How To Care For A Yucca Plant Indoors: Your Complete Guide
The yucca plant delights as a houseplant with its swordlike green-hued leaves that sprout from different sections of a small trunk. Here's what to know about this drought-tolerant, low-maintenance plant that's easy to care for when grown in the right conditions.
The yucca plant.
Yucca plants are native to the Caribbean and North and South America and grow in arid, hot climates. Its succulent qualities allow the plant to store water in its leaves to withstand long periods of drought. There are over 40 species of yucca plants, but very few that are adapted to grow inside. One species, Yucca gigantea (also goes by Yucca elephantipes) is the star of the show that can live indoors. This variety is what you'll find at a garden center or nursery when browsing to buy a yucca houseplant.
"The yucca is a striking architectural plant that can add a dramatic focal point to a room as long as it has the correct growing conditions to keep it healthy and strong," says Lisa Eldred Steinkopf, founder of The Houseplant Guru and author of four books, including Houseplants: The Complete Guide.
Types of yucca plants.
Here are a few of the most popular varieties of yucca you'll likely come across in your search.
- Yucca gigantea (and Y. elephantipes): If you want a yucca houseplant, this is the variety that is best suited to be grown inside.
- Yucca aloifolia: This yucca also goes by the name of Spanish Bayonet and is known for its sharp, pointy leaves.
- Yucca flaccida: Known as Color Guard Yucca, this one has swordlike leaves with strips of yellow down the middle and olive greens on the edges.
Planting & growing a yucca plant.
When bringing home a plant, it's important to consider the space and conditions it needs so it can thrive. The yucca plant loves sunlight, so an ideal location is in a sunny area of the home. "The ideal spot is within 6 feet or so of a south- or west-facing window, or very close to an east-facing window, where they can soak up as much direct sunlight as possible," says Lindsay Pangborn, Bloomscape's gardening expert.
Just make sure the window you place it near isn't damp or drafty. A "spot near a drafty window or the shade may not be a good location, especially in the winter," says Margaret McCoy, Ph.D., of True Organic. You also don't want to place your plant near any vents, as the blowing air may disrupt its leaves, explains Pangborn.
Caring for the plant.
Yuccas are easy to care for as long as their basic needs are met. Here's what to consider when tending to your plant.
Knowing how much water your plant needs is fundamental to ensure it thrives. Yuccas are drought-tolerant so they do best when thoroughly watered and then left alone until their soil is dry again.
"Water your yucca by adding water until it runs out the drainage hole, making sure the entire root ball is moistened," says Steinkopf. She suggests that you never let your plant sit in water, so be sure to empty its saucer after you've watered it.
Make sure to wait for the soil to dry out between waterings before giving your plant another drink. "Let them approach almost complete dryness before you water again," says Raffaele Di Lallo, houseplant expert, author of Houseplant Warrior, and founder of Ohio Tropics. "They grow in the drier parts of the tropics, so you should try and mimic these same conditions indoors."
Since yuccas are accustomed to hot climates, you'll want to place this plant in an area where it will receive lots of sunlight. "A south or west window would be preferable," says Steinkopf. So how much sun is ideal for this plant? "Yuccas are happiest when they receive at least six hours of direct sunlight per day," says Pangborn. "If that's not possible, they can also do well in bright, indirect light."
Grow lights like these can be an option if you're concerned there isn't sufficient light in your home. "If you don't have enough sun to support this plant, supplemental light such as a spotlight could be hung over the plant,'' says Steinkopf.
Soil is essential because it contains the nutrients most plants need to survive. Every plant has different soil needs so it's important to select a potting soil that the yucca will like. Many yuccas grow in regions where the soil is sandy and doesn't contain many nutrients but drains well. "Using soil that retains too much water can deprive the roots of oxygen and over time can cause them to not function properly," Pangborn explains.
"Using a good cactus/succulent potting mix, to which you can add some perlite or pumice for added drainage, as well as some additional coarse sand, would work well," says Di Lallo.
Growing a yucca plant at the right temperature is also important. They can usually tolerate low temperatures, but when the thermometer goes below freezing, they'll suffer. "Desert plants are accustomed to strong diurnal temperature swings so normal living temperatures are fine for these plants," says McCoy. What temperature should you aim for? According to Di Lallo, "If possible, try to keep your plant in the 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit range (16 to 32 degrees Celsius)."
Common problems & how to fix.
Notice that your yucca is looking a little worse for wear? Here are a few potential reasons why and what they mean:
- Leaf spotting and yellowing leaves: Leaf spotting is a sign your yucca is getting more water than it needs or that it's lacking sunlight. "Leaf spotting, and in more advanced stages, yellowing leaves, are signs of soil that is staying too wet, which can eventually lead to root rot," says Pangborn. "This usually happens when you are watering too often and/or the plant is not receiving enough light." Make sure to wait for the soil to dry out between waterings and place your plant in a spot that gets direct sunlight or bright, indirect sunlight.
- Brown spots: Outdoor plants are adapted to rainwater, so when indoor plants are watered with tap water, some issues can arise. "Fluoride in tap water can eventually cause brown spots in the leaf margins, and the browning will spread and become unsightly," says Di Lallo. "Switching your water source to rainwater or distilled water will stop the issue from becoming worse."
- Brown tips: Although yuccas need lots of sunlight, it is possible for the plant to get too much. Brown tips "will most often happen with a plant that is receiving lots of direct sunlight and/or is placed outdoors," says Pangborn. The brown tips are pretty obvious, but if you pay close attention you may observe changes with the soil, too. "The soil will dry out much faster in these conditions, due to evaporation and the plant using the water more quickly, so be sure to monitor the plant and water more often," says Pangborn.
- Bleached spots: If you start to notice your yucca's leaves quickly changing color or taking on a lighter hue, it's also likely due to too much sun. "Yucca leaves can develop pale, bleached spots as a response to receiving more direct sunlight."
How to propagate.
Yucca plants are beautiful, so you'll likely want more than one of them in your home. Thankfully, they're pretty easy to propagate using this simple cutting method:
- "Cut off the leafy top of your yucca plant, and strip a few of the bottom leaves off, if necessary," to expose a stem, says Di Lallo. This is a cutting of your future new plant. (Don't be too concerned about the spot where you snipped off your cutting. New growth will eventually cover any bare section!)
- Let the cutting air-dry for a few days to reduce moisture and the chance of rot.
- "Place your cutting in a pot of soil, water it well, and wait for it to root and start growing," says Di Lallo.
- Make sure the soil is kept moist while the cutting forms roots.
- Once it has established roots and begins to grow, let your plant's soil dry out between waterings, and follow the care practices above.
Tips to keep in mind.
Here are some final quick tips to ensure your yucca plant is happy and healthy.
- "Yucca plants are considered toxic to cats and dogs, due to saponins present in the plant, so try and keep them away from any curious pets," notes Di Lallo.
- "This succulent plant has sharp, pointy leaves that could be painful if one runs into them," says Steinkopf. Avoid placing in a hallway, an area where there is foot traffic, or anywhere that someone could run into the leaves.
- "This plant likes to be slightly root bound, so repotting can be done every two to three years, maybe even longer," says McCoy. Here's a guide to repotting when the time comes.
- "Yuccas don't need much fertilizer, but adding small amounts can help promote growth," says Pangborn. "Apply a slow-release fertilizer to the top layer of soil once per year in the spring, or fertilizer once per month in the spring and summer with a regular houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength."
The bottom line.
As long as you have a space in your home that gets plenty of sunlight and even temperatures, you have a chance of growing a stunning yucca plant. Pair your new greenery with these other tall houseplants to take your indoor jungle up yet another notch.
Lauren David is a Chilean-American freelance writer. She writes about gardening, food, health and wellness, and sustainability. She has been published in Allrecipes, Greatist, The Healthy, The Kitchn and more.
When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time in her garden, experimenting with ingredients in the kitchen, or spending time by the ocean. See her portfolio on her website.