This guide will hopefully provide everything you'll need to know to successfully Grow and Care for Yucca Plants such as Soapweed, Spanish Dagger, Spanish Bayonet, and Adam's needle outside in your garden, indoors in pots or containers, or even for use as part of your landscaping efforts.
These plants are also great to grow in areas with little rain as they are very tolerant to drought.
The Yucca Plant is a hardy or half-hardy perennial. The genus contains up to 50 species and these can range in height from 30 cm to 2.5 m (1 foot to 8 feet).
Yucca angustissima - Narrow Leaf Yucca Plant by brewbooks.
Yuccas typically have very thick woody stems, and spiky sword shaped leaves leaves.
They bloom from the middle of summer through autumn, when they carry white flowers.
Some common names for the Yucca plant include Soapweed, Spanish Dagger, Spanish Bayonet and Adam's needle.
If you have children or pets it may not be a good idea to grow yucca plants in the garden, as they have razor sharp leaves that can easily hurt people and animals.
The following video gives a quick overview of this interesting garden plant
Common Names: Yucca: Pale; Spineless; Spoonleaf; Palm; Banana. Adam’s Needle, Soapweed, Joshua Tree, Ghosts in the graveyard, Spanish Bayonet, Spanish Dagger, Palma China, Datil.
Life Cycle: Hardy perennial. Half hardy perennial.
Height: 12 to 120 inches (30 to 300 cm).
Growing Season: Spring and Summer
Growing Region: Zones 3 to 10.
Flowers: Middle of summer through to autumn.
Flower Details: White, cream. Droopy. Soap like fragrance.
Foliage: Evergreen. Rosettes. Sword-like. Sharp.
Sow Outside: Seeds: Cover. Spring. Can be planted singly; between 18 to 60 inches (45 to 150 cm) depending upon species size.
Sow Inside: Germination time: one month to one year. Temperature: 65 to 75°F (18 to 24°C). Towards the end of winter or the start of spring. Grow seedlings indoors for two years. Transplant outdoors in the spring, once night-time temperatures do not fall below 45°F (7°C).
Requirements and Plant Care: Full sunlight. Good drainage. Can survive in dry and poor soils. Soil pH 5.5 to 7.5. Generally easy to care for but caution required: always wear protective, preferably chain mail or similar gloves when caring for Yucca Plants. Tidy leaves up to stop from becoming scruffy. Propagate: by planting offsets or from root cuttings.
Miscellaneous: Leaves can be very sharp, think seriously about the safety of children and animals before growing yucca in the garden. Yucca plants bloom at night. The plants have mutualistic relationship with the Yucca moth, which acts as a pollinator and lays eggs in the plant. Other Lepidoptera that are attractive to these plants include the Yucca, Ursine and Strecker’s Giant Skipper. Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parvifolia) is not a true yucca, but is actually a member of the Agave family.
Plants have large, stiff, and sword like rosette leaves, are a genus of perennial trees and shrubs from the family Asparagaceae, and are contained within the subfamily Agavoideae.
Plants are native to the dry and hot parts of South, Central and North America, and to the Caribbean.
They are currently one of the main gardening trends in the United Kingdom when it comes to landscaping and home garden plants.
There are nine species and 24 subspecies of Yucca, and their distribution covers a vast area of Central and North America.
Yuccas have adapted to a vast range of ecological and climatic conditions, as is demonstrated by its distributional spread from the Gulf of Mexico to the drier central states such in Alberta in Canada, and through to the inland neighboring states and the Atlantic coastal.
Plants are found in badlands and rocky deserts, in grassland and prairies, in light woodland, in mountainous regions, in semi-temperate and subtropical zones, and even in coastal sands (Yucca filamentosa); though these areas are generally arid to semi-arid.
Photograph by Terren in Virginia.
The mutualistic pollination system of Yuccas is very specialized, as they are pollinated by the Yucca moths from the family Prodoxidae.
Yucca moths will transfer the pollen purposely from the stamen of one plant to the stigma of another plant, whilst laying eggs in the flower at the same time.
The moth larva will then feed on some of the developing seeds; there are more than enough seeds left to perpetuate the species.
Different species of Yucca serve as host plants for the caterpillar of the Ursine Giant-Skipper (Megathymus ursus), Yucca Giant-Skipper (Megathymus yuccae), and Strecker's Giant-Skipper (Megathymus streckeri).
Prodoxus decipiens Bogus Yucca Moth photograph by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren, CC.
See this page for information on growing butterfly garden plants.
Some species, such as Yucca elephantipes, can have spreads of well over 6 m (about 20 feet). Photograph by Wallygrom.
Yucca plants (and their shrub varieties) can be grown both indoors and out. Bigger varieties are planted outdoors whilst smaller ones can occupy spaces indoors and easily be grown in containers.
Grow in indirect light close to a South facing window (1.5 m, 5 feet distance).
If you have an East facing window then place them on the window shelf so that they get the morning light. Or if they receive late evening light from a west facing window place them about 50 to 80 cm (1.5 to 2.5 feet) away.
They can also be planted in pots and containers as well as in garden beds, depending on what space is available to the gardener and on the local weather conditions.
Many people enjoy growing yucca plants indoors because they are low maintenance and have the ability to clean the air. They are also used as decorations to enhance a home and perhaps give it a Southwestern USA theme.
Choose a location that has access to full sun. Although Yuccas can tolerate partial shade, they grow best under full sunlight.
The soil should be somewhat dry and well-drained as the roots of Yuccas rot easily in wet soil.
If you plant to use raised beds then be aware that outdoor planting for most species requires well-drained raised beds.
Although some varieties can be grown unprotected, some beds need to be protected against winter moisture.
Species that can be grown in unprotected beds include Yucca glauca, Yucca filamentosa, Yucca 'Karlsruhensis', Yucca flaccida, Yucca angustissima ssp. kanabensis, and several hybrids such as Yucca 'Hybrid No. 1402' and 'Hybrid No. 500'.
The constructed beds must be raised so as to lean towards the sun, so that the plants get as much light as possible.
The usage of granite boulders is advisable to help raise the bed above the subsoil.
There should be a 17 to 40 cm (7 to 16 inches) layer of granite stones in the bottom of the beds, and 5 cm (two inches) layer of gravel on top of this.
Use a 2.5 to 5 cm (one to two inches) layer of 1 cm (½ inch) sized granite chippings to top dress, as this can help keep the root neck dry.
After digging a hole with the use of shovel to inspect the soil type, add small pebbled gravel or sand to implement the soil where the yucca is about to be planted.
To do this, dig a hole that is twice as deep and wide as the root ball of the yucca plant.
Put the extracted soil into a huge container or bucket, and add gravel or sand to the soil to make the planting bed 50 percent gravel/sand and 50 percent soil.
Placing some organic matter is beneficial; add more gravel or sand mixture if the soil has a heavy clay base to increase the drainage.
Place (5 to 8 cm (two to three inches) of the soil mixture into the bottom of the hole, and put the root ball of the Yucca plant on top of it.
Ensure that the plant is straight and centered. Fill in around the root ball with the remaining soil mixture until it reaches the soil surface level.
Gently press the soil to release any pockets of air. Sprinkle light water on the plant. Additional water can be added two to three weeks after planting.
Yuccas are not overly fond of pot cultivation, but they are usually fine when large pots are used.
Use a three liter rose pot for a young seedling up to three years of age. For older plants, use ten liter pots or bigger.
Make sure the growing spot is located to have access to full sun, as Yuccas planted indoors with limited light and root run often have a dwarfish look. Though this look is actually a desirable one for some indoor yucca species.
The following video provides useful advice on cultivating Yucca plant
As they have very sharp foliage ensure that you wear protective chain mail or very tough gloves when doing any pruning or removal of yucca plants as they can easily cut off a finger!
Yucca plant care indoors: make sure that the plant has sufficient access to intense light. Use heavy pots as Yuccas tend to be heavy in both their stem and foliage.
When watering, simply sprinkle water on the top of the plant if the soil feels dry.
Although yuccas do not prefer to watered heavily, draught or lack of water can cause the leaves to turn brown or yellow. Other than pruning a Yucca plant it pretty much cares after itself.
Houseplants may require a low-nitrogen fertilizer a couple of times per year.
When grown outdoors, apply a time-release fertilizer in a circle around about where you expect the roots to be.
It is important to tidy plants regularly.
When propagating it is important to use mature tissue (in order to prevent root rot), and to perform the propagation in the spring.
Cut off the leafy top after marking the trunk, remove all of the upper leaves, and then plant the trunk in potting soil with the end that formerly had the leaves pointing up.
Now relocate the pot to a shady area. The trunk is expected to have rooted itself within two to three weeks of planting, and will start to produce new leaves.
After a wet warm winter, rust fungus can occur. This can be prevented by protecting the plants against heavy winter moisture with the use of a sheet of glass.
Slugs and snails can wreck havoc to Yucca seedlings. Use common insecticide to get rid of these pests.
Red-orange spores or lesions of the leaves are indications of a fungal disease. The infected leaves must be removed immediately in order to prevent further spreading.
Speckling on the leaves, as well as gray webs, are signs of spotted mites. In order to control this infestation, use insecticidal soaps and prune dead leaves off the plant.
In addition to this general Yucca plant growing guide page, the Gardener's HQ website also carries basic Yucca growing information and photographs on the following species specific pages:
I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Yucca plants. Updated May 2021