Yucca plant care is a breeze once you know a little about them.
Many first-time yucca owners confuse yuccas with their distant cousins – the palms. Although a yucca is not actually a palm tree, it does have a lot in common with indoor palm plants.
Like palms, yuccas come in lots of different varieties (there are 40 species of yucca), but all yuccas have interesting long sword-shaped leaves and a trunk.
Yuccas are native to the American Southwest, Mexico and the Caribbean – so they enjoy dry, sandy environments and can deal with extreme temperature fluctuations (they are even able to survive cold temperatures of 10°f (-12°c).
Yuccas love being a little neglected when it comes to watering, repotting and fertilizing. They are very drought-tolerant and will hold a grudge against over-watering rather than under-watering. They love being pot-bound, so only need repotting every 2-3 years at the most.
When grown outdoors, yuccas are very fast growers, averaging around 60cm of new growth per year. Indoor yuccas will grow more slowly – making them perfect for anyone who doesn’t like regular repotting and pruning.
Depending on the variety, yuccas can reach between 30cm and 9m tall, making them a stunning feature for large and small empty spaces alike.
Indoor yuccas usually live for around 5-7 years, but outdoor yuccas (which enjoy more perfect conditions than indoor ones) can live into their twenties and even to the ripe old age of 50.
The only slight drawback about yuccas is their toxicity – keep your yucca out of reach of small children and your pets.
This handy yucca plant care guide will walk you through all of the essential yucca information you need to help your yucca thrive. Whether it’s fending off the consequences of over-watering or dealing with pests, I have experienced it all in my own yucca care journey.
Table of Contents
- Where Should I Keep My Yucca?
- What Light Conditions Are Ideal?
- What Is the Right Time to Water?
- What Temperature and Humidity Is Best?
- Is Fertilizing Necessary?
- When Should I Repot?
- Is Pruning Recommended?
- How Can I Propagate?
- Do They Bloom?
- Pests and Diseases
- Types of Yucca Plants
Where Should I Keep My Yucca?
Yucca plants thrive in light conditions. They are perfect for that sunny west-facing window spot that makes your other houseplants shrivel up in distress.
Choose a bright corner with low humidity for your yucca, such as a sunny bedroom windowsill or a conservatory.
Indoor yuccas can be taken outdoors in the summer to accelerate their growth. Acclimatize your indoor yucca to outdoor summers by introducing it to the outside world slowly for just a few hours every day. This will help your yucca avoid temperature shock and leaf burn.
Yucca varieties that don’t tolerate cold weather well (such as the spineless yucca) should be brought inside for the winter. Though most types of yucca will be fine, even if left out during the first snowfall of the year.
During the winter keep your tender yucca inside in a cooler spot, such as a conservatory or porch. Aim for a minimum night temperature of 45°f (or 7°c) and a daytime temperature that is a few degrees higher.
What Light Conditions Are Ideal?
As a desert plant, yuccas love bright light when kept indoors. But, given their low-maintenance nature, yuccas will be happy in any type of lighting environment, excluding excessive direct sunlight and pitch darkness.
Anything from full sun to partial sun exposure will keep your indoor yucca happy in the spring and summer growing period.
Yuccas are quite flexible plants and can survive in low light, but they will not thrive in these conditions. Keeping your yucca in a place that has too little light will reduce its growth. It’s better to keep your yucca in a bright room or near the window in a room with medium light exposure.
Although yuccas love the sun, some varieties can react negatively to excessive intense light. Just watch for your yucca’s leaf tips turning crispy and brown or the appearance of white spots on the leaves. If you see these signs, move your yucca a little further away from the window.
In the winter, indoor yuccas will be happy with less bright light and the slightly cooler temperatures of homes in the colder months.
What Is the Right Time to Water?
The essential point about watering a yucca plant is to wait until the top layer of soil has completely dried out. Use your finger to test the moisture levels in the top 3-5cm of soil before watering it again.
Water your yucca around once per week (if the top soil is dry) during the spring and summer growing seasons. In winter reduce your watering to once per month at the most.
Yuccas will cope very well with droughts – which makes them a perfect plant companion for forgetful waterers!
What yuccas will not forgive is over-watering.
To avoid this, ensure that your yucca’s pot has good drainage – a yucca will not appreciate being left sitting in a tray of water. A porous terracotta pot (or similar) can help a yucca avoid a watery death, but the pot should have at least one drainage hole to keep your yucca healthy.
The signs of dangerous over-watering to watch out for include: yellowing leaves, drooping, the trunk going soft and bendy and trunk rot.
If you notice the leaves turning yellow or excessive drooping, cut the whole leaf off right to the stem and let the plant dry out completely.
If your yucca starts to suffer from over-watering to the point when the trunk goes soft, the damage is often irreversible at this point and will kill the plant.
What Temperature and Humidity Is Best?
Yucca plants are very easy-going when it comes to temperature and humidity needs.
Yuccas can handle indoor temperatures of between 50°f ( 10°c) and 90°f ( 32°c) quite easily, which more than covers the range of temperatures found in the average home.
Outdoor yuccas can be even less fussy – they will thrive in warm summer weather and can often withstand cold temperatures of 10°f ( -12°c).
Yuccas continue to grow in such a huge range of acceptable temperatures because they originate from desert environments where searingly hot days are followed by freezing nights.
The arid nature of a yucca’s natural habitat means that they do well in relatively low humidity – like the humidity levels found in a home. There is no need to mist a yucca and it can sit quite happily in the driest room of your home. Just keep your yucca away from radiators, fireplaces or air drafts that will alter the temperature too suddenly.
Use Soil That Drains
Given that their traditional home is the nutrition-poor desert, yuccas don’t need rich soil. Opt for a sandy, well-draining soil for your yucca. A loose potting mix with sand and perlite added to improve the drainage will be fine.
As well as well-draining soil, your yucca will need a pot that has a drainage hole. You could also add sand or pebbles to the bottom of especially large yucca pots to further encourage drainage. If you do get a pot with a drainage tray, remember to remove the excess water regularly.
Is Fertilizing Necessary?
As yuccas are low-maintenance, they don’t necessarily need fertilizing. But you might decide to fertilize your yucca to encourage faster growth.
If so, fertilize your yucca once per month during the spring and summer growing season.
A liquid fertilizer which is rich in phosphorus will be beneficial if the soil is nutrient-deficient.
When Should I Repot?
Yuccas enjoy being a bit crowded in their pot, so you don’t need to repot them regularly. Aim to repot your yucca every two or three years.
Watch for your yucca becoming top-heavy and repot it before it causes your pot to tip over! Roots poking out of the pot drainage hole or sticking out of the top of the soil are also signs that repotting is needed.
When repotting, remove your yucca from the old pot and select a container one size larger – with a drainage hole! Use fresh potting soil. For best results, water your yucca the day before and after repotting.
As repotting very large yuccas can be tricky, try removing the top 5cm of soil instead and replacing it with fresh soil.
Take extra care while repotting if your yucca is a sharp-leaved variety. Wear gardening gloves and a long-sleeve top to protect your arms and hands.
Is Pruning Recommended?
Prune off any dying leaves to maintain its appearance with sharp shears and protective gloves – yucca leaves can be very sharp!
As yuccas are speedy growers, you might also want to prune your yucca to keep it the right size for your indoor space.
The best time for pruning a yucca is at the start of the growing period in early spring.
Pruning a yucca is a little different to pruning other houseplants, but this simple method can help you achieve yucca pruning success:
- Gently remove your yucca from its pot.
- Use sharp loppers or a saw to cut the trunk in half (so that the leafy top half and rooted half are now separate). Make sure that there is at least 10cm left on the bottom half to have a greater chance of propagation success.
- Repot the rooted half (see these tips for repotting yuccas).
- Continue caring for your yucca as normal. After a few weeks new leaves will grow and eventually your yucca will look the same as before – just shorter!
Top tip: planting the separated top half of your yucca can lead to the growth of a second yucca! Keep reading for tips on yucca propagation.
How Can I Propagate?
There are a few different methods for propagating yucca plants, including pruning, dividing and using the offshoots.
Cutting the trunk in half and repotting the pruned top half can lead to a second plant (see above for this pruning method).
But the best and simplest way to propagate yuccas is to use the offshoots (or pups). This method is best used in the fall when growth has slowed and so the chances of damaging your plant are reduced.
Propagation via offshoots:
- Remove your mature yucca from the pot. (Different yucca varieties reach maturity at different times, but generally around 2-3 years.)
- When the offshoots are green (meaning they have the ability to produce enough chlorophyll to survive on their own), slice them off the parent plant with a sharp clean knife. Make sure that the offshoot has a portion of roots attached or has started growing from its own stem.
- Replant the offshoot in a new pot with fresh soil (find yucca soil recommendations here).
- Water the offshoot well, aiming to keep the soil damp but not soggy.
- Within a few weeks the offshoot should have developed a good enough root system and will then start to grow.
It is also possible to propagate your yucca using division, but generally the offshoots method is more likely to be successful. If you do fancy dividing your yucca, here is an easy guide.
Propagation by division:
- Remove your mature yucca from the pot.
- Separate the plant’s rhizomes (the fleshy part of a yucca’s roots) using a sharp clean tool like a knife. Make sure each divided part has its own root system.
- Plant the divided portions in new pots.
- Water the offshoot well to keep the soil damp (not soggy).
- Within a few weeks the divided yucca should have rooted in and will start growing.
Do They Bloom?
Yuccas can develop a beautiful white or pink bloom in the summer and fall.
Yuccas grown outdoors are more likely to bloom than indoor yuccas. But there are some things that you can do to improve the chances of a nice bloom:
- Fertilize your yucca every month in the summer – especially if the soil is nutrient-deficient.
- Be careful not to over-water your yucca – just once per week in the summer is plenty.
- Consider moving your plant outdoors in the early spring. (See the tips on acclimatizing your yucca here.)
Patience is also key – yuccas only bloom when they have reached maturity (usually at around 2-3 years old).
If you are lucky enough to get a yucca bloom, cut the flower stalk down to the base after the flower dies off to encourage reblooms and keep your yucca looking pretty.
Pests and Diseases
Yucca plants are not often bothered by the pests and diseases that many other houseplants can suffer from. But here are a few pests and plant diseases that you might come across while caring for your yucca and some tips on how best to deal with them:
Yucca plants are quite susceptible to fungal diseases which can cause black spots to appear on the leaves.
Fungal diseases are more likely to occur if your yucca is over-watered as the excess moisture encourages diseases to form in the plant’s dense core.
If your yucca does begin to suffer from a fungal disease, use a copper fungicide or neem oil until the lesions have decreased.
As over-watering can breed fungal disease, take care not to water your yucca too much (see tips on watering here). Prevention is usually better than the cure, so be careful to only water your yucca when the top soil is dry.
Scale, spider mites, aphids and mealybugs can sometimes affect yuccas.
Agave plant bugs will also go for yuccas and pierce the leaves to suck the juices out. Look out for small brown scars on your yucca’s leaves to identify an agave plant bug problem.
To deal with various bug infestations, use an insecticidal soap as soon as you notice the issue. Apply the insecticidal soap until the signs of an infestation disappear.
Also try wiping your plant down with a cloth soaked in one part alcohol and three parts water to remove any webs or eggs.
Types of Yucca Plants
The huge variety of yucca plants makes narrowing down the options tricky. Although all yucca share the same laid-back attitude to life and a forgiving nature when it comes to droughts, not all yuccas were created equal.
Some yucca plants grow best indoors and others are more suited to the outside world. Here are the most popular indoor and outdoor varieties of yucca to help you make the right purchase decision or identify which yucca plant you already own.
Common indoor varieties:
Yucca gigantea, “spineless yucca” or “yucca cane”: This is the most popular houseplant variety due to its relatively slow growth, meaning it won’t outgrow your indoor space quickly. It has a bulbous base with sword-like leaves. When mature, they look like small trees with bare trunks and a rosette of arching leaves. Spineless yuccas can reach a massive 9m tall – but don’t let this put you off keeping one indoors as pot-bound spineless yuccas that are trimmed semi-regularly tend to only reach around 1.5m tall.
Yucca aloifolia or “Spanish bayonet”: This yucca’s leaves have sharp tips and reach up to 50cm long. The Spanish bayonet plant can grow up to 3m tall indoors and it is a slow grower for a yucca. This variety is not recommended for homes with small children as the leaf edges are dangerously sharp. When repotting or caring for your Spanish bayonet, remember to wear thick protective gloves and long-sleeves!
Common outdoor varieties:
Yucca Brevifolia or “Joshua tree”: This slow-growing evergreen is the largest yucca tree variety, which can reach over 9m tall. It has green-white flowers and grows especially in the Californian desert, where it is an important supporter of the wildlife there.
Yucca baccata or “Banana yucca”: A cactus-like succulent with fleshy green or purple seed pods that look a little like bananas (though they taste more like sweet potatoes). This variety grows to around 1.6m with 30-100cm long blue-green, sword-like leaves tipped with a sharp point.
FAQs About Your Yucca Plant
Are yucca plants toxic?
Raw yucca plants can be toxic to humans and to many animals, including cats, dogs and horses. Take extra care to keep your yucca out of reach of your pets. But yuccas do defend themselves well – their thick foliage helps to keep the poisonous center away from curious pets.
Yucca sap (and the particles which can easily become air-borne) is allergenic so this plant is not best suited to anyone with sensitive allergies.
However, non-raw yucca has been used as medicine for many years, including to treat rashes and scratches and as a cleanser to promote healthy skin. Yucca plants are also great for air-purification.
Can I move my indoor yucca outdoors?
Many varieties of yucca can be grown indoors and outdoors.
Often moving your yucca outdoors in early spring for the growing period can help it to grow quicker. Pick a sunny spot outdoors that also gets a few hours of shade everyday.
See the tips on how to acclimatize your yucca here to avoid temperature shocks and leaf burn.
Many yucca types can also be left outside into the winter months as they can withstand cold temperatures of 10°f (or -12°c). Check which type of yucca you have as some (such as the spineless yucca) won’t enjoy cold weather shocks and should be brought inside in winter.
Where is the best place to keep an indoor yucca plant?
Indoor yuccas like lots of light so a west-facing window or a conservatory can make great yucca spots.
Yuccas are not fussy over humidity levels or temperatures so you don’t have to make any changes to the conditions inside your home.
Do yucca plants need full sun?
Yuccas prefer lots of sun, but can still survive in partial sunlight conditions.
How often do yucca plants need watering?
The key to watering a yucca is to wait for the top few centimeters of soil to completely dry out. A yucca will not forgive you for regular over-watering.
Should I cut the dead leaves off my yucca?
It’s natural for a yucca to lose its lower leaves over time. Yuccas deliberately hold their dying lower leaves as a form of protection for the younger lower part of the trunk.
If you keep your yucca indoors, it’s ok to remove the lower leaves once they have gone yellow or brown.
If you keep your yucca outdoors, just wait for the lower leaves to drop off naturally.
Can a yucca plant flower?
An indoor yucca plant is unlikely to flower, but here are some tips to increase the chances of a lovely bloom.
An outdoor yucca may produce a pretty pink or white bloom once it has reached maturity (usually at around 2-3 years).
How long do yucca plants live?
The lifespan of a yucca plant depends on the variety and the conditions. An indoor yucca plant will usually live for 5-7 years, but outdoor yuccas can live for up to 50 years!
How tall do yuccas grow?
Depending on the variety and conditions, yuccas can grow to anything between 30cm and 9m tall.
Indoor yucca tend to grow smaller and slower than outdoor yuccas. Though some varieties of indoor yuccas, such as a spineless yucca (aka the yucca cane plant), can grow to a huge 9m tall in the right conditions! Another popular indoor yucca – the Spanish bayonet – can grow up to 3m tall.
Do You Think a Yucca Plant Is for You?
Yuccas are very easy to look after and will forgive even the most forgetful houseplant waterers. With a minimal watering, fertilizing and repotting schedule, this is the perfect plant for busy plant-lovers.
Not only are yuccas low-maintenance, they are also visually stunning. A yucca’s towering height and distinct leaves can help fill an empty corner of your home. Their liking for bright light means that they can happily take a spot that is too bright for other houseplants.
Key Things to Remember:
- Water your yucca only when the top few centimeters of soil are dry.
- Repot your yucca only every 2-3 years.
- Fertilize your yucca once per month at the most in the spring and summer to promote growth.
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