Getting Rid Of Yucca Plants – How To Remove A Yucca Plant
While typically grown for ornamental reasons, many people find yucca plants to be welcome additions to the landscape. Others, however, consider them to be problems. In fact, due to their rapid growth and vast root system, yucca plants can quickly become a nuisance. Although these plants are difficult to eradicate once established, with persistence you can win the battle of removing yucca plants in the garden.
How Do I Get Rid of a Yucca Plant?
Unbeknownst to many people, getting rid of yucca plants is not a one-time deal. In fact, simply digging them up or cutting them down may not always be enough. Yucca plants have an extensive root system and will continue to grow long after the plant has been removed. For instance, where one yucca plant is dug up, numerous yucca sprouts may appear again and again.
Therefore, ridding the garden of this determined grower involved more than just learning how to remove a yucca plant. You also need to learn patience and vigilance in order to successfully kill new sprouts.
How to Kill Yucca Plants
So how do you kill yucca sprouts once and for all? When you dig up yucca, try to get as much of the roots as possible. Every piece of root, regardless of how small, will inevitably produce a new plant.
Therefore, you may need to periodically check the area for young sprouts and remove them either by digging them up or by dousing them with full strength herbicide. Look for one that is non-selective and targets the root systems. Since yucca foliage is tough and waxy, traditional weed killers and herbicides are usually deemed ineffective, as they rarely penetrate the plant. This is especially true for mature yuccas. Young sprouts, however, are much more susceptible.
In addition to digging up yucca plants, some people find it easier to cut the plant down and soak it with herbicide beforehand. First, remove foliage and any side branches with a saw or pruning shears. Note: Remember to wear gloves and protective clothing to avoid the painful pricks from the needle-sharp leaves.
Then, use an axe or saw to cut the main trunk down to about a foot (30 cm.) or so from the ground. Drill a series of 1- to 2-inch (2.5-5 cm.) holes around the base. Pour stump remover or herbicide into the holes. This will spread throughout the root system and eventually kill it—at which time the yucca plant can be dug up and removed from the area.
While it may take several attempts to get rid of yucca plants, sooner or later the yucca roots will weaken and die. Patience and vigilance will eventually pay off.
Note: Chemical control should only be used as a last resort, as organic approaches are more environmentally friendly.
Removing a Yucca Plant from Your Yard
A yucca plant can be difficult to remove completely from your yard. They have complex root systems and if you are unable to get out all of the roots, the plant will grow back. If you dig too much and make a lot of root cuts you are actually causing propagation of the plant and will have a lot of new growth the next growing season. There are steps that you can follow to help ensure that you get all of the roots out.
Step 1 – Prune
Remove the top growth and greenery of the yucca plant. Take the pruners and cut all of the plants that you are removing to the top of the root. This will make things easier on you and keep from getting eaten up by the rough and sharp edges of the plant.
Step 2 – Water
It is easier to remove roots from the ground when the soils and plant are well watered. The roots will slide out of the soil easier and will have less breakage, giving less chance for re-growth.
Step 3 – Dig
Dig a very wide hole around the yucca plant, at least two if not three times wider than the plant itself. Dig carefully and try not to cut through any roots. Use the shovel and the pick to loosen the surrounding soil. Carefully loosen and dig and you will be able to get most of the root out when you initially lift the plant out of the ground.
Step 4 – Search
Once you have lifted the main root system from the ground you will need to search for sections of root that have branched off and started forming new extended root systems. Be meticulous in getting rid of the roots. Pull out roots, even if they seem too small to grow back.
Step 5 – Apply Stump Killer
The yucca root is very strong. If you want to make sure that it does not come back next year, then you will need to kill any roots left in the soil. By using a stump killer instead of a standard plant and weed killer you can help to guarantee no re-growth. There will, of course, be no growth of other plants in this area as well. The time that you need to wait to re-plant is shorter than waiting until next growing season to realize that you still have yucca growing in the exact same spot.
Some people have a hard time getting rid of all of the roots. It is a difficult process and if you are not completely thorough, the plants will come back stronger than ever. You can deprive the plant of sun and water until they succumb on their own or completely cover the root system with plastic and build a raised flowerbed over the top of where the plant was. You can also go as far as removing the whole section of plantings and replace it with fresh topsoil. The whole process can take many hours over several days depending on how integrated your plants are into the landscape.
Once a yucca plant has grown to a large size it is difficult to remove it completely. This is because yuccas grow very rapidly and have a very extensive root system. With persistence though a yucca plant can be eliminated. There are a number of ways to try:
1. By digging the plant up manually. First cut down the trunk to ground level, then using a spade remove the root system. Start at the perimeter and try to leave the root ball as intact as possible. Dig down about 4 – 5 feet. After the root ball has been removed, dig around the hole with a trowel or hoe and remove any pieces of root that have been left behind. Fill in the hole with new soil. It is very likely new shoots will eventually appear. These should be dug up as they appear and eventually you will be yucca-free.
2. By suffocating the plant. Begin by cutting the truck down to ground level. Place a layer of thick cardboard or 5 – 6 layers of newspaper over the entire area around the plant where roots grow. On top of this, place a thick layer of compost. Alternatively, the area can be covered with a sheet of thick plastic which is weighted down to keep it in place. Leave the coverings in place for about a year.
3. By using herbicides. Again, cut the trunk down to as close to ground level as possible. Then apply liquid tree stump remover (available from most nurseries). If the trunk is very large, then holes can be drilled in the trunk and the herbicide squirted into the holes. The herbicide will be carried to the roots and eventually kill them. As mentioned in method 1, shoots may eventually grow up and these should be treated with a herbicide spray. Remember to observe the recommended safely precautions when using herbicides.
Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information
Dave in Cambria, Cambria International
Nature of problem:
Yucca Tree/Plant kill and removal.
Type of Plant (if known):
Very large mature, healthy Yucca plant, about 5 ft in diameter. Height about 15 feet
Symptoms of Plant Illness (please try NOT to diagnose your problems yourself):
Soil Type (e.g. sandy, clay or loam) OR Potting Mix Type:
How often do you water the plant:
How many hours of sunlight does the plant get each day:
How long since you planted it:
Have you fertilised? If so, with what and when:
Is the plant indoors or outdoors:
Is the plant in a pot or in the ground:
What other treatments have you given the plant:
Upload photo if available:
I want to remove this Yucca plant and don’t know how deep the root structure is or the best way to kill the tree and the roots so that I can have a stump grinder remove everything he can. I would like to replant an olive tree in it’s place, but I don’t want regrowth of the Yucca. Cambria is on the California Central Coast.
Any advice would be helpful, thank you
Hi Dave, There are lots of different Yuccas, so I am not sure which one you have. In general, remove the leaf-tip spines first and discard them. Then cut all the leaves off at the base. Now saw off the trunk into manageable bits. You should be able to grub/axe out the stump quite easily as the trunk is just fibrous material. Anything left should not shoot out any new growth, but if you are worried, paint the freshly-cut stump with pure Roundup (ie Glyphosate). Olive trees need Lime or Dolomite to do their best. Don
Removing Yucca Permanently
If you have never had to experience the difficulty of trying to remove a yucca plant, then consider yourself lucky. Removing yucca permanently can easily be considered one of the most difficult tasks in gardening and landscaping. The reason for this is actually quite simple—it is an exceptionally tenacious plant. Though it may require a little bit of effort on your part, it is possible to remove a yucca plant permanently from your yard. All you really need to do is follow these guidelines, and stick with it.
- Be dedicated. Before going into the task of removing yucca permanently you need to realize that it will be a difficult one. This means that you will need to be dedicated to what you are going to do, and not give up right away, or even after a couple of days. To truly remove a yucca permanently will require a lot of time and effort on your part, so be ready to get to work.
- Prepare the area. One of the best ways to make the job of removing yucca permanently is to literally soak the ground around it. Most times you want to avoid overwatering a plant, but in this case go for it. By soaking the ground you will be able to loosen the soil, which will allow the roots to slide out and limit the possibility of breaking.
- Dig, and dig deep. To remove a yucca, you need to dig it out. This will require that you dig down, and around the plant itself. In fact it will be best if you dig an area around the plant that is around three times the size of the plant itself. This should allow you to be able to avoid all of the roots, or at the very least most of them. As you begin digging, avoid cutting into the roots or you will make the task of removing the yucca much harder.
- Remove every single root. Once you have removed the vast majority of the yucca plant, conduct a careful search of the hole in the ground. Remove every single root from the yucca plant that you can find, even if it looks like it is too small to be able to grow back easily. Yucca plants can come back from even the smallest of roots, so be thorough in your inspection.
- Use stump killer. To truly be sure that you have removed your yucca plant permanently, use a little bit of stump killer. Pour some of the stump killer into the hole that you made, and it will kill off the roots that were left behind. Be aware that this will also kill any other plants that you have in that area. That being said, you can start growing plants there again in a month or two.
- If all else fails, hire professionals. Your last option for removing yucca permanently is to hire a professional to do it for you. While it may cost more money, you can be pretty much certain that the plant will be removed, and it won’t be you that has to do the work.