Should Yucca Plants Be in the Sun or Shade?

Written by carly fiske
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Should Yucca Plants Be in the Sun or Shade?
Yucca plants thrive under harsh conditions, including poor soil and full shade. (Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

Yucca plants prefer hot temperatures and full sun exposure, but the hardy plants tolerate virtually any environmental conditions, including full shade. Many varieties of yucca have become popular in home gardens thanks to their interesting shapes, versatility and hardiness. Plant these evergreen shrubs in your yard to add texture to any part of the landscape.

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There are dozens of yucca species, all of which are rugged and tolerate all kinds of harsh conditions. They generally exhibit thick, spiny leaves that radiate from the central clump. Leaves are rigid and sword-like, forming a plant that is usually a few feet wide. When in flower, the central flower stalk towers above the plant, reaching between 2 and 40 feet, depending on the species.

Yucca plant species are often described as urban-tolerant, because they don't mind hot and dry conditions, poor soil, soil compaction and even full shade. These shrubs, which vary in size and growth habit, generally prefer full sun for at least 6 hours a day, but many species will thrive even when sunlight is mostly blocked.


Many yucca species thrive under almost any condition, such as Yucca filamentos, often called Adam's Needle. This plant is urban-tolerant and sends up annual flowering stalks that tower up to 8 feet in height. The plant thrives whether there is full sun or full shade, but generally prefers a sunny, dry environment. Yucca filamentos does not suffer under harsh conditions. Rather, the plant thrives even in extreme soil pH, high pollution and drought. Its deep taproots are nearly impossible to remove, and broken roots are used as a base of propagation for new plants in following months.

Shade-Tolerant Yuccas

An example of a shade-tolerant yucca is the Arkansas yucca. This variety can thrive in full-shade conditions, although it may not blossom as well in low light. The shrub is normally 1 or 2 feet high, with a flowering stalk reaching up to 3 feet. To ensure a springtime bloom of greenish-white flowers, plant Arkansas yucca in full sun. If flowering is not a concern, introduce the shrub to your garden as an understory plant, and it will thrive just as well. Dry, gravelly soil is all this yucca plant needs to grow well.

Sun-Loving Yuccas

The yucca tree is a variety of yucca that does best under very sunny conditions. It is often referred to as a Joshua tree. The yucca tree is less tolerant of shade than are shrublike yucca species and should be grown in full sun. The plant can reach as high as 20 feet and usually grows in desert regions where there is little sun protection. In fact, the tree provides shade to small creatures that rely on it for survival.

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