How to Grow and Care for Banana Yucca (Datil Yucca)

Yucca baccata plant with tall spiky leaves in a fan-like shape

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Known as banana yucca, or datil yucca, Yucca baccata, is a cactus-like succulent known for its fleshy, sweet seedpods that range from green to dark purple. Given the name, it's not surprising that these are the size and shape of a banana (although they taste more like sweet potatoes).

This type of yucca is native to the Southwest United States (Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and the Death Valley area of California) as well as northern Mexico. It shares the same mounded clumps of stiff, sword-shaped leaves with all the other varieties of yucca. Yucca baccata often grows with sagebrush, pinyon juniper, or ponderosa pine in its natural environment.

The banana yucca will grow tall spikes of creamy, often purple-tinged bell-shaped flowers that are densely arranged in the spring. They may not bloom every year, as these plants need to recuperate and rebuild a healthy store of carbohydrates before blooming again. The plants generally remain stemless but can form in large clusters. Its blue-green leaves, which are concave on top and convex underneath, create a large rosette.

Unlike many other varieties of both yucca and agave, the Yucca baccata's flowers grow on a short stalk that will either remain level with the top of the plant or rise slightly above.

Along with its seedpods being consumed as food, yucca leaves also have a variety of uses, including being woven into baskets or used to make brushes. However, be aware that yucca is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.

Common Name Banana Yucca, datil yucca, Spanish bayonet
Botanical Name Yucca baccata
Family Asparagaceae
Plant Type Cactus/Succulent
Mature Size Foliage 2-3 ft. tall, bloom spike 2 ft. tall
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Dry, sandy, well-drained
Soil pH Neutral, alkaline
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Cream/White
Hardiness Zones 5-11 (USDA)
Native Area Southwestern US, Mexico
Toxicity: Toxic to dogs, cats, horses

Banana Yucca Care

The yucca baccata requires very little water and practically no maintenance. It can take several years for the plant to bloom, however, and it will often die soon after its flowers fade.

These plants are probably not the best choice if you have kids or pets. The banana yucca's leaf blades are incredibly sharp and as stated previously, this plant is toxic to pets.

Yucca baccata plant with thin spiky leaves and cream-colored bell-shaped leaves on spike

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Yucca baccata leaves with curly cream colored offshoots closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Yucca baccata plant with tall sword-like leaves spreading in fan-shape in sunlight

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

The banana yucca grows best in either full sun or part shade.

Water

Once they are established, the yucca baccata plant will require only occasional watering. Although these plants are drought-tolerant, they will grow best with regular irrigation. However, try to stick to one watering per week during warm weather, as you won't want to overwater. If the leaf tips begin turning brown, cut back on your watering.

Soil

Yucca varieties of all types prefer dry, sandy soil, however, they can adapt to any well-drained soil. The banana yucca will not be able to tolerate soggy conditions.

Temperature and Humidity

Although banana yucca is a desert plant that grows in the Southwestern US and Mexico, it is a surprisingly hardy succulent and can tolerate the cold.

Fertilizer

Banana yucca plants can be fertilized each spring. Just be sure to choose a balanced, slow-release fertilizer.

Types of Yucca

There are many types of yucca plants, including:

  • Soapweed Yucca: Southwestern variety with spikes and large white flowers
  • Beargrass Yucca: A yucca variety with softer leaves. The beautiful, vibrant flowers produce a strong fragrance
  • Faxon Yucca: also known as Spanish dagger. A yucca variety with spiked leaves and ivory bell-shaped flowers.

Pruning

You can remove the banana yucca's old flower stalks before its new growth emerges in the early spring. Just be sure to protect yourself from its spiky stalks and razor-sharp leaf blades with gloves and a long-sleeved shirt.

Propagating Yucca Baccata

Yucca baccata can be divided as an offset from an established plant, or it can also be propagated by cuttings, as yucca leaves root fairly easily. Here's how:

By Offset:

  1. At the base of the mature plant, locate an offset.
  2. With pruning shears, cut the offset, just under the soil, from the parent.
  3. Plant the offset in a container prepared with potting soil and then water until just moist.
  4. Let it root, for about three to four weeks, in the pot before transplanting in the desired location.

By Cuttings:

  1. Select and cut a healthy yucca leaf from the mature plant.
  2. Plant the leaf in a container prepared with potting soil and water until the soil is moist.
  3. Let it root in the pot for about three to four weeks, and then transplant in your yard.

Growing Banana Yucca From Seeds

While you can grow yucca from seeds, it is so easy to divide or use a cutting from a mature plant. Growing from seeds, with the germination process typically taking about three to four weeks, is a bit of a gamble with this plant.

Potting and Repotting

Banana yucca can be planted indoors or outdoors in a large container with potting soil. These plants are slow growing, so can be enjoyed for a while in a container before becoming too large. Pet owners and people with children should be careful with this plant due to its toxicity for pets and its leaves very sharp points, which could be harmful to a child (and yourself). 

Common Pests

Banana yucca tends to get spider mites. This very small pest can be noticed by the silky fine webs they spin on the plant and the damage they do by sucking the juice out of the leaves. The spider mite can be eradicated by using neem oil or chemical pesticides.

FAQ
  • How long does a banana yucca live?

    The yucca baccata plant, with ideal growing conditions, can live around 20 years.

  • How fast does the banana yucca plant grow?

    The banana yucca is a slow-growing plant that will reach its maturity in about three years. It can stay potted in a container for about five years before having to be transplanted.

  • What are the roots of banana yucca used for?

    The roots from yucca baccata can be used for making a natural soap or shampoo.

Article Sources
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  1. Yucca. ASPCA.

  2. Yucca baccata. Arizona State University