How to Take Care of a Yucca Plant
Yuccas are evergreen perennial shrubs that are native to arid regions of the Americas. Yuccas are very common in western landscape designs, especially in southwestern regions 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 is 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 when caring for yuccas.
Soil for Yuccas
Preferred Soil Mix
Yucca plants need soil with excellent drainage. When left in saturated soil, yuccas are very susceptible to diseases, such as root rot. A mix of equal parts potting soil, coarse sand, and perlite will provide enough drainage for yucca plants. Cacti and palm soil blends tend to work well 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 can also become stagnant. Waterlogged soil in containers are more likely to spread disease to yuccas compared to yuccas that are planted in the ground.
Soil Types and Amendments for Yuccas
Soil Amendments for Yuccas
Coarse sand, perlite
Potting soil, mulch, compost
Equal parts sand and perlite
Sun & Temperature Damage Symptoms
- Elongated, droopy leaves
- Yellow & white blotches
- Dead areas with flushed color
- Blackened tips of leaves
- Brown and crispy after blackening
Light Requirements for Yucca
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.
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 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 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.
- Yellow and/or brown leaves
- Dead/dying leaves
- Putrid odor from roots
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.
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 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.
Excessive Fertilizer Symptoms
- Fertilizer burns appear as brown, dead leaves.
- Yuccas can die if fertilizer concentration is too high.
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.
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.