Yucca Plant: Complete Care Guide


Yuccas are popular houseplants, and the most common type is known as cane yucca. Many yuccas originate in Guatemala, southeast Mexico, and the Sonoran desert (think Arizona) and are one of the largest succulents because they can grow up to 30 ft. tall.

Yuccas are drought and pest resistant and don’t have many nutritional needs, so they’re easy to care for. Yuccas need lots of light, and they thrive in warm sunny climates, but they also grow well in cool areas.

Yucca is a hardy plant, and it’s great for beginner gardeners because it’s easy to maintain – but even the toughest plants have basic needs. The yucca is susceptible to overwatering. So, for a healthy, thriving yucca plant, look at our complete care guide below.

An image of a smiling young woman holding a yucca plant.

How to Grow a Yucca from a Cutting (propagate it)

Yucca plants are easy to propagate, and there are three ways to do this. It can be propagated from its pups – cut down from its trunk, or the plants can be grown from traditional cuttings. For the best results, it’s better to propagate yuccas in the spring.

To have more yuccas around the home or some baby plants to give to friends, here are three of the best methods for propagating yuccas below.

Method #1 – From pups or suckers

Yucca plants produce babies known as pups or suckers, which will sprout from the base of the trunk. Once the pups are old enough to survive alone, they can be moved into their own pots.

Pups are ready to propagate once all their leaves are green. Green leaves indicate they can produce their own chlorophyll.

To propagate a yucca pup, dig into the soil and identify the rhizomes of the pup – these are the thick roots that connect it to the main plant.

Choose the pups with the thickest rhizomes and use a sterile garden knife or sharp scissors to cut them away from the root ball. Always leave a small part of the rhizome connected to the mother plant.

Put the pup in a small container of water until it’s developed roots or put it directly into a small pot of soil. If putting the pup directly into the soil, keep it very moist until it’s developed roots.

Some gardeners recommend leaving the pups out in a warm shady area to dry out for a few days before replanting them.

Method #2 – From the trunk

If the yucca is getting too big, it can also be cut down from its trunk to create a new plant. Yuccas don’t need much pruning, but they might occasionally need to be cut back if they outgrow their space.

To propagate from the trunk, simply cut the plant through the trunk at the new height you’d like it to be. The yucca will look a bit sad and bare for a few weeks – but don’t worry, it’ll regrow.

Put the top part of the plant that was cut off in some soil and eventually, it will grow roots.

Method #3 – From a cutting

New yucca plants can also be grown by cutting from the main plant. Mature yucca plants often produce new shoots at the top near the foliage, and they can be used to produce new plants.

To propagate from a cutting, remove a new shoot from the plant with a sterile garden knife or scissors. The cutting should be around 6 inches long, and its lower leaves must be removed before planting.

The cutting can be planted directly into a pot – make sure to put it deep enough so it won’t topple over. Keep the plant moist for the first few weeks until it has developed roots.

Some growers like to use rooting hormones to help cuttings establish roots quicker.

How Long Does It Take for a Yucca Cutting to Grow?

It takes between 2 and 5 weeks for a yucca cutting to develop roots and around three years to fully mature. Yucca plants are slow-growing, and some species, such as the Joshua tree yucca, can take 50 or 60 years to reach maturity.  

After six weeks, the yucca cutting should be healthy and thrive with a good root system. After six weeks, try tugging the plant very gently to test for roots.

If there is resistance, the plant has strong roots in place. If it comes out, your plant hasn’t developed roots yet, so put it back in the soil and keep watering it.

Yucca plants will only grow a few inches per year on average, and how much they grow depends on their environment. Yucca plants in the perfect environment with the right water and light will grow much faster than a yucca in the shade.

For example, indoor yuccas generally grow more slowly than outdoor plants.

How to Germinate Yucca Plant Seeds

Yucca seeds planted directly into the soil don’t have a strong chance of survival. It’s better to germinate yucca seeds in a propagator or on wet paper towels before putting them into a pot or the ground.

Yucca seeds can be tricky to germinate because they take a long time to mature. So, most people like to grow yuccas from pups or cuttings instead.

It takes around 30 to 40 days for yucca seeds to germinate – in some cases, it can take up to a year.

To give the seeds the best chance of growing, start them in the winter if they’re indoors or in the early spring if you grow them outside. Before germinating the seeds, rub them gently with soft file sandpaper.

This process is called “scaring,” as it gives the seeds a few scars to mimic damage required in germination. This also helps the seeds absorb water, which will kick-start the germination process.

Put the seeds in a shallow container lined with a paper towel, cover them with about half an inch of water, and place another paper towel over the top. Keep the seeds at room temperature and add water when needed – don’t let them dry out.

After around 4 or 5 weeks, the shoots should appear – when they’re around half an inch long, it’s time to put the seedlings into the soil. Put seedlings into a propagator or small pots with a high-quality succulent or cactus potting mix.

To help them mature quicker, place the seeds under grow lights or near a bright, sunny window.

An image of a hand with a tweezer attempt to transfer germinated sprout into germination tray with soil.

How to Transplant a Yucca Plant

To transplant the yucca, have a new and bigger pot and some fresh compost or potting mix ready. The new pot must have drainage holes, and for extra drainage, some pearlite or pebbles can be added to the soil.  

When to transplant yucca

Yuccas like to be slightly rootbound, so they usually only need to be transplanted every 2 – 3 years. Re-pot the yucca if the roots poke out of the drainage hole, or if they’re matted in the topsoil.

If water runs straight through the pot when watered, this is also a sign the plant needs transplanting.

Yuccas have sharp leaves, so wear gardening gloves and long sleeves when handling them. When re-potting a yucca, use the next pot size up and make sure the pot has plenty of drainage holes.

Don’t use a pot that’s too big, because there is a risk that excess water may sit in the soil.

Soil preparation

Yucca plants don’t have complex nutritional needs, and they grow well in standard potting compost or a succulent mix. However, yuccas don’t like too much moisture in the soil, so to help with drainage, add sand, peat, pearlite, or pebble to the compost.

Yucca plants can be big and heavy with sharp leaves, so it’s not always practical to re-pot the large ones. You can remove some of the old soil from the pot and replace it with fresh compost as an alternative to repotting.

Yucca Plant Care

Yucca plants are famous for being hardy and easy to care for, but their basic needs must be met for them to thrive. Yucca plants need lots of sunlight, and they should not be overwatered.

Take a look at the information below to get a clear idea about what yuccas need.

How much sun should a yucca get?

Yucca plants need at least 3 – 6 hours of bright sunlight each day, so they need a sunny spot in the home or garden. Yucca plants like the sun, but it can damage their leaves if they get too much.

The best place for indoor yuccas is a south or west-facing window -but use a shade or netting on the window so the light isn’t too intense.

Direct sunlight from a bright window might be too much for the plant. You should also turn the plant each week to encourage even growth.

Outdoor yuccas thrive with several hours of direct sunlight each day. However, if yuccas get too much sunlight, it can damage their leaves, so try to ensure they get some shade throughout the day.

Can yuccas live in low light?

Yucca plants love the sun, but they can also live in shady areas. However, yucca plants living in the shade will grow and develop much slower, have paler leaves, and they may grow long and spindly.

Yucca plants that live with less light will need less watering because the water won’t evaporate as quickly from the soil. Yuccas can survive in low light, but they won’t thrive or produce flowers.

Is yucca a good indoor plant?

Yuccas are fantastic indoor plants because they like a warm environment and a steady, constant temperature. As houseplants, they bring pleasant greenery to the home and do an excellent job of purifying the air. 

Yucca plants don’t like drafts – they need a dry, well-ventilated area with no humidity.

There’s no need to mist yucca leaves with water, but the leaves can be cleaned regularly with a damp cloth. This will remove any dust so the plant can breathe and absorb light. Yuccas won’t flower when they’re indoors.

Yuccas have sharp leaves and are mildly toxic to animals and humans, so if you have pets or children, always put yuccas out of their reach.

What kind of soil does a yucca need?

Yucca plants don’t need highly fertile soil, and they prefer it to be neutral to slightly acidic. They like gritty soil, which provides lots of drainage options and helps to anchor these top-heavy plants into the ground.  

The best soil for yuccas is succulent or cactus compost, but they also thrive in regular compost. Yuccas don’t like moist soil, so many growers add a mix of 3:1 sand and peat to their soil for extra drainage.

Add sand, pearlite, or pebbles to the compost to help it drain. Yucca plants don’t need a lot of food or fertilizer, but you can give them a small amount of it in the spring and summer.

How much water does a yucca need?

Yucca plants come from the desert, so they’re used to dry conditions, and they don’t need a lot of water. They’re an excellent plant for people who forget to water their plants or travel a lot.

Yucca plants are drought resistant and can go for a long time without water, and few will die from underwatering. The main problem with yuccas is that people tend to overwater them, making them ill and even killing them.

An image of a yucca plant blooming in the garden.

How often do you water yucca?

As a rule, water yuccas once a week in the summer, from April through to September, and once or twice a month in the winter. Each yucca plant will have different watering needs depending on its environment.

Yucca plants that are in the shade will need less water than those in full sunlight, and yuccas in pots will need more than those in the garden.

Get the yucca’s watering routine exactly right because too much water can lead to a fatal plant illness – root rot. To prevent root rot, only give yucca plants water when they need it.

Here’s how to tell if your yucca needs water:

Step #1 – Feel the Soil with your finger

Feel the top of the soil with your finger. If the first few inches are completely dry, the yucca needs a drink. If the soil feels damp, don’t water your yucca – let it dry out more first.  

Step #2 – Probe the soil with a tool

For an accurate reading of a yucca’s moisture levels, buy a digital soil probe. The probe will penetrate deep into the pot and clearly measure the plant’s moisture levels.

Another alternative is to stick a cocktail or matchstick in the soil to check the moisture. If the stick comes out dry, your plant needs water. If the stick is moist and covered in soil, you don’t need to water your plant just yet.

Step #3 – Lift the pot

An easy way to tell if your plant needs a drink is by lifting the pot if it’s not too big. A heavy pot indicates lots of moisture in the soil – a light pot means the soil is dry, and the yucca needs a drink.

What zones will yucca grow in?

Yucca plants originate in warm climates, but they can tolerate some cold and are very hardy. The average yucca plant will grow well in zones 5 to 10, but some species will grow in zones 3 to 11.

Some yucca plants can tolerate temperatures as low as -35 degrees Fahrenheit, but they don’t like wet, soggy soil, and they might struggle outside in damp climates. Cold-sensitive outdoor yuccas must be protected from frost and rain.

Hardy yuccas will manage better in the cold, but they don’t like fluctuating temperatures. Even cold-hardy yuccas will need some protection if there is a cold snap after it’s been warm for a while.

Protect the yucca from frost, rain, or snow by covering it with a sheet. You shouldn’t use plastic or synthetic materials – these can damage their leaves.

Instead, use a cotton sheet or blanket. Use a plastic sheet on top of the fabric sheet or blanket for a rain cover.

There are over forty species of yucca and lots of subspecies, so always choose cold-hardy yuccas to grow outside if you live in the lower grow zones.

Are there any cold-hardy yucca varieties?

If living in zone 5 or below, choose a cold-hardy yucca. There are several cold-hardy yuccas to choose from, including Yucca Glauca, Yucca Harrimaniae, Yucca Nanna, or the Yucca Baccata.

The Yucca Glauca is a small plant also known as small soapweed and is one of the hardiest yuccas, which can withstand temperatures of -30 to -35 degrees.

The Adam’s Needle is one of the most popular yuccas for zones 4 and 5, and it’s renowned for being cold-hardy. The Yucca Baccata is also known as banana or Datil Yucca and can withstand temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Here in Utah, we live in zone 7a, and we just got a yucca harrimaniae to plant in our water-wise front yard. I haven’t planted it yet, but I need to do it soon because the cat thinks it’s for her.

Do yuccas need yucca moths to thrive?

In the wild, yucca plants depend on yucca moths for pollination. Without pollination, the yucca won’t produce seeds, and eventually, it will fall into decline. If yucca plants don’t have yucca moths around, they will still grow, but they won’t produce seeds.

The yucca moth and plant have a special relationship. The plant depends on the moth for pollination, and the moth depends solely on the yucca as a food source. They’re codependent, and one can survive in the wild without the other.

If there are no yucca moths in the area, or if you want seeds from an indoor plant, plan on pollinating the yuccas by hand.

Yucca Plant Problems: Solved!

Like all plants, yuccas need care and attention to grow and thrive. If something isn’t right in a plant’s environment, it will show, and yellow, drooping leaves are one of the first indicators of poor health.

To help you get the best from a yucca plant, below we’ll look at some common yucca plant problems and the best solutions.

Why is My Yucca Plant Leaves Drooping?

Yucca leaves will droop due to overwatering or underwatering – or because they don’t have enough sunlight. It’s important to find out why yucca leaves are drooping because if left unattended, the yucca might die.

Here are the most common reasons your yucca plant might be drooping:

Reason #1 – Not enough sunlight

The most common reason a yucca plant will droop is if it’s not getting enough sunlight. Yuccas love the sun, and if they don’t get enough, they will start to look poor and unhealthy.

If a plant isn’t getting enough sunlight, move it to a sunnier spot in the home or in the garden.

Reason #2 – Too much or too little water

The first indicator that there’s something wrong with yucca plants’ watering routine is drooping leaves. Drooping leaves can mean that the plant is getting too much or too little water.

You can tell whether over or under-watering is causing droopy leaves by feeling the topsoil. If the soil is wet and your plant has droopy leaves, it’s overwatered, so leave it to dry out before you water it again.

If the plant has been overwatered for a long time, drooping leaves might be a sign of root rot which we’ll explore further on in the article.

If the soil is dry and the plant is drooping, underwatering is the cause, and you need to give your plant a good drink to help it recover.

Reason #3 – Temperature fluctuations

Yuccas don’t like dramatic temperature fluctuations, and if there is an unexpected cold flash, this may cause the yucca leaves to droop in the days following it.

Cover them up if there is a sudden drop in temperature to prevent outdoor yuccas from drooping when it’s cold.

Reason #4 – Pests

Yucca plants are pest-resistant, which means they’re less likely to get them, but they can still become the victim of an infestation. If your yucca has drooping leaves, it might have a pest problem.

Usually, there are visible signs of pests on the plant, such as tiny insects or damaged leaves. If you think your yucca has a pest problem, identify the pest and treat it accordingly.

What do Yellow Leaves Mean on a Yucca?

It’s normal for a yucca to have yellow leaves occasionally. As the plant grows and develops, some of the lower leaves will usually turn yellow and fall off. If there are yellow leaves all over the plant, it usually indicates a problem.

Here are the most common reasons for yellow leaves on yucca and what you can do about them:

Reason #1 – Over or under-watering

Yellowing leaves can be a sign of both over and under-watering. If yucca plants don’t get enough water, they can’t absorb nutrients and minerals from the soil. If they get too much water, they can’t absorb oxygen, and they can suffocate.

One way to find out if over or under-watering is causing yellow leaves is by feeling them. If the leaves are yellow and feel dry and crispy, the plant is underwatered, and it needs a drink.

If the yellow leaves on the yucca plant feel soft and floppy, then it’s overwatered, and let the plant dry out before you give it another drink. If the plant doesn’t get better after a week of drying out it might have root rot.

Reason #2 – Root rot

Root rot is a fungal infection that thrives in damp conditions and attacks a plant’s roots. Root rot is severe, and, in most cases, it will kill the plant. If you think your yucca has root rot, remove the plant from its pot and soil to inspect the roots.

The roots of a healthy yucca plant will be pale or white and firm – if they’re brown and slimy, chances are it has root rot. In severe cases, the rot may spread to the trunk, so if the bottom of the yucca plant is mushy, it won’t survive.

Try and save the yucca by removing the rotten roots with some sterile scissors. Before re-potting it, sterilize the old pot, or use a new one, and then use an entire batch of fresh compost.

To avoid root rot don’t overwater your plant and never leave it sitting on a drainage plate.

Reason #3 – Too much sunlight

Yucca plants like the sun, but too much can turn their leaves yellow. They get too much sunlight if they dry out a lot and they must be watered more than twice a week.

If you think your yucca has yellow leaves because of too much sunlight, move it to an area with more shade.

An image of a green yucca plant leaves in the garden.

Common Yucca Plant Issues

Overwatering is the biggest problem with yucca plants – if they get too much water, this can cause root rot. Root rot isn’t the only problem with yuccas – they can also suffer from lack of sunlight or fall victim to parasite invasions. The main indicator of your yucca’s health is its leaves.

We’ll troubleshoot some common yucca plant issues below:

SymptomCauseSolution
Pale Leaves Pale leaves usually indicate that the yucca needs more sunlight.Move the yucca to a sunnier spot – yucca plants need a minimum of 3 – 6 hours of sunlight each day.
Brown or Black Spots LeavesBrown or black spots or leaf deformities can be caused by bacteria, fungi, or insect parasites.Remove the affected leaves, get an ID on the parasite, and treat the plant with an organic fungicide or insecticide. Common yucca parasites include agave bugs, mealybugs, and scale.
Brown Leaf TipsBrown tips usually indicate inconsistent watering.Adjust your yucca watering schedule. The average yucca will need water once a week in the summer and only once or twice a month in the winter. Cut the brown tips off the yucca with pruning shears or a garden knife.
Curling LeavesCurling yucca leaves are usually a sign of overwatering.If the soil in the yucca plant is wet, let the top two or three inches dry out before watering it again.
Table 1: common yucca leaf problems with solutions.

Best Products for Yucca Plants

Now that you know more about caring for your yucca plant let’s make things easier by helping you have the right gear on hand to make things as easy and efficient as possible.

This site uses paid referral links from carefully selected advertising partners. I only promote products I actually like, use, and recommend. As an Amazon Associate, I can earn from qualifying purchases. Please refer to my disclaimer in the terms and conditions for additional details.

Best yucca tools (pruning, weeding, digging)

  • Having a weeding and digging knife (think hori-hori) makes a big difference in taking care of plants. This hori-hori knife, available on Amazon, comes with different options to meet any budget.
  • That being said, you will want garden shears for cutting any leaves. This set of garden shears on Amazon lets you choose the style you want for a good price.
  • I love having a few reusable ceramic pots on hand, but buying a few of those gets expensive fast if you’re just getting started. That’s when having a reusable seedling tray kit (like this one) comes in handy.
  • A moisture meter (see pricing on Amazon here) isn’t something you should rely on, but it is a handy tool when you’re just starting out, and you want that extra reassurance that you’re on the right path.

Succulents need different soil than other plants. Please don’t plant them in regular potting soil, as that’s not their best-growing environment.

mojave yucca yucca schidigera 2021 08 31 17 30 02 utc 1

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

The main thing to remember about yucca plants is that they don’t need too much water. Never water your yucca if its soil is still wet – wait for the top two inches to dry out first.

Yucca plants are hardy, but they are susceptible to root rot if they get too much water. Yuccas also need plenty of sunlight – a south-facing window or spot in the garden is ideal.

If your yucca doesn’t get enough sunlight, its leaves will turn yellow, and it will be slow to grow and develop.

But if you can grow them? Then they can make a great addition to your indoor garden, your landscape, or your backyard homestead. Personally, we’re using them in our front yard landscaping, although I won’t be sad when we’ve got enough yuccas planted to look at making some yucca jams!

If you liked this resource or found it helpful, please help me spread the word and share this article on social media.

Resources

It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal research to be more informed as homesteaders.

  • “Are Yucca Plants Poisonous to Humans, Cats, Dogs, or Pets? – LeafyJournal.” The Leafy Journal, leafyjournal.com/are-yucca-plants-poisonous-to-humans-cats-dogs-or-pets. Accessed 10 May 2022.
  • Kilpatrick, Judy. “Yucca Plants and Cold Temperatures.” Home Guides | SF Gate, 21 Sept. 2020, homeguides.sfgate.com/yucca-plants-cold-temperatures-29728.html.
  • Marsden, Christy. “Root Rots on Houseplants.” Wisconsin Horticulture, hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/root-rots-houseplants. Accessed 10 May 2022.
  • Ryczkowski, Angela. “What Eats Yucca Plants?” Home Guides | SF Gate, 7 Oct. 2016, homeguides.sfgate.com/eats-yucca-plants-39094.html.
  • “StackPath.” Gardening Know-How, www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/propagation/seeds/nicking-plant-seeds.htm. Accessed 9 May 2022.
  • “YUCCA.” Archive, archive.bio.ed.ac.uk/jdeacon/desertecology/yuccas.htm. Accessed 10 May 2022.
  • “Yucca Plant – Cold Hardy and Colourful.” Plant Post, www.plantpost.co.uk/yucca-plant.php#.YnrdK4xBzIV. Accessed 10 May 2022.
An image of Kimberly and her daughter gardening

About Us

I’m Kimberly Starr. My family has always loved being outside and gardening. Now we are building a backyard homestead and immersing ourselves in this wonderful new lifestyle. We’re learning as we go what works and what doesn’t. This website is where we’re sharing everything we’ve learned.

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