Yuccas are evergreen shrubs and trees from hot, dry areas of north and central America. Many are hardy and can be grown outside, but tender types can be grown as house plants. The most popular is Yucca elephantipes (also sold as Yucca guatamalensis or Yucca gigantea), also known as spineless yucca, or yucca cane. It has an impressive crown of spiky leaves on top of a palm-like trunk, making it a good focal point.
Yucca is a great plant for beginners as it’s easy to grow, tolerant of neglect and can be very long-lived. Unlike many house plants, it can cope with a spot in bright sunshine, so is a good plant for a sunny corner where little else will thrive. Yuccas store water at their base, so are tolerant of drought.
Yuccas are slow growing, so can take time to reach their ultimate size. As the plant grows, it may produce offsets at the base, giving a multi-stemmed look.
How to grow yucca
Yuccas do best in bright light and can cope with some direct sunshine. Water only when the top few centimetres of soil are dry. Yuccas are tolerant of drought.
Growing yucca: jump links
- Where to grow yucca
- How to care for yucca
- How to propagate yucca
- Yucca problem-solving
- Types of yucca to grow
Where to grow yucca
Yuccas are one of the least fussy plants you can grow. Ideally, grow it in a warm room where the temperature won’t fall below 7°C. It can cope with some direct sunlight.
How to plant yucca
Plant your yucca in soil-based compost, with some added horticultural sand or grit added for good drainage. Repot every two or three years. Use a sturdy pot to avoid the plant becoming top heavy and toppling over as it grows.
Caring for yucca
You’re more likely to kill a yucca by watering it too much than too little. Water when the top few centimetres of compost have dried out but don’t worry if the soil dries out completely from time to time – yuccas are tolerant of drought. Allow any excess water to drain away. Water more sparingly in winter.
Feed every couple of months with half-strength liquid fertiliser from spring to autumn. Yuccas don’t need high humidity so you won’t need to mist it. Wipe the leaves occasionally to keep the leaves free of dust.
Yuccas do well when slightly pot bound so don’t need repotting very often – every two or three years in spring is fine. It can be hard to repot a mature yucca due its unwieldy shape – in that case, remove as much compost from the surface as you can using a trowel, and top up with fresh.
If your plant becomes too big, just cut the trunk down to the height that you want – it will look ugly for a while but should soon re-sprout. You could repot the chunk that you have cut off to propagate as a new house plant.
How to propagate yucca
The easiest way to propagate yucca is from the offsets (pups) at the base of the trunk. You could do this when you repot the plant in spring. Simply cut off an offset using a sharp knife. Allow the wound to dry out for a few days, then plant the new plant into a new pot and water well. Keep in a warm spot.
You can also propagate yuccas from 20cm stem cuttings in spring, in a similar way to dracaenas.
You can also grow yuccas from seed.
Growing yucca: problem solving
Yellow leaves are normal on the lower leaves – they will die back and fall naturally, giving the plant a palm-like appearance over time. You can gently pull or cut the leaves away. If there are yellow leaves all over the plant you have probably under or over watered it.
Brown or black spots on the foliage is leaf spot, caused by bacteria or fungi. Remove any affected leaves and treat with an organic fungicide.
Brown leaf tips are due to erratic watering. You can cut these off, but don’t cut into green growth, otherwise they’ll reappear.
Sagging, droopy leaves are due to underwatering.
Pale leaves are due to too much shade.
A rotting stem is due to overwatering, and is more likely to happen in winter. Yuccas do not enjoy sitting in cold, wet compost, so reduce watering. If the problem has spread too far, you may not be able to save the plant.
Mealybugs may be a problem – look out for insects that look like white, fluffy blobs on the undersides of leaves. Wipe them off with a damp cloth or cotton bud that has been soaked in an insecticide that contains fatty acids or plant oils. Keep checking the leaves, as mealybugs can be hard to eradicate.
You may also spot scale insects – small, brown sap sucking insects that are around 6mm long. Wipe off as with a cotton bud or cloth soaked with an insecticide containing fatty acids.
Varieties of yucca to grow
Yucca aloifolia is also known as the Spanish bayonet. As its name suggests, the leaves have very sharp points. Keep away clear of young children and away from eye level.