Yucca are desert plants native to the Southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America. They’ve also bee naturalized throughout the Southern United States. As far as houseplants go, they are probably eclipsed by the similar-looking Dracaena genus (which is often mistaken for Yucca). They are, however, interesting and slow-growing houseplants that have the added benefit of being extremely drought tolerant.
If you kill a Yucca, it’s probably due to overwatering. Over time, most species will grow into room-devouring monsters, but this takes long enough that they provide years of durable service as a houseplant. One word of caution, however: one of the popular species, Yucca aloifolia has very sharp spines on its leaf-tips that could potentially cause injury.
Spineless species are much more suited for indoor cultivation.
Light: Bright, unfiltered sunlight. Yucca thrive in full sunlight, so they’re perfect for that west-facing window where everything else burns up.
Water: They are highly sensitive to water-logging. Water regularly in the spring and summer growing season, but make sure the plant has excellent drainage and dries between waterings. Water sporadically in the winter. Never let a plant sit in a tray of water.
Temperature: Widely variable. Yucca are adapted to the desert, where temperatures can soar into the 90°F (32°C) or higher and down into the 30°F (-1°C) at night.
Soil: A loose, well-drained potting mix.
Fertilizer: Fertilize during the growing season with liquid fertilizer or controlled-release fertilizer according to label instructions.
The easiest way to propagate Yucca is with offsets of older plants. Divide the plant during repotting or carefully slice away the offset and pot up into a separate container. They can also be propagated by stem cuttings, using pieces of stem of at least 4 inches (20 cm) and rooting hormone. Yucca grown indoors will likely not flower or bear seeds.
Yucca are relatively slow-growing plants that should only need to be repotted every other year. They do well slightly pot-bound, as long as they don’t become heavy enough to tip over their containers. Repotting larger plants can be difficult, so larger plants can be refreshed with new potting soil by digging out the top 2 inches (5 cm) of the container and adding new soil. During typical repotting, remove the Yucca plant from its container and go up one container size. Always use fresh potting soil.
Under the right conditions, Yucca are not difficult plants 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 Yucca include a sunny corner with relatively low humidity. They are not prone to many pests, although scale can be an issue. Over time, 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.
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