The Yucca is a member of the agave family (Agavaceae) which also includes houseplants such as Dracaena, Beaucarnea and Cordyline. In the wild the Yucca grows in hot dry regions in North and South America and the Caribbean. Hardy varieties can grow outside as an evergreen perennial, shrub or tree, although in frost prone areas it’s advised that these varieties are grown in a conservatory or greenhouse.
Yucca plants can be recognised by their broad, leathery leaves with a sharp tip that grows straight out of the soil or on one or more stems. In late summer to autumn panicles of bell-shaped cream coloured flowers will form.
Origin of the Yucca
The Yucca stems are imported from South America, where the plants grow on coffee plantations providing shade for the coffee plants. Yuccas grow about 30cm a year, and are pruned after a number of years. The pruned material is then potted in Europe, and after the leaf rosettes have formed the Yucca can be sold as a houseplant.
The most commonly sold species is the green-leafed Yucca elephantipes, named after an elephant’s foot, which the Yucca strongly resembles in natural conditions. Alongside the elephantipes species, Y. aloifolia and T. rostrata are also common, and in the garden we see Y. flaccida. There are also Yuccas where the leaf has pale edges, such as the Yucca elephantipes ‘Jewel’.
The rule of thumb is that the bigger and thicker the stem the easier the plant is to look after.
- Yucca needs a light position and requires regular watering – but not too much, since that can cause the stem to rot. Crisp, brown lower leaves are a result of under-watering but lower leaves will naturally shed as the plant grows. Remove these yellowing or unsightly leaves.
- Yucca can be placed outdoors in a sunny spot between May and October. Allow the plant to acclimatise to the sun in order to prevent scorching.
- Low light levels can result in sagging and drooping leaves but this can also be a result of over or underwatering.
- If you find your Yucca has a sudden yellowing and limpness of lower leaves then it’s likely the plant is being over-watered. Try letting the soil dry out completely before re-watering your plant again.
- If roots have rotted from over-watering then remove the plant from its pot, discard the excess soil and any rotten roots. Repot again with fresh compost in a pot just large enough for the reduced root ball and place in warm location.
- During the hibernation period in winter the plant can be placed in a cool spot and will then require less water.
- Yucca can even be pruned, preferably during the winter months.
- The plant may flower, particularly if it is somewhat ‘neglected’.
Text courtesy of The Plant Council Holland.
Images courtesy of The Joy of Plants.co.uk