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Yucca Care

Posted By Peter Jeffries On June 29, 2010 @ 1:39 pm In Garden & Outdoors | Comments Disabled

Yuccas are presently one of the trendiest plants around. Drive past any strikingly modern home and chances are you’ll see a yucca plant through the window or somewhere in the architecturally planned garden. But you don’t have to be on the upper rungs of the real estate market [1] to enjoy these tropical plants, they look great in almost any setting. Learn all about yucca care in this How To guide.

Needles, Daggers, Bayonets

The yucca most commonly available as an indoor plant in New Zealand is the Yucca Elephantipes. Known variously as the Spineless Yucca, Spanish Dagger, Adam’s Needle, Spanish Bayonet and Soapweed yuccas are hardy perennials that generally range from 30 cm to 2.5 meters in height. They have thick woody stems that bear, at their upper ends, clusters of long, dark-green, spear-shaped leaves.

Yucca – a Plant With a History

During late spring and summer, yuccas may produce dramatic clusters of white, bell-shaped flowers. So striking are these flowers that early settlers of the south-western United States called them “Lamparas de Dios” or “Lanterns of God”. Pollination and proper yucca care are necessary for the formation of these flowers on indoor plants.

A member of the Agavae family, the yucca is closely related to the lily and has its origins in Mexico and Central America where it was prized by indigenous peoples for the medicinal and nutritional properties of the yucca flower. North American natives, too, found the plant useful, using it to make clothing and soap (yucca roots are rich in saponins).

Caring for Your Yucca

If you want a houseplant that will grow in most conditions and which requires minimal care, you won’t go far wrong with a yucca – in fact the plant is so hardy it is sometimes called the “No Water Plant”.

Yucca plants fare best in bright light situations. Indoor yuccas should therefore be placed near windows to take advantage of natural light.

Yuccas like sandy, well-drained soil. Use an appropriate potting mix and place a 5 cm layer of pebbles in the bottom of the pot for optimum yucca care. Do not put a catcher or plate under your yucca’s pot. Waterlogged roots are one of the most common killers of this plant.

Though yuccas are almost set-and-forget houseplants, they will benefit from a dose of fertiliser two or three times a year.

Watering Your Yucca

The single most important element of good yucca care is watering. Yucca’s like to be reasonably dry and suffer badly from over watering. Water about once every ten days. You can tell when it’s time to water by checking the soil – it should be dry down to a depth of about 2.5 cm.

Indications of poor yucca care due to watering are:

  • Leaves show brown tips surrounded by a yellow halo – too much water.
  • Leaves turn yellow or brown all over – too little water.

Pests

Happily, yuccas are resistant to most pests. Probably the worst thing you’ll find is an infestation of scale or mealy bug. If this occurs, just spray the plant with a solution of dishwashing liquid and water. If that doesn’t do the trick use a commercial insecticide like Neem Oil [2].

Pruning

Generally, yucca care doesn’t involve pruning the leaves of your yucca plant, but you may want to prune in two other ways.

The flower stalk: this may be pruned away from the plant after (or even before) the flower has finished blooming. Use pruning shears to cut it about 10 cm above the stalk-base.

The plant itself: yuccas can grow quite tall and in a houseplant this may present a problem for the average homeowner. The solution is simple, but drastic:

  1. Remove the yucca from its pot.
  2. Use a saw to cut the plant in half – the cut should be made mid-way between the start of the trunk and the first leaf cluster.
  3. Re-pot the bottom half of the trunk (the root end) and water well.
  4. Place the re-potted trunk in a well-lit position.

Though it might feel like you’ve just killed your yucca, the plant will actually recover and begin to sprout new leaves.

A New Plant Free

You can grow yourself a whole new plant for nothing after the above pruning process. Just take the discarded leaf end of the trunk, saw off the top of the trunk just below where the leaves begin and pot with the old leaf end pointed upwards.

The Easiest of Houseplants

As long as you apply the principles of good yucca care (water sparingly, plenty of light, feed occasionally) your yucca plant will give you years of enjoyment for minimal effort, whether you live in a trendy house or not.


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[1] real estate market: http://www.wkb.co.nz

[2] Neem Oil: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neem_oil

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