When to transplant yucca?

Yucca Transplanting: How To Transplant A Yucca In The Garden

Sometimes, a plant simply outgrows its location and needs to be moved. In the case of yucca, the timing is as important as the method. Yuccas are full sun plants and need well-draining soil. Other considerations for this large, prickly leaved plant are issues of comfort. It is probably best not to situate the plant where it can make walking or playing uncomfortable due to its sharp leaves. Read on for tips on how to transplant a yucca.

When to Move Yuccas

Moving yucca plants takes preparation and good timing. Some specimens may be very large and old and might need professional help. At the very least, it is a good idea to have an extra hand or two, as these are cumbersome plants with sharp leaves. Choose your site very carefully when transplanting yuccas, as they prefer not to be moved frequently. Expect to baby it for a few months and don’t be surprised if a bit of transplant shock occurs. The plant will usually shake it off in a week or so.

As they say, “timing is everything.” Knowing when to move yuccas will give you the best chance of success. For most plants, it is best to transplant when the plant is dormant. Yucca transplanting can technically be done at any time of the year. However, in regions with mild winters, it is best to move the plant in fall. That way the roots can establish before the hot temperatures arrive. If you are moving yucca plants in spring, remember they will need extra water as things heat up. Choose a location with at least 8 hours of sunlight in a site with well-draining soil.

How to Transplant a Yucca

Width and depth of the hole are the first concern. Yucca can grow deep roots and have a width of a foot beyond the widest leaves. Dig out around the plant and gradually deeper under the crown. Set a tarp off to one side and use the shovel to lever the plant out onto it.

Next, dig a hole as deep as the root system and twice as wide in the transplant location. One tip on moving yucca plants – add a little soil to the very center of the new hole, which will rise the stemless yucca up a bit when planted. This is because, once the soil settles after watering, the yucca may sink into the soil. That can cause rot over time.

Spread out the roots and settle the plant into the new hole. Backfill with loose soil, tamping around gently.

Post Yucca Transplanting Care

After transplanting yucca, some TLC may be necessary. Yucca moved in fall should be watered once per week if no precipitation is expected. After two weeks, decrease watering to once every other week. In spring, temperatures are warmer and evaporation occurs. Keep the plant moderately moist for a month and then decrease watering to every two weeks.

Your yucca may experience some shock that may cause discolored leaves. Remove these once new growth begins to show. Use organic mulch around the base of the plant to discourage weeds and conserve moisture while keeping the ground cool in summer and warm in winter.

In about a month or so, the yucca should be well established in its new home and regular care resumed.

How to Transplant Yucca Plants

It’s easy to understand why the yucca plant is sometimes called Spanish bayonet or Adam’s needle. Just check out the yucca’s sword-shaped spikes and sturdy stems. Although yucca is naturally a desert plant, prominent in the American Southwest, most varieties will grow in all but the coldest climates. Transplant yucca in autumn if you live in a climate with mild winters and hot summers. This will give the roots time to establish before hot, dry summer weather. If you live in a climate with cold winters, transplant yucca in spring, after all danger of frost has passed.

Using a sharp shovel, dig completely around the yucca plant, about a foot away from the outer edge of the plant. Rock the shovel back and forth to loosen the roots, then lift the yucca plant out of the soil. Work slowly and carefully, leaving the root system intact as much as possible.

Trim off any damaged or diseased roots with garden shears, then transplant the yucca plant as quickly as possible. If the yucca is large, put it in a box or a wheelbarrow to move it to the new location.

Dig a hole as deep as the yucca’s root system, and twice as wide. Mix a shovelful of compost and a shovelful of sand with the reserved soil.

Plant the yucca in the hole, with the top of the yucca plant at the same soil depth as it was before. Be sure the yucca is straight, and faces the same direction as it was before. Fill the hole around the plant with the soil mixture, and tamp the soil down with the back of the shovel.

Water the yucca plant immediately after planting. Keep the soil slightly moist for two to three weeks, then resume normal watering. Like all succulents, yucca retains water in its leaves, so very little water is needed.

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Yucca Repotting Tips: How To Repot a Yucca Plant

Yuccas are sturdy succulents with evergreen rosettes of sword-shaped leaves. The plants grow outdoors in most areas of the United States. When planted in containers, yucca provides a striking vertical accent to a deck or patio. Indoors, a yucca houseplant adds beauty and texture to the environment. Although yuccas are hardy plants that thrive with little attention, repotting yucca houseplants is occasionally necessary to keep the plants looking their best.

When Should I Repot Yucca?

Don’t be in a hurry to repot a yucca; the plant performs well when its roots are slightly crowded. In fact, some yucca enthusiasts joke that the time to repot is when the roots become so large that they break the pot.

If that seems a little drastic, you can repot the plant when you see roots growing out of the drainage hole. Yucca is definitely ready for repotting when water runs straight through the pot without wetting the soil, or when roots are matted on top of potting mix.

How to Repot My Yucca Plant

Water the plant the day before repotting. When you’re ready to repot the yucca, fill a slightly larger pot about one-third or half full with a mixture of three parts peat moss and one part sand.

Remove the yucca carefully from the pot and loosen compacted roots with your fingers. Place the plant in the new pot and adjust the soil level so the plant is seated at the same soil depth as it was in the previous container.

Fill in around the roots with potting mix and pat the mix lightly to remove air pockets. Water the plant deeply and let it drain thoroughly.

Yucca Repotting Tips

Place the yucca in a shady location for two weeks so the plant can adjust to its new growing environment, then move the plant to its normal location and resume normal care.

Some yucca varieties have strong spikes with sharp, pointed ends. If you’re repotting this type of plant, use caution and be sure to place it in a safe location where it won’t injure pets or children.



The yucca plant is native to the high deserts of the southwestern United States and Mexico. It is also found less commonly in parts of the eastern United States and West Indies. Extracts from the plant’s root are used in alternative medicine as a soap and as an herbal dietary supplement. The yucca has at least 40 species, including Yucca filamentosa, the most common type, Yucca brevifolia (Joshua tree), Yucca aloifolia (Spanish bayonet), and Yucca gloriosa (Spanish dagger). Two other species, Yucca baccata and Yucca glauca, are called soap plant because their roots are especially good for making soap.

Yucca plants are tree-like succulents of the lily family (Liliaceae) with stemless stiff, pointed leaves that end in a sharp needle. The Joshua tree, the namesake of Joshua Tree National Park near Palm Springs, California, is believed to have been named by Mormon settlers because the plant’s angular branches resembled the outstretched arms of Joshua leading them out of the desert. The yucca flower is a series of white or purple blossoms on a long stalk.

General use

Native American tribes in the southwestern United States and Northern Mexico found numerous uses for the yucca, dating back hundreds of years. Several tribes, including the Western Apaches on the Fort Apache Reservation in Arizona, use the plant today. The most common use seems to be for hygiene. Roots of the yucca baccata are pounded to remove extracts that are made into shampoo and soap. The Apaches also use yucca leaf fibers to make dental floss and rope. Historically, Western Apaches mixed ground juniper berries with yucca fruit to make a gravy. They also made a fermented drink from juniper berries and yucca fruit pounded to a pulp and soaked in water. Other Native American groups used yucca soap to treat dandruff and hair loss .

Native Americans also used yucca plants for a variety of other non-medical purposes, including making sandals, belts, cloth, baskets, cords, and mats. Such uses can still be found today among Hopi, Papago, and Ute Indians. The Zuni used a mixture of soap made from yucca sap and ground aster to wash newborn babies to stimulate hair growth. Navajos would tie a bunch of yucca fibers together and use it as a brush for cleaning metates.

The primary medical use of yucca is to treat arthritis and joint pain and inflammation. Native Americans used sap from the leaves in poultices or baths to treat skin lesions, sprains, inflammation, and bleeding. Teas made from yucca mixed together with other herbs are still brewed by folk healers in northern New Mexico to treat asthma and headaches. Constituents of the yucca are used today to treat people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis . The plant’s medical properties are found in saponins, precursors of cortisone, which prevent the release of toxins from the intestines that restrict normal cartilage formation. Saponins are produced naturally in the body by the adrenal glands. It is believed yucca works best for arthritis when taken over an extended period of time.

Yucca extract is used to treat a variety of other conditions, including migraine headaches, colitis, ulcers, wounds, gout, bursitis, hypertension (high blood pressure), and high LDL cholesterol (also called bad cholesterol). Liver, kidney, and gallbladder disorders are also treated with yucca extract. More recently, researchers have found that resveratrol, a compound found in yucca extract as well as in red wine, inhibits the aggregation or clumping of blood platelets. This finding suggests that yucca extract may be useful in preventing blood clots .

A number of commercial uses for yucca extract have been found, including adding it to root beer, alcoholic beer, and cocktail mixers as a foaming agent. The bittersweet dark brown extract is also used as an additive in ice cream and other foods.

The extract of the Yucca schidigera (Mojave or Mo-have yucca) is also used as an additive in natural pet foods. It is reported to speed up bowel elimination, reduce fecal and urine odor, and improve digestion in dogs and cats. It can also be added to pet food as a spray or drops. Several studies also show that when added to animal feed, Yucca schidigera extract can reduce noxious ammonia

gas in the waste products of poultry, pigs, cows, and horses. A decrease in ammonia levels can increase egg production in chickens and milk production in dairy cattle.


The standard dosage of concentrated yucca saponins is two to four tablets or capsules a day. Yucca concentrate is also available as a tea, with the usual dosage being 3–5 cups a day. Capsules and tablets are commonly sold in doses of 500 milligrams. A bottle of 30, 60, 90, or 100 units costs $6–10 and can usually be found in health food stores.


Since yucca has rarely been studied in a scientific setting, it is not known whether it is safe in children, pregnant or lactating women, or people with a history of severe kidney or liver diseases, heart disease , or cancer . It appears to be nontoxic to other mammals, including such household pets as cats and dogs.

Side effects

Saponins extracted from yucca plants are generally considered safe when used in traditional doses and forms based on several hundred years of use by Native Americans, both as food and medicine. In recent years, the only reported minor problems are rare cases of diarrhea and nausea . Some people who are sensitive to plant allergens may develop a mild skin rash from contact with yucca sap.


Long-term internal use of yucca extract may interfere with the absorption of such fat-soluble vitamins as A, D, E, and K. As of 2002, however, no interactions between yucca and standard prescription medications have been reported.



Foster, Steven and Varro E. Tyler. Tyler’s Honest Herbal: A Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies. Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Press, Inc. 1999.

Heinerman, John. Aloe Vera, Jojoba, and Yucca. Chicago, IL: Keats Publishing, 1990.

Kavasch, E. Barrie, and Karen Baar. American Indian Healing Arts: Herbs, Rituals, and Remedies for Every Season of Life. New York: Bantam Books, 1999.

Miller, Lucinda G., and Wallace J. Murray, eds. Herbal Medicinals: A Clinician’s Guide. Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Press, Inc. 1999.

Null, Gary. Secrets of the Sacred White Buffalo. Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall. 1998.



Southwest School of Botanical Medicine. P. O. Box 4565, Bisbee, AZ 85603. (520) 432-5855. <www.swsbm.com>.


“Yucca.” MotherNature.com. <www.mothernature.com/ency/herb/yucca.asp>.

Ken R. Wells

Rebecca J. Frey, PhD

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