Yucca plants are recognized for their sword-like foliage, with large stalks emerging in the summer with showy, creamy-white, bell-shaped flowers. There are more than 50 species of this hardy perennial, and they range in size from 1 ft to over 8 ft tall. Certain varieties in their native habitat can reach over 50 ft high, naturally developing into trees or shrubs. Native to Mexico, they perform best in Zones 4-10. Some Yucca varieties have spikes on the ends of their sword-like leaves, so be careful to keep children and pets at a distance.
Plant Yucca outdoors in well-draining soil, preferably with a sandy texture. They prefer and can withstand drought conditions once established. These succulent perennials thrive in full sun environments, so give them plenty of sunlight, and they will produce fuller foliage and larger flowers. If growing Yucca indoors, avoid exposing them to excessive cold.
Whether growing Yucca in a container or in the landscape, the soil should be well draining as Yucca does not like to be soggy. Yuccas are adapted to desert climates and have large, deep tap roots that will search for water when planted in the landscape. When planted in containers, check soil moisture every week or so. Make sure the soil is dry, and then water thoroughly and infrequently. This mimics its natural growing environment, which experiences periods of drought, then a downpour, and then a long break until the next rain.
Fertilize Yucca once in the spring with a well-balanced, water-soluble fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 10-10-10, just before tender new growth appears. Follow the instructions on the package. Yucca is acclimated to growing in poor soils and will grow well, albeit more slowly, without fertilizing.
Prune away tattered leaves or foliage overgrowth in early spring before the warm growing season begins. Some varieties of Yucca develop a tree or shrub form. You can strip the trunk of its leaves to create a tree form by simply cutting leaves off close to the trunk or stalk. Cuttings can be easily used to make additional plants. You can cut the complete top off of the plant, remove the lower leaves from the cutting, and stick it into a pot for easy propagation of new plants. Water well after taking and planting cuttings, and roots will form in a few months.
Caring For Yucca in Pots
Because Yucca can grow to be top-heavy, make sure to select a container with a sturdy base so your Yucca plant doesn’t tip over in strong winds. Plant Yucca or new cuttings in a potting medium that is formulated for cacti, or one with some added sand or grit to encourage drainage. The container must have ample drainage holes because if the soil holds onto too much moisture, the roots can rot.
Winter Care for Yucca
Water Yuccas thoroughly in early fall, then refrain from watering until spring. Yucca is cold hardy, but supplying it with a little extra protection will help insulate the plant from the harshest winter weather. Apply a few inches of mulch around the root base of the plant to protect the roots from freeze-thaw cycles. If bringing a potted Yucca indoors, keep it in a cool, brightly lit location. Reduce watering, and avoid placing Yucca near heating vents.