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How to Take Care of a Yucca Plant

Updated on April 16, 2016
Yucca plants growing in a flower bed.
Yucca plants growing in a flower bed.

Yuccas are evergreen perennial shrubs native to arid regions of the Americas. Yuccas are very common in western landscape designs, especially in southwestern states of the U.S. Some yuccas can grow into a tree-like form instead of a shrub form. They are easily recognizable by their tough, blade-like leaves and spire of white flowers. Caring for yuccas are easy due to their resilient nature. Some varieties of yucca are cold resistant enough to survive snowy North American winters.

Growing requirements for yuccas are similar to that of cacti and palms. Proper sunlight and watering will keep yuccas growing strong for years. Soil type and fertilizer also need to be taken into consideration.

Yucca grow great in soil mixes that drain well. Potting soil, coarse sand, and rocks.
Yucca grow great in soil mixes that drain well. Potting soil, coarse sand, and rocks. | Source

Soil for Yuccas

Preferred Soil Mix
Yucca plants need soil with excellent drainage. Yuccas are very susceptible to diseases such as root rot when left in saturated soil. A mix of equal parts potting soil, coarse sand, and perlite will provide enough drainage for yucca plants. Cacti and palm soil blends can be purchased and work great for growing yuccas.

Drainage in Containers
Growing yuccas in containers will require a 2 to 3 inch layer of rocks in the bottom of the container to promote drainage. Otherwise, water will collect in the bottom and become stagnant. Empty water that has collected on a watering tray underneath the container as well. Waterlogged soil in containers is even more apt to spread disease to yuccas compared to yuccas planted in the ground.

Soil Types and Amendments for Yuccas

Soil Type
Drainage
Soil Amendments for Yuccas
Clayey
Slow
Coarse sand, perlite
Sandy
Very quick
Potting soil, mulch, compost
Loamy
Moderate
Equal parts sand and perlite
Source

Sun & Temperature Damage Symptoms

Insufficient Sunlight

  • Elongated, droopy leaves

Sunburn

  • Yellow & white blotches
  • Dead areas with flushed color

Freeze Damage

  • Blackened tips of leaves
  • Brown and crispy after blackening

Light Requirements for Yucca

Preferred Sunlight
Yuccas thrive in unfiltered, full sunlight. Place yucca plants in an area that receives sun during most of the day, or by a window that receives decent sunlight if potted indoors.

Insufficient Sunlight
Not enough sunlight will cause the leaves of the yucca to stretch and become leggy. Leggy, outstretched leaves are unsightly but can be reversed by providing ample sunlight. Turn the yucca occasionally if growing indoors to give equal sunlight to all sides of the plant.

Sunburn
Sunburn can occur on yuccas if the plants are moved from the indoors to a hot, bright outdoor environment. The symptoms of sunburn are yellow and white blotches. Slowly acclimate the yuccas by moving the plants every few days until they reach the desired outdoor locations.

Freeze Damage
Freeze damage will cause the leaves to blacken, then turn brown and become crispy. A little freeze damage is reversible once spring hits and new growth begins. Some varieties can handle harsh winters while other will perish. Do some research if the yuccas are planted in northern regions that experience cold and snowy winters.

Red "X" marks disease from overwatering.
Red "X" marks disease from overwatering. | Source

Overwatering Symptoms

  • Yellow and/or brown leaves
  • Dead/dying leaves
  • Putrid odor from roots

Watering Yuccas

When to Water
The yucca is indigenous to arid regions. Watering needs to occur in tandem with the weather. Dry periods in the middle of summer may require watering every 7 to 10 days. A rainy spring may require very little, if any, watering to occur.

Insufficient Water
The leaves of the yucca will begin to shrivel and wrinkle if left unwatered. Water immediately when wilting begins, otherwise the wilting will continue and the yucca will die. Yuccas will perk up soon after watering.

Overwatering Problems
Overwatering promotes disease and root rot. Discolored and dead leaves are an obvious sign of necrosis brought on by disease usually via overwatering. The yucca cannot withstand waterlogged soil for extended periods. Root rot will cause the roots to rot away and give off a putrid odor, and eventually damage will appear on the foliage. Root rot will kill just about any plant if left unchecked. Amend waterlogged soil with mulch, perlite, and/or any other material that facilitates drainage.

Water-soluble and granular fertilizer are suitable for yuccas.
Water-soluble and granular fertilizer are suitable for yuccas. | Source

Excessive Fertilizer Symptoms

  • Fertilizer burns appear as brown, dead leaves.
  • Yuccas can die if fertilizer concentration is too high.

Fertilizing Yucca

Preferred Fertilizers
Yucca plants are slow growing and may only need fertilizer a few times a year. A low-nitrogen, balanced fertilizer is ideal. Fertilizers should include essential secondary (Ca, Mg, S) and micro/trace (Fe, Mn, Zn, etc.) nutrients as well. Cacti fertilizer can be used due to the low and balanced concentrations of nutrients. Granular or water-soluble fertilizer can also be used. Granular fertilizers release nutrients slowly over time, while water-soluble applications add nutrients to the soil immediately.

Fertilizer Burn
Be careful when fertilizing. Applying too much fertilizer will cause harm and possibly kill yuccas. High nitrogen applications will cause the leaves to "burn" and die. Nitrogen burns appear as brown, dead leaves. Applying excessive fertilizer is usually irreversible, but caution will prevent such an accident from happening. When in doubt, always use half or less than the fertilizer package directions state. It is always better to use too little than too much.

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      Betty Miller 5 months ago

      We have shot holes in it with a 22. We are in the country though.

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      Andrea 5 months ago

      Gloria- do you have a metal punch or even maybe an ice pick? That may work.

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      Gloria 8 months ago

      My yucca tree I gave to a friend because I was moving...I had always had it in s pot since my sister would not let me plant it in the ground.My friend put it in the ground and it was doing great...I would remind them to cover it for winter..well this winter we had 2 days of below freezing...they didn't cover it...I went over and they had dug it up and had it by the trash cans...I took it with me got miracle grow and potted it outside on the walk way... I watered it...I don't have a balcony... It does not get direct sun light...and I forgot the drainage holes...I tried heating a screw driver over candles...I don't have a drill...please how do I get holes in this plastic with the tree in it..

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      Lukas 11 months ago

      This is one of the best guides on yucca plant care that I've read so far. I like the one at http://www.gardenershq.com/Yucca-plant.php too as it advises to wear protective gloves made of metal, these plants can be lethal if mishandled!