormancy in the cold months, they tend to stop storing water in their leaves, protecting the plant from deep freezes.

In regions with frigid winters, make sure to reduce supplemental water in late summer.

Halt watering by September entirely. Make sure to let the stalks naturally die back.

The plant tends to store its nutrients in its roots.

Then insulate and protect it from the cold winter by cutting the withered foliage to the ground and applying about 6 to 8 inches of mulch over the plant in late fall before the first frost.

Cover the mulch pile with plastic sheeting or burlap in the coldest zones to provide further insulation.

Make sure to remove the sheeting and mulch in the spring after the chance of frost passes.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Though yucca plants often do not have pest issues, there are, however, a few typical culprits you will need to watch out for, like aphids and small mealybugs.

A number of yucca plants also have to contend with agave plant bugs that tend to pierce the leaves and suck the juices out.

In case you notice tiny brown scars on the leaves of this plant, chances are that you have an agave plant bug problem.

In order to treat it, you will need to spray the plant with a number of applications of insecticidal soap until all signs of an infestation cease.

In addition to mild pest issues, these plants are also susceptible to fungal diseases. which tend to appear with spreading black spots.

The foliage of the plant can be extra sensitive to overhead watering, which tends to introduce excess moisture into the dense core of the plant and can also breed fungal diseases.

To eradicate, you will need to treat your plant with a copper fungicide or neem oil until lesions decrease.

Getting your Plant to Bloom

Yucca plants tend to be beloved additions as they erupt into stunning blooms.

In case your plant is not blooming, there are certain things you can consider tweaking.

For starters, make sure you are fertilizing your plant enough.

In case the soil is particularly nutrient-deficient, make sure to choose a fertilizer high in phosphorus, bone meal can also work.

getting your plant to bloom

Along with ample feedings, make sure to be careful not to overwater your plant.

Too much water can lead to fungal diseases, sickening your plant and even discouraging blooms.

Moreover, consider moving your plant outdoors in the early spring if possible.

Most yuccas tend to bloom in spring and early summer.

Eventually, it can take a number of years for your plant to reach maturity and begin to bloom, so if your plant is still young, have patience, and confidence that your plant will bloom.

Common Problems with Yucca Plants

A yucca plant is easy to care for, drought tolerant, and pest resistant, however, it can still encounter occasional problems if their care is not ideal.

Yellowing Leaves and Spongy Stems: In most cases, yellowing leaves can occur when your plant gets too much water.

The central stem may start getting soft, which is a sure sign that your plant is being overwatered.

Moreover, your plant will only need to be watered once the soil has almost dried out.

Make sure to not plan to keep to a routine watering schedule, instead, assess the dryness of the soil by using your finger as a guide.

In order to fix an overwatered plant, make sure to stop watering and improve drainage by moving the plant to a pot with more drainage holes or providing well-draining soil.

Also, increase the ventilation around the plant and make sure that the humidity is not too high near the plant.

Yellow, Brown, or White Spots on Leaves: Yucca plants tend to thrive in the sun, however, they can also get sunburned if you suddenly expose them to too much sun with acclimation.

Sunburn on plants looks like yellow, brown, or white spots.

In order to prevent this from occurring, slowly acclimate the plant with more and more sun each day.

It will eventually adjust when you do it gradually.

To prevent your plant to recover from sunburn, you will need to move the plant to a shadier spot.

Make sure your plant has water and let it heal, and gradually reintroduce it to a sunnier spot, more, and more each day.

Curling Leaves: In case you notice that the leaves of your plant are curling, it can be too hot or too cold for your plant.

Yuccas tend to prefer a temperature range between 45F to 90F.

Whenever your plant is experiencing temperature stress, it may even get red spots on the leaves and start dropping,

In order to correct the situation, make sure to move the plant to a location where the temperature suits the plant.

It will begin to improve within the next two days.

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