- Yucca Elephantipes (Spineless Yucca / Stick Yucca)
- Yucca Care Guide
- Caring for Yucca Plants Summary
- Yucca Problems
- Community Comments
- Container Growing for a Yucca Plant
- Caring For Yucca: Tips For Landscaping With Yuccas Outdoors
- Yucca Growing Outdoors
- Landscaping with Yuccas
- Caring for Yuccas
- Yucca: “Striking Sword”
- Cheat Sheet
- Keep It Alive
Yucca Elephantipes (Spineless Yucca / Stick Yucca)
Yucca Care Guide
The Yucca plant is one garden and houseplant which will be quite happy with as much sun as you can give it. Indoors a South facing window would be the first choice. Whatever your light situation try to provide as much as possible.
Less bright conditions will slow growth considerably (which may be an advantage) however very shady and dark spots must be avoided to maintain a healthy looking plant.
Water your Yucca liberally during warmer months of the year. Like all plants it’s impossible to give rigid watering intervals, but if conditions are exceptional (bright, warm etc) you could be looking to do this as frequently as once a week or more. The soil should dry out a little between watering’s. In Winter a lot less water is required.
Moderate humidity will be helpful, however misting of the leaves isn’t needed.
A feed once a month or so would be appreciated during the growing seasons.
Your Yucca will tolerate a wide range of temperatures, but average home temperatures are best. Cooler in Winter if possible, but not lower than 7°C (45°F).
It’s not essential, but a good rule of thumb is to repot every two years in Spring. The plants tend to become top heavy as most of the weight is centered at the top of the Yucca, planting in a deep heavy container will help prevent the plant from tipping over.
There is a more complicated method of taking Yucca root cane cuttings, however as we haven’t done this ourselves we can’t with good faith recommend it. The easier method is to remove the offsets that are produced from the trunk and pot them up.
Chances of the offsets growing will increase if you use a rooting hormone. Water well when first potting up, and then only again when the top inch of the soil has dried out, constantly moist conditions will encourage rot. The offsets should not be fed and should be kept out of direct sunlight until established.
Speed of Growth
Yucca’s grow slowly.
Height / Spread
Generally it is a narrow plant only spreading to around 50cm / 20in, however it can reach staggering heights of up to 4.5m / 15ft after many years.
A Yucca may produce flowers sometimes, although this is rare indoors. This plant is grown for its leaves and structural height rather than the flowers. However if conditions are good, after a number of years, similar sweet smelling white bell flowers you see on outdoor Yucca’s may appear.
Is the Yucca plant Poisonous?
The Yucca is moderately poisonous to cats, dogs and people. While it can normally protect itself through the sharp edges on the leaves and hard protective bark on it’s trunk, if persistent pets or children damage the plant enough they’ll come across the poisonous elements inside.
If the plant becomes too tall for the space then there is what we like to call the “leap of faith chop”. This involves literally cutting / sawing a large top section of the plant off, usually in early Spring. This results in nothing more than a fancy looking “log” or “stump” sticking out of the pot. However in a short time the plant should produce new offsets from the cut edge.
The top bit you have removed with all the leaves can be potted up in a different pot of compost as a separate plant. Make sure you firm it in well to prevent it falling or rocking itself out of the pot.
The stump needs to re sprout new leaves, the part removed needs to grow new roots, however in both instances re growth is probable but never certain.
This kind of feels like a tongue-in-cheek moment where we add in a disclaimer about not being able to take responsibility if your favorite houseplant dies. In all seriousness, once you hack your beloved Yucca to bits you can’t go back. There is a chance you will lose both “parts” of your plant so you should only go ahead if you are prepared for that. Hence the leap of faith.
Caring for Yucca Plants Summary
Bright Light This houseplant always performs best if given direct sunlight for at least several hours a day.
Average Watering These are hardy plants and it’s difficult to over or underwater. Aim to keep the soil moist during Summer for best results.
Average Temperature If you find the temperature comfortable, your plant will too.
Feeding Provide feed once a month when temperatures are warm and light levels good.
- Avoid growing your plant in dark places
Leaf spots / Leaf disfiguration
This can be caused by Leaf Spot, remove badly affected leaves and spray with a fungicide. It can also be caused by poor air quality, particularly if the humidity is very high, or if exposed to temperatures below 7°C / 45°F these problems almost only ever occur in the Winter months.
White Film on the leaves
This problem keeps coming up in the comments below as well in direct emails. The photo below shows a good example.
In almost all cases it’s going to be caused by one of the following.
- Fungal Infections like Powdery mildew can affect indoor plants. But this is the least likely explanation because the Fungal spores are unlikely to exist in homes, so unless you keep your plants outside during the Summer move on.
- Pests like Scale and Aphids will secrete sticky waste products that will eventually attract bacteria and this can present as a white film. However the pests have to be present. If all you have is the white film – pests are probably not the cause.
- Finally the white marks could be natural growth. If you look carefully over the leaves on indoor and outdoor plants there is often a fine, at times, almost invisible, white powder on many leaves, especially newer ones. You can easily rub the film off with a finger and if you rub your finger and thumb together it will feel chalky rather than sticky. Additionally the markings will always exist as long streaks and not isolated blotches or spots.
So what’s wrong with the plant in the photo above? The owner shared several photos, some clearly showed the natural white marks, so parts of the plant were fine and didn’t need any treatment.
However if you look closely you can see the white film is in spots and individual blotches. There are also black and brown dots in the creases of the leaves where they meet the stem, which isn’t normal. So in this instance the Yucca has a pest infestation that needs to be treated accordingly.
Yucca leaves bending over / Wilting
This is one of the hardest problems to identity and resolve because it could caused by any number of things. Firstly some Yuccas will have this trait naturally (see gallery photos), if it comes on suddenly it could be caused by; poor watering techniques (over or under watering). Shock, after moving or repotting the plant. Too much fertiliser. Adjust accordingly.
Even if you restore conditions to what they were previously it may not be enough. Yucca’s are often very difficult to bring back to health once they start to go downhill, so if it does succumb it might make you feel better to know you are in good company.
Completely yellow or brown leaves
If you are pretty good with houseplants this will be rare, however these symptoms are usually caused by underwatering.
Tatty looking plant
Yucca’s have fairly long and thick leaves, so if any of the leaves are looking dead, brown or messy it can create a real eyesore as well as making it look like a problem exists when there isn’t one.
The leaves are thick and tough and even when they die they don’t fall off the plant nicely, instead they sort of hang there like the plant in the photo here. To restore things to it’s formal attractive appearance you will need to get in there and gently but firmly pull the dead leaves downwards towards the floor. They should “rip” off the trunk / stem with no visible damage. It’s very simple but really effective and will transform the look of your plant.
If you’re having problems removing any of the leaves then simply cut them off as close to the trunk and stem as possible.
Brown Tips with yellow rings or halos
Usually a sign of constant overwatering. Ensure the soil dries out some before you water, and drain out any excess liquid left in the pot after half an hour.
Very low humidity is the typical cause, however it can also be a symptom of the previous problem.
About the Author
Over the last 20 years Tom has successfully owned hundreds of houseplants and is always happy to share knowledge and lend his horticulture skills to those in need. He is the main content writer for the Ourhouseplants Team.
Also on Ourhouseplants.com
Credit for the Shower picture in gallery – Prada Panda
Credit for the recently potted up Yucca offset in the article – In My Plants
Credit for the tall Yucca touching the ceiling in the article / gallery – Robin Berthier
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Container Growing for a Yucca Plant
Yucca comes in several varieties. Some grow into trees while others remain small and appropriate for houseplants. When growing a yucca in a container you need to make sure that it is given the proper care so that it will thrive. Fortunately, this is a relatively hardy plant that can survive even the most inexperienced gardeners.
Heavy Pots are Required
When you select the containers for your yucca plants it is important to look for heavy pots. Yucca plants are heavy and require a lot of water. This makes plastic pots a bad idea. It is recommended that you use a heavy metal pot, such as a brass planter or a copper planter. This type of planter will help protect your floors and furniture from water damage and it will also keep your yucca plant’s root system contained and supported.
The yucca requires soil that is well drained. This means that a standard potting mix most likely will not be appropriate. The best option is to create your own potting mix that contains one part perlite and one part potting mix. You can also mix in compost to this mixture to create a one part perlite, one part compost and one part potting soil mixture.
Since your yucca plant will be growing in a container it is going to rely on you for its nutrition. Yucca plants need to be fertilized about once a month. Try to add the fertilizer on the same day each month. This will help you to avoid skipping a feeding.
Sun Requirements for the Yucca
A yucca plant needs a lot of sun. To ensure your indoor yucca plants get enough sun you need to position them in a window that gets southern, western or eastern sun exposure. You need to avoid placing your yucca in a north-facing window as this position has the least amount of light exposure.
Water Requirements for the Yucca
The yucca plant drinks a lot of water. This means that you need to water it regularly. If you are afraid of over or under-watering your yucca, use a moisture tester to determine when to water your plant. If you use a moisture tester you will want to add water to the yucca when the reading is at about 25 percent. Another tool that you can use to monitor the moisture level is a hygrometer.
Repotting Your Yucca
Eventually your yucca plant is going to outgrow its pot. When this occurs you will need to repot it. The best time of year to repot your yucca is in the spring when there is plenty of light and moisture available to help the yucca establish itself in its new container. After you repot your yucca, tent the container with glass or plastic to give it a little extra protection during the root establishment process.
Caring For Yucca: Tips For Landscaping With Yuccas Outdoors
Yucca growing isn’t just for indoors. The yuccas plant’s sword-like leaves add a distinctive look to any area, including the landscape. It is a perennial, evergreen shrub that comes in several species. Let’s take a look at landscaping with yuccas and caring for yucca plants in your yard.
Yucca Growing Outdoors
As it is a native of the southwestern United States, it thrives in soil that drains well and can be in full sun. It is also able to withstand temperatures as cold as 10 F. (-12 C.), so you can grow a yucca plant in many different climates.
The creamy-white flowers bloom best in full sun, during mid to late summer, with some yucca growing as tall as 10 feet and leaves that reach about 2 ½ feet in length.
Landscaping with Yuccas
When landscaping with yuccas, it is best to keep them away from sidewalks and other high traffic areas as the leaves are extremely sharp and can cut someone if they should brush up against the plant.
The yucca plant is very forgiving when it comes to soil types, as long as it drains well. This is especially important during the first year when you grow a yucca plant, giving it time to adjust to the soil and local rainfall.
You have to be sure to leave plenty of room to grow a yucca, as a mature plant can reach up to 3 feet across. They also have a fairly extensive root system and another plant can appear a short distance away. Even if the plant is removed, it can be difficult to get rid of the entire root system and the yucca will regrow from any root left in the ground.
Caring for Yuccas
Caring for yucca plants is fairly simple. When older leaves die on a mature yucca plant, simply cut them away, usually in the spring. Caring for yuccas like this helps the rest of the plant look nicer, and allows the newer leaves to grow.
When caring for yucca plants, it is a good idea to wear gloves to protect your hands from the sharp leaves. After the yucca has stopped flowering and the fruit has appeared, prune back the flower stalk. The stalk should be cut clear to the ground.
When you decide to grow a yucca plant in your yard, you adding a striking feature to your landscape. The good news is that caring for yuccas is easy. With a little care and maintenance, your yucca plant should thrive for years to come.
Yucca are desert plants native to the Southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America. They’ve also bee naturalized throughout the Southern United States. As far as houseplants go, they are probably eclipsed by the similar-looking Dracaena genus (which is often mistaken for Yucca). They are, however, interesting and slow-growing houseplants that have the added benefit of being extremely drought tolerant.
If you kill a Yucca, it’s probably due to overwatering. Over time, most species will grow into room-devouring monsters, but this takes long enough that they provide years of durable service as a houseplant. One word of caution, however: one of the popular species, Yucca aloifolia has very sharp spines on its leaf-tips that could potentially cause injury.
Spineless species are much more suited for indoor cultivation.
Light: Bright, unfiltered sunlight. Yucca thrive in full sunlight, so they’re perfect for that west-facing window where everything else burns up.
Water: They are highly sensitive to water-logging. Water regularly in the spring and summer growing season, but make sure the plant has excellent drainage and dries between waterings. Water sporadically in the winter. Never let a plant sit in a tray of water.
Temperature: Widely variable. Yucca are adapted to the desert, where temperatures can soar into the 90°F (32°C) or higher and down into the 30°F (-1°C) at night.
Soil: A loose, well-drained potting mix.
Fertilizer: Fertilize during the growing season with liquid fertilizer or controlled-release fertilizer according to label instructions.
Photo via summerhillgardencentre.co.uk
The easiest way to propagate Yucca is with offsets of older plants. Divide the plant during repotting or carefully slice away the offset and pot up into a separate container. They can also be propagated by stem cuttings, using pieces of stem of at least 4 inches (20 cm) and rooting hormone. Yucca grown indoors will likely not flower or bear seeds.
Yucca are relatively slow-growing plants that should only need to be repotted every other year. They do well slightly pot-bound, as long as they don’t become heavy enough to tip over their containers. Repotting larger plants can be difficult, so larger plants can be refreshed with new potting soil by digging out the top 2 inches (5 cm) of the container and adding new soil. During typical repotting, remove the Yucca plant from its container and go up one container size. Always use fresh potting soil.
Under the right conditions, Yucca are not difficult plants to grow. They tend to thrive on a little neglect, rather than too much attention. They are especially easy to overwater, and soggy stems are a sign of too much water. The best conditions for Yucca include a sunny corner with relatively low humidity. They are not prone to many pests, although scale can be an issue. Over time, plants will typically lose their lower leaves (in nature, they droop, forming a skirt around the trunk), giving the plant a pleasant “tree-like” appearance.
- Back to genus Yucca
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Yucca: “Striking Sword”
With more than 50 different species of Yucca, these shrubs hold their own as distinctive and striking evergreen landscape elements. Native to the southwestern United States, yuccas are arid-loving, evergreen succulents. Their sword-like leaves and stature add a bold look to most landscapes and especially complement modern landscapes and xeriscapes.
Many other plants resemble and can be mistaken for yuccas, so let’s take a closer look.
Above: A yucca blooms at the side of a trail in southern California. Photograph by Oncetherewasagirl via Flickr.
In my landscape designs I routinely use a few specific varieties because they require little maintenance, are drought tolerant, and are of no interest to marauding deer:
- Yucca ‘Bright Star’, with its bright, yellow-margined leaves.
- Fast-growing Yucca filamentosa, for its blue-cast green leaves and unique spires of fragrant white bells that arrive in the summer.
- Hesperaloe parviflora ‘Red Yucca’ for its tall spikes of hummingbird-attracting flowers and tall spiking leaves.
Above: Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’ cavorts with nicotiana and euphorbia. Photograph by KM via Flickr.
History: Yuccas are used in a surprising number of different ways, such as food, as material to weave baskets, as an ingredient in soaps and shampoos, and for medicinal purposes.
- Plant yuccas away from high-traffic areas such as sidewalks and narrow paths to avoid being sliced by the sharp leaves and having blood drawn by the shrub’s needle tips.
- Leave space for a yucca to grow to its mature size because this is not a plant you can trim back to control the size.
- Try planting yuccas in containers as bold centerpieces, alone or mixed with other drought-tolerant plants.
Keep It Alive
- As long as the soil drains well, yuccas are forgiving and also can tolerate windy spots.
- Browning, older leaves can be (carefully) trimmed to the base.
- Native to the southwestern US, yucca naturally thrives in low-rainfall spots, can take full sun, and withstand temperatures that drop to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Above: Yucca ‘Bright Star’. Photograph by Megan Hansen via Flickr.
Tip: Wear heavy gloves while trimming and planting Yuccas.
Above: While not grown for its flowers, yucca does produce blooms and will give you blossoms if grown in full sun. Photograph by Russellstreet via Flickr.
When the flowers finish blooming, trim back the entire flower stalk to the base of the yucca plant.
Read more growing and design tips at Yuccas: A Field Care to Planting, Care & Design. Are you trying to save water in the garden? See more of our favorite garden design ideas for xeriscapes:
- Home Turf: Goodbye to Grass, with Blogger Morgan Satterfield.
- Garden Design 101: Guide to Succulents & Cacti.
- Ask the Expert: 11 Tips for Designing a Water-Conscious Garden.
- Hardscape 101: Design Guide for Gravel.