Yucca – Spineless Yucca (Y. elephantipes)

Yucca elephantipes, commonly known as Spineless Yucca is a member of the lily family.  The genus Yucca includes about 40 species of stemless or erect woody-stemmed plants with sword-shaped leaves arranged in a loose rosette.  Although this plant eventually matures at 30 feet (9 m) tall in the wild, growth indoors is extremely slow and large specimens are relatively expensive to buy and difficult to find.  Native to Guatemala and southeast Mexico, this tropical plant prefers high light and will do best in an east, west, or south-facing window.  Yucca is typically grown as a bush or with multiple canes: bush forms are grown from tips with three plants per pot; multiple canes typically have three or four canes of different heights in a container.

   Indoors yuccas grow 3 – 6 feet (0.9 – 1.8 m) tall with short, brown, rough-textured, trunk like stems topped with clusters of long, leathery leaves.  The base of the stem (trunk) is often greatly swollen.  The leaves are a glossy, dark green that can grow 4 feet (1.22 m) long and 3 inches (7.5 cm) wide.  Leaf edges are roughly toothed and the leaf tips are soft.  The branches at the top of the stem are somewhat thinner and much shorter with rosettes of downward-arching, non-rigid leaves.  One form of Y.e. ‘Variegata’ has leaf edges that are banded with creamy white.    

   Indoor yuccas do best if they can be summered outdoors and get 3 – 4 hours of sun.  When placing them outdoors, harden them off on a gradual basis.  With my own yucca, I place it where it gets the morning sun, but not the overhead heat of the day as the leaves will burn.

Proper Care

Light Yuccas needat least 3 hours of direct sunlight throughout the year.  With corresponding lower light levels during the winter months, the plant will live but growth will be minimal.

Temperature One of yucca’s best features is its ability to handle variable temperature changes and it is an excellent choice for a situation where areas have a variety of fluctuating temperatures.  They are also extremely tolerant of dry air and will thrive in conditions that are unsuitable for other plants.

Watering  Water liberally as necessary to keep the potting mixture thoroughly moist during the active period of growth (spring, summer, autumn).  When you water do not let the containers stand in water.  During low-light periods, allow ¾ of the soil to dry down between waterings.  

Propagation  To propagate yuccas, cut off an offset that carries at least four 6 – 9 inch (182 – 274 cm) leaves.  Insert the offset into a 4 – 5 inch (121 – 152 cm) pot containing equal amounts of moistened potting mixture and coarse sand or perlite.  Place the pot in bright, filtered light and keep the mixture barely moist until you see evidence of new growth.  Begin to water moderately with enough water to moisten the rooting mixture but allowing the top inch of the soil to dry out before watering again. 

Potting/re-potting. Plant yuccas in heavy pots, such as clay, as the weight of some of the rosettes may become top-heavy and the plant becomes easy to knock over.  Re-pot in spring only when their roots have filled the current container. 

Feeding  Apply liquid fertiliser every two weeks during the active growing period.

Special Problems

Over-watering  Foliage collapse or cane rotting will show up especially at the soil line from over-watering.