Yucca is a genus of more than 40 perennial plants, shrubs, and trees, but only a few are grown as houseplants under the label yucca plant, most commonly the Yucca gigantea (also known as Y. guatemalensis and Y. elephantipes) and the Yuca aloifolia. Yuccas are native to Mexico and the Caribbean—they are visually interesting and slow-growing plants, with the added benefit of being extremely drought tolerant.
Over time, most species of yucca will grow into room-devouring monsters, but this takes such a long time that you'll get many years of use as a houseplant before it overwhelms your space. Pet owners should take caution in adding a yucca to their home—all parts of the plant are known to be toxic to both dogs and cats (as well as horses).
|Common Name||Yucca plant|
|Botanical Name||Yucca spp.|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous perennials|
|Mature Size||Varies by variety|
|Sun Exposure||Bright, indirect light|
|Soil Type||Sandy, well-draining|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Bloom Time||Mid-summer, early fall (rarely flowers indoors)|
|Flower Color||Creamy white, pink|
|Hardiness Zones||9 to 11, USA|
|Native Area||North America, the Caribbean|
|Toxicity||Toxic to pets|
Yucca Plant Care
Under the right conditions, yucca plants are not difficult 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 a yucca plant include a bright corner with relatively low humidity. Additionally, yucca plants are not prone to many pests, although scale can occasionally be an issue. Over time, yucca 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.
Yucca plants thrive in bright, indirect light indoors. Growing yucca in too little light can result in thinner and slower growth, while intense, direct sunlight can cause white spots on leaves or crispy, brown tips.
Yucca plants naturally grow in sandy, dry deserts. Inside, plant your yucca in a loose, well-drained potting mix. It doesn't need to be specially formulated or rich—in fact, fancy soil isn't a good idea for low-maintenance yuccas. Just go for a bag of inexpensive potting mix and mix in some coarse sand and perlite to promote drainage.
Yuccas are highly sensitive to overwatering. Water your plant once a week during the spring and summer growing season, but make sure it has excellent drainage and dries out between waterings. Come winter, decrease your watering cadence to once every few weeks (or even less). Never let a yucca plant sit in a tray of water.
Temperature and Humidity
Yucca plants are adapted to the desert, where temperatures can soar above 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Therefore, yuccas are fairly adaptable to most indoor temperature conditions and fluctuations. They will grow best with moderate humidity, but as desert plants, they are perfectly content in dry conditions as well, and there is never any need to mist this plant.
Fertilize your indoor yucca plant during the growing season with liquid fertilizer or controlled-release fertilizer according to label instructions. A once-a-month feeding is usually sufficient.
Types of Yucca Plants
There are more than 40 species in the Yucca genus, but only a couple are regularly grown indoors. In desert areas (such as the southeastern United States) yuccas are common outdoor plants, where they reach their full size. Indoors, however, people tend to stick with two species:
- Yucca gigantea (also known as Y. guatemalensis and Y. elephantipes): Sometimes called the spineless yucca or yucca cane, this plant grows from a bulbous base with long, sword-like leaves that lack the typical leaf-tip spine. Mature specimens grow into small, branching trees with bare trunks topped with spiraled rosettes of arching leaves. They are relatively slow growers and will live indoors for years before outgrowing their space. This is by far the most popular species to grow as a houseplant.
- Yucca aloifolia: Sometimes called the Spanish bayonet, this yucca plant features stiff leaves that end in sharp points. The leaves are up to 20-inches long and can be dangerously sharp. Generally, this is not a plant recommended for homes with small children.
Pruning Yucca Plant
Indoors, yucca plants occasionally need to be pruned when they grow too tall for your space. However, doing so is a bit unconventional, especially if you're used to pruning traditional landscape plants. Cut back in early spring. To prune, remove the plant gently from its pot and use a saw or sharp pair of loppers to cut the trunk in half. Repot the rooted end of the trunk, and water it well, continuing to care for the plant as you traditionally would. In just a few weeks, the plant should 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.
Propagating Yucca Plant
There are a few ways to propagate a yucca plant. If your yucca has outgrown its space, cutting the plant's stem in half and repotting the pruned top portion may lead to a second plant. However, propagating from divisions or pups (offshoots) is typically a more successful method of creating new plants. Here's how:
- Propagation is best done in fall. The plant's growth slows in fall, causing less damage to the plant. Remove a mature yucca plant from the pot.
- To propagate by division, separate the plant's rhizomes, and plant in new pots.
- To propagate by pups, wait until pups are green. When pups are green, they have enough chlorophyll manufacturing capacity to survive on their own. Pale, whitish pups are too young to remove, as they rely on the parent plant for survival.
- Using a sharp knife, slice off the pup from the parent plant, making sure to include a portion of the parent's root with the pup attached.
- Replant the pup in a new pot with fresh soil.
- Water well and keep the soil moist (but not soggy). Cuttings should quickly root in a few weeks, and begin producing leaves shortly thereafter.
Potting and Repotting Yucca Plant
Yuccas do well if they are slightly pot-bound, as long as they don't become heavy enough to tip over their containers. You won't need to bother with repotting for at least two or three years.
Repotting larger yucca plants can be difficult, so larger plants can be refreshed with new potting soil by digging out the top 2 inches of the container and adding new soil. During a typical repotting, you can remove the yucca plant from its container and increase it by one container size, always using fresh potting soil.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases
While yucca plants don't have a ton of pest issues, there are a few typical culprits you should keep an eye out for (aphids and mealybugs among them). Many yucca plants also have to contend with agave plant bugs, which pierce the leaves of the plant and suck the juices out. If you notice small brown scars on the leaves of your plant, chances are you have an agave plant bug problem. To treat, spray the plant with several applications of insecticidal soap until all signs of an infestation have ceased.
In addition to mild pest issues, yucca plants can be susceptible to fungal diseases, which make themselves apparent on the plant with spreading black spots. The foliage of the plant can be extra sensitive to overhead watering, which introduces excess moisture into the plant's dense core and can breed fungal disease. To eradicate, treat the plant with a copper fungicide or neem oil until lesions have decreased.
How to Get Yucca to Bloom
Yucca plants are beloved garden additions, in part because they erupt into bountiful, beautiful blooms. If your yucca isn't blooming, there are a few things you can consider tweaking. For starters, make sure you are fertilizing your yucca enough. If your soil is particularly nutrient-deficient, choose a fertilizer that is rich in phosphorous—bone meal could also work.
In addition to ample feedings, be careful not to overwater your yucca plant. Too much water can lead to fungal diseases, which will sicken the plant and discourage blooming. Ultimately, it can take several years for a yucca plant to reach maturity and begin to bloom, so if your plant is still young, have patience and confidence it will bloom in the future.
Where should I place my yucca plant?
Yucca plants thrive in full-light locations, so they're perfect for a west-facing window that may be too bright for most other houseplants.
What plants are similar to yucca plants?
How fast do yucca plants grow?
Yucca plants grow relatively slowly—you can grow one for at least five years indoors without having to replant or prune it.
ASPCA. ASPCA. Yucca Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants.
Managing Pests in Gardens: Trees and Shrubs: Agave, Yucca. University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources