While yucca is one common name for the many species of Yucca, some species are better known as Joshua tree, Spanish dagger/bayonet, soapweed or Adam's needle. The 40 species of yucca are all native to North America or the Caribbean islands and range in form from rosette-forming perennials to massing or treelike shrubs with rough stems. The spear-like leaves are attractive and the upright clusters of white flowers make yuccas a favourite among gardeners to use in sunny, dry-soil sites. A yucca is appropriate for landscapes in U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness zones 4 and warmer, depending on species.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Hand pruners
- Coarse mulch
- Rubbing alcohol
Plant the yucca in the landscape where it will experience the best growing conditions. All yucca plants must have a well-drained soil and ample sunlight---at least eight hours of direct sunlight daily. In humid regions, ample air circulation around plants help diminish problems with fungal rot on leaves and stems.
Place a 2- to 3-inch layer of coarse mulch like large bark nuggets or gravel around the base of the yucca, keeping it at least 2 inches away from the plant stem. The mulch or gravel prevents leaves from coming in contact with soil, which is important to prevent splashback of rainwater or soil. Overly wet conditions in the shade under the yucca leaves promotes fungal growth---conditions you want to avoid.
Water the yucca across the growing season if natural rainfall is lacking. A deep, infrequent watering (say once every three to four weeks in a drought) keeps the yucca plant growing nicely, even though it is very tolerant of drought. "Twice a month watering" is recommended by Mary Irish on the Learn2Grow website. Ample soil moisture keeps new leaves growing as well as create a situation conducive for flower production in late summer or early fall. Do not provide supplemental water to yucca plants in the cool, short-day months of late fall to early spring.
Remove old flower stems with a hand pruners after the white, bell-shaped flowers wane. Carefully cut the flower stalk low into the base of leaves in the top of the yucca plant. Wearing gloves ensures no leaf tips pierce your hands during the task.
Prune off dead, diseased leaves from the base of the yucca plant with a hand pruners anytime of year. Yellow or brown spots indicate fungal diseases as does black leaves. Cut off ugly foliage that is infected, ideally where the leaves meet the thick stem and sterilise the cutting blades with rubbing alcohol. Good air circulation in the centre of plant clumps or under the umbrella-like canopy of yucca leaves helps reduce bouts with fungal rot, as does the mulch top-dressing on the soil surface.
Tips and warnings
- If you want to propagate plants from yucca, sever the roots of the little "pup" plants at the base of larger yuccas in spring according to the American Horticultural Society's "A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants." Replant these little yuccas to a pot or new garden location to establish and grow across spring and summer.
- Yucca plants not receiving enough intense sunlight or are growing in overly wet soils become stressed and often are plagued by scale insects.
- Consider using eye goggles when working around larger/taller yucca plants so you are not harmed as you work in and around the leaves.
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