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Is there a sunny spot in your home or garden that’s begging for a new plant? Look no further than the yucca. Whether you grow it indoors or out, this desert tree is easy to care for and can survive in levels of sunlight that would kill many other plants.
This plant has been getting more popular over recent years. We’re used to seeing them in offices and waiting rooms, but more and more people are also growing them in their gardens. We’re even seeing this trend for large outdoor specimens in colder parts of the world such as the south of England.
Although it’s easy to care for, the sharp leaves of some varieties can make this a dangerous choice of plant. Read on for all our tips on yucca care, including all the advice you’ll need on keeping yourself safe while you maintain it.
Looking for more common indoor houseplants? Check out this list with difficulty ratings.
|Scientific name||Yucca elephantipes|
|AKA||Dagger plant, Joshua tree|
|Similar to||Dragon tree|
|Native to||Americas and the Caribbean|
|Shape||Bush or tree|
|Maximum size||2 – 5’ indoors, up to 30’ outdoors|
|Watering requirements||Low – moderate|
|Light requirements||Full sun|
|Preferred humidity||Low – moderate|
|Preferred temperature||50 – 90 (10 – 32C)|
|Soil||Potting soil mixed with ⅓ sand. Alternatively, cacti and succulent mix|
|Fertilizer||NPK balanced liquid fertilizer applied in spring|
|Propagation method||Stem and leaf cuttings|
|Toxicity||Extremely toxic to pets|
|Vulnerable to||Root rot|
Overview of Yucca Houseplants
If you have a mature plant or an outdoor variety with stiff leaves, you have to treat it with respect. The sharp tips of the leaves have put many unsuspecting growers in the hospital, and there are things that you need to know before you repot or prune your plant.
On the other hand, the most common indoor variety has soft green leaves that don’t pose a threat. What’s more, if you have a spot in your home or garden that’s sunny enough, this is one of the easiest plants you grow.
Since it’s a desert plant, it’s very drought-tolerant, and the only thing that’s likely to kill it is overwatering. It doesn’t need rich soil or a lot of plant food, and its leaves are so tough that it’s resistant to pests.
Yucca Plant Care Guide 2020
Yuccas don’t need a lot of water. It’s best to wait until at least the top ⅓ of the soil has dried out completely before you water it. Even then, you should give it a smaller amount of water than you would a jungle plant.
In winter or if your plant is in lower-light conditions, you can wait even longer between waterings. You might find that you only have to reach for the watering can once a month.
Whatever you do, keep an eye on the leaves. If they start to turn yellow, it means that there’s a problem and you should inspect the soil to figure out if you’ve been over or underwatering your plant. Especially if the yellow leaves are at the bottom of the plant, it’s often the first sign of root rot.
Want to learn more about watering plants? Check out our complete guide.
Whether they’re growing indoors or outside, all varieties of yucca need as much sun as possible. Even in the garden, they need bright light and will thrive in full sun.
It’s possible to grow one indoors even if it’s only getting moderate light. However, you’ll notice that your plant grows much more slowly. If the leaves start to droop, try and reposition it so it can enjoy a few more hours of light each day.
As with all desert plants, you don’t need to do anything to increase the humidity around your yucca. It won’t benefit from being misted, so save yourself a chore and put the spray bottle down.
As well as handling the low humidity levels in your home, this plant can tolerate the temperature changes that we sometimes see in our hallways or sunrooms over the day.
Plant Food and Soil
In the wild, this plant grows in extremely poor soil. This makes your life easier when it comes to choosing its soil and fertilizer.
You’ll struggle to grow one in your garden if your soil is particularly rich or heavy. If this is the case, it might be best to keep it in a pot on the patio, where it has less chance of becoming waterlogged.
Indoors, you should either mix 2 parts regular potting-soil with 1 part sand or use a cacti and succulent mix. This increases the drainage dramatically and helps to prevent root rot.
Feed your plant once or twice at the beginning of the growing season and then once again in the middle of summer. If you choose a balanced, all-purpose liquid fertilizer, it should give the plant all the nutrients it needs for the year.
Additional Yucca Plant Care and Growing Tips
The tips above will ensure that you can keep your plant alive wherever you’ve put it in your home. However, there are still some things you need to know for your second, third and even tenth year with your plant. Read on for some expert level yucca care advice.
If your plant is already tree-sized, repotting it can be a big job. Thankfully, you should only need to upgrade a mature plant every 3 – 5 years or when you notice that the soil is losing its structure.
If your yucca has reached the perfect size, leave it in its pot to slow down its growth. The only thing you’ll need to do is dress the top of the pot with fresh soil at the start of every growing season to replenish the plant’s nutrients.
A terracotta pot is a great choice for this plant as it minimizes the chances of the plant having to stand in water.
Finally, be careful if your plant has stiff, sharp leaves. Wear gloves, long sleeves, and even goggles when you’re repotting. A surprising number of people end up in the hospital every year because their plant has stabbed them.
You should also take steps to keep yourself safe when you’re pruning your plant. Cover your skin, protect your eyes, and use shears which are strong enough to cut through the tough branches.
Although it’s slow-growing and grows in a predictable shape, pruning your plant can encourage it to grow new branches. From time to time, you’ll also have to remove dead or damaged leaves from the plant to keep it looking its best.
One of the great things about this plant is that it’s resistant to pests. Spider mites are a problem for most other house plants, but they won’t touch this one. This is down to a combination of the tough, drought-resistant leaves and the dry conditions the plant prefers.
Many growers like to put their plants outside in the summer. They tolerate this well and quickly adjust to the different conditions, but you need to check thoroughly when you bring your plant back inside to make sure that it hasn’t picked up any pests in the garden.
Although there are at least 40 different varieties of yucca in the wild, only a small percentage of them that are available to gardeners.
The most common variety is y. elephantipes, which is also known as a stick or spineless yucca. This is the plant that’s usually sold for indoor gardeners because, when it’s young, the leaves are soft and green. You’d have to try hard to injure yourself on one of these.
Y. aloifolia is a common outdoor variety. It’s also known as the Spanish bayonet, which should tell you everything you need to know about how sharp the leaves are. This plant is too dangerous to grow in the home, or even outdoors if you have small children.
If you’re looking for a little more color, many variegated yuccas are also available. The ‘Bright Edge’ has yellow borders on the leaves, and the ‘Variegata’ has white edges whereas the ‘Golden Sword’ has a yellow center. All of these varieties have sharp leaves, but a variegated cultivar of spineless yucca is also available.
Parts of this plant, such as the roots, are mildly poisonous to humans. There are also parts, such as the flowers, which can be eaten if they’re cooked properly.
On the other hand, all parts of the plant are extremely toxic to pets. If a cat or dog gets hold of the plant, the first symptoms are drooling and vomiting. You should treat it as an emergency and take your pet to the vet immediately.
FAQs to Help Yucca Plants Grow
Does it make a good house plant?
As long as you have the elephantipes variety, this is a great plant for homes and offices. Inside, it grows to about 5’ tall, and most indoor specimens are grown in a tree shape with between 1 and 3 trunks in the pot.
Yuccas will grow in moderate light indoors but they still prefer full sun. Unfortunately, they’re often too big for the windowsill, and even being 2 or 3 feet away from glass can put them into the shade for a large part of the day. You’ll need to position your plant carefully if you want it to give you maximum growth.
How can I revive a dying plant?
If your plant is starting to look limp, make sure that all of its needs are being met. Start with light, then make sure that it’s warm enough all through the day. If it’s been in its pot for a while, it might benefit from a little plant food.
Have hope. As long as the roots haven’t been badly damaged by overwatering, this plant is hardy and there’s a good chance it will recover.
Do the leaves grow back?
If you prune the leaves to encourage new growth, they will slowly regrow. You’ll need to be patient but, in a few months, your plant will be looking leafier and fuller than before.
On the other hand, as yuccas grow, the old leaves will die off from the base of the crown. Once you remove those dead leaves, that’s it. The area becomes the bare trunk and all the new growth will come from the top of the crown.
Why is my indoor plant drooping?
Indoor specimens usually droop because they need more light. Try to move it as close to a window as you can.
If it’s summer, you can even move it outside for a few weeks. You’ll be amazed by what the unfiltered sunlight and rainwater will do for your plant.
The only other thing that might cause your plant to droop is overwatering but, if this is the problem, you’ll probably see discolored leaves as well as limp ones.
Will my plant flower?
Yes, yuccas flower. In fact, they’re the state flower of New Mexico.
The flower spikes appear once a season and are very long-lasting. The blossom is white or cream-colored and has a soapy smell.
If your yucca is in your garden, there’s a good chance that the changing of the seasons will cause it to flower. It’s unlikely that you’ll get flowers indoors but, if your plant is with you for several years and you meet all its needs, there’s still a chance.
If you choose a non-lethal variety, yucca is a great house plant. It’s easy to care for, and it usually bounces back well if you happen to make a mistake.
If you’re looking for a large plant to add to your home or garden, this is a good choice. It gives you lots of impact without taking up too much of your space, and both the trunk and the leaves are very attractive. Give it a go for that sunny corner that seems to bake everything else and you won’t be disappointed.