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How to Take Care of a Yucca Plant

Sean has been in the industry of gardening and landscaping since 2006. He is also a certified arborist that specializes in plant health.

Yucca plants growing in a flower bed.

Yucca plants growing in a flower bed.

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 US. 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 even 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.

Table of Contents

1. Soil for Yuccas

  • Preferred Soil Mixtures
  • Ensuring Drainage in Containers

2. Soil Types and Amendments for Yuccas

3. Light and Temperature Requirements for Yucca

  • Sunlight vs Artificial Light
  • Signs of Insufficient Light Exposure
  • Signs of Sunburn
  • Signs of Freeze Damage

4. Sun and Temperature Damage Symptoms

5. Overwatering Symptoms

6. The Best Way to Water Yuccas

7. Fertilizing Yuccas

  • Preferred Fertilizers
  • Treating and Preventing Fertilizer Burn

8. Excessive Fertilizer Symptoms

9. Growing Yuccas Indoors vs Outdoors

1. Soil for Yuccas

Preferred Soil Mix

Yucca plants need soil with excellent drainage capabilities. Yuccas are highly susceptible to diseases such as root rot when left in water-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 tend to work well for growing yuccas.

Ensuring Drainage in Containers

Growing yuccas in containers will require a 2 to 3 inch layer of rocks at the bottom of the container to promote drainage. Otherwise, water will collect in the bottom and become stagnant. Standing water that has collected on a watering tray underneath a container can also become stagnant. Waterlogged soil in containers is more likely to spread disease to yuccas compared to yuccas that are planted in the ground. Keep this fact in mind when considering whether you want to plant or pot yucca.

Yucca will thrive in soil mixes that drain well. A good mixture should include potting soil, coarse sand, and rocks.

Yucca will thrive in soil mixes that drain well. A good mixture should include potting soil, coarse sand, and rocks.

2. Soil Types and Amendments for Yuccas

Soil TypeDrainageSoil Amendments for Yuccas

Clayey

Slow

Coarse sand, perlite

Sandy

Very quick

Potting soil, mulch, compost

Loamy

Moderate

Equal parts sand and perlite

3. Light and Temperature Requirements for Yucca

Because yucca plants are native to dry, sunny climates it is important to ensure that your yuccas are getting appropriate amounts of sunlight. Yucca plants also thrive in fairly warm weather, so cold climates can pose risks to some yuccas.

Yucca Plants Prefer Sunlight Rather Than Artificial Light

Yuccas thrive in unfiltered, full sunlight. Place yucca plants in an area that receives sun during most of the day, or if your plant is potted indoors, place it by a window that receives a decent amount of sunlight.

How to Know If Your Yucca Is Getting Insufficient Sunlight

Insufficient exposure to sunlight will cause the leaves of the yucca to stretch and become leggy. Leggy, outstretched leaves are unsightly, but that problem can be reversed by providing ample sunlight to yuccas. Turn the yucca occasionally if you're growing it indoors to give its leaves equal exposure to sunlight on all sides of the plant.

Recognizing Signs of Sunburn

Even though yucca plants are sturdy in natural sunlight, sunburn can occur on yuccas if the plants are quickly moved from the indoors to a hot, bright outdoor environment. The symptoms of sunburn are yellow and white blotches on the plant's leaves. Slowly acclimate your yuccas by moving the plants gradually over a period of a few days until they reach the desired outdoor location. Moving an indoor yucca slowly while transitioning it to the outdoors will enable the plant to adjust to its new surroundings successfully.

Recognizing and Treating Freeze Damage

Because the yucca plant thrives in hot climates, the risk of developing freeze damage in cold environments is likely. Freeze damage will cause the leaves to blacken, then turn brown and become crispy. A little freeze damage is reversible once spring hits and a new growth cycle begins. Some varieties of yucca can handle harsh winters, while others will perish. Do some research if your yuccas are planted in northern regions or climates that experience cold and snowy winters.

4. Sun and Temperature Damage Symptoms

Insufficient SunlightSunburnFreeze Damage

Elongated, droopy leaves

Yellow and white blotches

Blackened tips of leaves

Dead areas with flushed colors

Brown and crispy after blackening

Red "X" marks disease from overwatering.

Red "X" marks disease from overwatering.

5. Overwatering Symptoms

Due to their status as desert-thriving plants, yucca tend to grow best in dry soils and conditions. Try to avoid over-watering yucca plants. They process water slowly and they will struggle if their soil cannot drain water effectively. If you're uncertain as to whether or not your yuccas are suffering from overwatering, look for these signs:

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

6. The Best Ways to Water Yuccas

When to Water Your Yuccas

The yucca is indigenous to arid regions that don't get a lot of rainfall, so you should keep that in mind when watering yuccas. Give your plant just enough water for it to be healthy. Watering needs to occur in a manner that mimics rainfall in dry climates. During dry periods in the middle of summer yuccas may require watering every 7 to 10 days. However, during a rainy season, your plant may require very little, if any, watering.

Insufficient Water

The leaves of the yucca will begin to shrivel and wrinkle if it's left unwatered for too long. Water yucca immediately when it begins wilting, otherwise the wilting will continue and the yucca will die. Under-watered yuccas will perk up soon after being watered.

Overwatering Problems

Overwatering promotes disease and root rot. Discolored and dead leaves are an obvious sign of necrosis brought on by disease that usually occurs as a result of overwatering. The yucca cannot withstand waterlogged soil for extended periods of time. Root rot will cause the roots to rot away and give off a putrid odor. Signs of root rot will eventually appear on the yucca's foliage. Root rot will kill just about any plant if it's 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.

7. Fertilizing Yucca

Preferred Fertilizers

Yuccas are slow-growing plants and may only need fertilizer a few times a year. A low-nitrogen, balanced fertilizer is ideal. Fertilizers should include essential secondary nutrients such as calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S), and micro/trace nutrients including iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), and zinc (Zn). Cacti fertilizer can be used due to its 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.

Treating and Preventing 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 manifest 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 half of the amount specified in fertilizer package directions. It is always better to use too little rather than too much.

8. Excessive Fertilizer Symptoms

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

9. Growing Yucca Indoors vs Outdoors

Yucca can thrive both indoors and outdoors. Depending on where you live, it may be better to raise yucca plants inside so they're not exposed to cold weather and excessive rainfall, but if you raise your plant indoors, make sure that it gets enough sunlight to be healthy.

When raising yucca outdoors, monitor the soil and leaves regularly to ensure that your plant is healthy and well-supported by its surrounding environment. Wherever you place your plant, make adjustments to it as needed to maintain the health of your yucca.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Should I deadhead yucca plants?

Answer: You can deadhead yuccas after the flower stalk is done blooming. Simply cut off the flower stalk slightly above the base of the yucca.

Question: All the leaves fell off of my yucca plant this past winter. Is my yucca dead?

Answer: Leave the yucca as is for now and see if it bounces back to good health within a few weeks. Yucca are very tough plants but check for signs of rot, over-watering, visible physical damage to the trunk or center, and pests.

Question: My yucca plants only flower every couple of years. Why is this?

Answer: Some mature yuccas will bloom every year, but many yuccas only bloom once every couple years. This could be due to age and/or site conditions.

Question: I was changing my yucca plant to a new pot, and a good number of roots accidentally came off. Will it survive?

Answer: It should survive. Rootbound plants rebound quite well when some of the root mass is removed and the plant is repotted.

Question: Can I give yucca plants, plant food?

Answer: Yes, if the soil is nutrient deficient. Be careful not to over-fertilize. Feed with a weak nutrient solution to be on the safe side.

Question: Should I cut off the dead leaves of my yucca plant?

Answer: Yes. Removing dead leaves will not harm the plant. Removing dead leaves improves appearance as well.

Question: Can yucca survive with a plant light?

Answer: Yes, as long as the light provides enough intensity. Partially shaded and indirect sunlight is preferred. Overexposure can result in dry, discolored leaf edges and spotting.

© 2012 Sean Hemmer

Comments

rad on March 22, 2019:

Gophers love yuccas and wil eat the roots. But the yuccas will grown back if protected by a wire mesh basket

Lesley hayward on March 12, 2019:

My indoor yucca is growing too tall for the room what should I do ???

Patricia Robertson on December 30, 2018:

I have had yuccas for over 15 years and have never ever done anything to them. I kean mean at all! I had one growing on pavement no soil no care no attention at all. I have a small grouping under my window and another near my deck, never have I ever watered or fertilized either and they thrive. Dont waist your time money energy or money doing anything to these plants. They are truly care free. Heck I didn't ecen "plant" one. I had set it out to plant ut but they weather turned in me and ended up being a few days before I could get out there. By that time it had already rooted so I left it. Now that plant has flourished and given me several pups. This guy is an idiot!

Karen Lewis on March 21, 2018:

one of my shoots broke off how do I transplant it

Shane on December 17, 2017:

Hi my yucca cuttings are few years old, were doing great even have little new shoots coming out the base of trunk BUT last couple months most the leaves are curling and splitting. Any help ?

Betty Miller on April 16, 2017:

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

Andrea on April 09, 2017:

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

Gloria on January 21, 2017:

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..

Lukas on October 05, 2016:

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!