How to Grow Yucca

Yucca gloriosa in the garden
Yucca gloriosa in the garden

Yuccas are rosette-forming or woody-based perennials or evergreen shrubs. They are cultivated for their bold, linear to lance-shaped leaves that are commonly erect. In their native habitat, some Yucca species are capable of growing to 40 feet, but indoors, Yucca is a slow grower and usually won’t grow more than 6 feet (1.8 m) tall and 2 inches (5 cm) thick.

Yucca leaves are reminiscent of agave and aloe; they have needle-sharp tips and often serrated edges. Some Yucca are stemless; some have a woody, trunklike stem.

Yuccas can be used as architectural specimens in a border or courtyard or in a container. Some are hardy, some are not. Tender yuccas can be grown in a cool greenhouse or in a conservatory.

Yuccas bear pendant panicles of bell-shaped white flowers. Flowers are rare on indoor specimens.

Yucca is a genus of about 40 species of rosette-forming or woody-based perennials. Yuccas are native to hot, dry places such as deserts, sand dunes, and plains in North and Central America and the West Indies.

Adam's needle, Yucca filamentosa
Adam’s needle, Yucca filamentosa

Get to know Yucca

  • Plant type: Evergreen perennial
  • Growing Zones and range: 4-10
  • Hardiness: Hardy
  • Optimal growing temperature: day, 70°F (21°C); night, 50° to 55°F (10° to 13°C). 
  • Height and width: 3 to 30 feet (1-10m) tall, 3 to 25 feet (1-8m) wide depending on the variety
  • Foliage: Bold, linear to lance-shaped or inversely lance-shaped, neatly or loosely rosette leaves
  • Flowers: Large flower spike with a candelabra of ivory bell-shaped blooms; flowers are borne on erect or pendent panicles
  • Bloom time: Early to midsummer
  • Uses: specimen plant
  • Garden companions: low-growing junipers, ornamental grasses, Russian sage, brooms
  • Common name: Yucca
  • Botanical name: Yucca spp.
  • Family: Agavaceae
  • Origin: Deserts and plains in North and Central America
Yucca filamentosa commonly called Adam needle or Spanish bayonet
Yucca filamentosa commonly called Adam needle or Spanish bayonet

Where to plant Yucca

  • Plant yucca in full sun.
  • Indoors grow Yucca in bright light, with 3 hours of direct sun daily, from eastern, western, or southern exposure. 
  • Grow yucca in average to sandy, well-drained soil.

When to plant Yucca

  • Set yucca in the garden in spring or fall.

Planting and spacing Yucca

  • Space yucca 3 feet or more apart depending on the variety.
  • Use gloves to handle plants that have sharp leaves.

How to water and feed Yucca

  • Keep the soil around young plants just moist, not wet. Mature, established plants are drought-tolerant.
  • Let the soil dry moderately between thorough waterings. Y. filamentosa should be kept somewhat drier.
  • Yucca prefers humidity of 30% to 40%. 
  • Indoors, feed Yucca every 2 weeks during the growing season, with mild liquid fertilizer. Feed Y. filamentosa once in spring. 
Banana Yucca (Yucca baccata)
Banana Yucca (Yucca baccata)

Yucca care

  • Trim off spent flower stalks after blooming.
  • Separate small plants that emerge around the base and replant them.
  • Yucca is prone to root rot where the soil stays wet.
  • Container-grown Yucca should be potted-on when roots completely overcrowd pot space. 
  • Yucca needs rest during winter. Keep indoor plants at 50°F (10°C) and give them just enough water to keep soil from drying out; withhold fertilizer. 

Growing Yucca as a houseplant

  • Yucca aloifolia, Spanish bayonet, and Y. elephantipes, spineless yucca, can be grown indoors.
  • Yucca needs bright to direct light, an average temperature, good air circulation, and medium.
  • Yucca can be placed outdoors in summer to stimulate growth, but it should be shaded from scorching sun, which can bleach the leaves.
  • Allow the soil to dry between thorough waterings.
  • Fertilizer can be applied monthly in spring and summer.

Yucca pests and diseases

  • Cane borers, scale insects, and fungal leaf spots can occur.

Yucca propagation

  • Sow the seeds of hardy yuccas in mid-spring; sow the seed of half-hardy species in late spring.
  • Remove rooted suckers in spring.
  • Take root cuttings in winter.
Spanish bayonet tree, Yucca aloifolia
Spanish bayonet tree, Yucca aloifolia

Yucca varieties to grow

  • There are many species of yucca; some are modest perennials; some grow to the size of a tree.
  • Yucca aloifolia (dagger plant, also called Spanish bayonet) Shrub or small tree with long, lance-shaped leaves; the plant can grow to 25 feet (8m) tall and 15 feet (5m) wide; there are several cultivars with yellow and white leaf margins.
  • Yucca elephantipes (giant yucca, spinless yucca). Large upright shrub, rosettes of arching, soft and shiny leaves borne on a trunklike stem, sparsely branched; pendent white to cream flowers on erect panicles; the plant can grow to 30 feet (10m) tall and 15 to 25 feet (5-8m) wide.
  • Yucca filamentosa, sometimes called Y. smalliana, is Adam’s needle. Stemless basal rosette of succulent, narrow leaves tapering at the ends and bearing curly threads on the margins; flower stalks that grow 5 to 7 feet tall and are hardy in Zones 4-11.
  • Yucca gloriosa, called Spanish dagger, has pointed arching leaves; leaves grow to 3 feet long; bears bell-shaped sometimes purple-tinged white flowers in upright panicles to 8 feet (2.5m) tall.

Yucca filamentosa — Adam’s needle, needle palm

Yucca filamentosa is a succulent that forms bold rosettes of sharp-pointed, leathery, gray-green, evergreen leaves. A decorative threadlike edging peels away in curls from the leaf margins. Tall stout, leafless flower stalks arise in midsummer, exhibiting numerous bold, waxy, white, pendulous, bell-shaped flowers.

Size: Foliage clumps 3 feet tall and wide; flowers stalks 5 to 7 feet tall.

Light: Full sun.

Soil and moisture: Average to sandy, well-drained soil; moderate moisture. Drought tolerant.

Planting and propagation: Plant container-grown plants in spring or fall, spacing 4 feet apart. Divide in spring, separating offsets from the main plant when crowded.

Special care: Cut off flower stalks after flowers fade.

Pest and diseases: Rots in winter-wet site.

Climate: Zones 4-19; heat tolerant.

Cultivars: ‚Bright Edge, ‘gold-banded leaf margins; ‘Golden Sword,’ gold stripe down leaf center, ‘Variegata,’ leaves striped with cream; ‘Ivory Tower,’ upright creamy white flowers, gray-green leaves.

Garden use: Use as evergreen architectural accent plant in a naturalistic border or rock garden.

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