Everything you Need to Know About Yucca Plants: Popular Types, Uses, Symbolism & How-To-Grow
With over 40 species of yuccas to choose from, you’re bound to find a plant you love. While all species of yuccas have sword-shaped leaves and large flowers, their native ranges and ideal growing conditions differ. Here we’ve rounded up 18 of our absolute favorite yucca plants and we’ve included expert care instructions and key considerations for each so you can find your perfect match. What’s more, you’ll find everything you need to know about yucca plant uses, benefits, meanings, symbolism, and more if you’re feeling a little curious. Enjoy!
- About Yucca Plants
- Yucca Plants – Uses & Benefits
- Yucca Plants – Meanings & Symbolism
- 18 Popular Types of Yucca Plants to Grow at Home
- 1) Yucca filamentosa (Adam’s needle)
- 2) Yucca gigantea (Spineless yucca)
- 3) Yucca rostrata (Beaked yucca)
- 4) Yucca gloriosa (Spanish dagger)
- 5) Yucca aloifolia (Aloe yucca)
- 6) Yucca brevifolia (Joshua tree)
- 7) Yucca baccata (Banana yucca)
- 8) Yucca schidigera (Mojave yucca)
- 9) Yucca glauca (Soapweed yucca plant)
- 10) Yucca elata (Soaptree yucca)
- 11) Yucca pallida (Pale-leaf yucca)
- 12) Yucca faxoniana (Giant white yucca)
- 13) Yucca x schottii (Mountain yucca)
- 14) Yucca thompsoniana (Thompson’s yucca)
- 15) Yucca flaccida (Weak-leaf yucca plant)
- 16) Hesperaloe parviflora (Red yucca plant)
- 17) Yucca rupicola (Twisted yucca)
- 18) Yucca wipplei (Our lord’s candle)
- How to Grow Yucca Plants at Home
- How to Care for Yucca Plants
- Common Yucca Plant Problems Pests & Diseases
- Wrapping Up
- Yucca Plant FAQs:
About Yucca Plants
Members of the asparagus family (Asparagaceae), yuccas are native to dry warm regions throughout the Americas. Some yuccas thrive in hot and dry areas while others prefer wet, tropical regions.
All yucca plants have rosettes of sword-shaped leaves. Each species also produces a tall panicle of large, white flowers.
There are 49 known yucca species. However, there is a great deal of visual variety within certain species.
Yucca plants are pollinated by yucca moths. These moths not only pollinate the flowers, but they also lay their eggs in flowers. The resulting caterpillar eats some but not all of the yucca seeds.
Yucca Plants – Uses & Benefits
People often use yucca plants for ornamental purposes. These plants can grow in rocky and dry areas outdoors, but they are sensitive to overwatering.
Many species of yuccas can be grown indoors as houseplants, but some will outgrow their containers. Also, sharp leaves can be dangerous to children and pets.
Yucca supplements have been shown to improve immunity, health with arthritis pain, and prevent oxidative stress. The plants can also help with skin conditions such as dandruff and sores.
Yucca Plants – Meanings & Symbolism
People associate yucca plants with various symbols. They can be signs of protection, purity, and loyalty.
Some Native American tribes, such as the Navajo, have yucca clans.
18 Popular Types of Yucca Plants to Grow at Home
Here you’ll find 18 of our absolute favorite yucca plants to grow at home. We’ve included a brief overview of light, feeding, watering, and general care requirements for each so you can find the perfect fit for your home or garden.
1) Yucca filamentosa (Adam’s needle)
This yucca grows in a rosette of broad leaves with spines on their tips. Each leaf has curly, fibrous filaments growing off of its leaf margins. The plant can grow up to eight feet tall and three feet wide.
Yucca filamentosa is easy to grow as long and is tolerant of rabbit, deer, moderate drought, and rocky soils.
While it’s native to sandy areas of the Southeast United States, Yucca filamentosa can now be found growing throughout the East Coast. You can successfully grow it outdoors in zones 4-11.
2) Yucca gigantea (Spineless yucca)
Known as Yucca gigantea or Yucca elephantipes, the spineless yucca can grow up to 40 feet tall. The plants produce thick trunks topped with rosettes of narrow, spineless leaves.
A fun fact is that the edible flower of this yucca is used throughout El Salvador where it is the national flower. The plant is native to Central America.
Spineless yucca is a great landscaping plant due to its lack of spines and easy to care for nature. You can grow it outdoors in zones 10 and above, and grow young plants indoors.
3) Yucca rostrata (Beaked yucca)
The beaked yucca has narrow blue-green leaves that cluster together to resemble a pom-pom. While the leaves begin as a rosette on the ground, they eventually grow atop a trunk.
Yucca rostrata is native to Southern Texas and Northern Mexico.
You can grow this yucca outdoors in zones 5-11 and indoors in containers. The plants can grow up to 15’ tall outdoors, but they will take at least 10 years to reach this height.
4) Yucca gloriosa (Spanish dagger)
Native to the Southeast United States, the Spanish dagger grows as a large shrub or small tree. It has long green leaves with sharp tips. People used this plant’s leaves to make rope, cloth, and other materials.
You can grow Yucca gloriosa outdoors in zones 7-11, even in salty coastal areas. The plant also grows well indoors as a houseplant
It can grow up to 15’ outdoors, but it has a slow growth rate.
5) Yucca aloifolia (Aloe yucca)
Also known as the Spanish bayonet, Yucca aloifolia is native to sandy regions in the Eastern United States, Mexico, and parts of the Caribbean. People sometimes plant it as a living fence in warm regions.
It has a trunk topped with clusters of thin leaves with very sharp margins and tips. Like all yuccas, it will produce a tall panicle of white flowers.
You can grow this plant outdoors in zones 6-11. You can try to grow it indoors, but it is unlikely to flower.
6) Yucca brevifolia (Joshua tree)
Found throughout the National Park of the same name, the Joshua tree has a thick trunk and branches. Clusters of pointed green leaves sit atop the end of each branch.
Yucca brevifolia can grow up to 50 feet tall, but it often stays smaller. You can grow it outside in zones 6 to 10 in sandy soil and full sun.
While you can start growing these plants in containers indoors, you’ll eventually need to plant them outside. They are low maintenance and easy to grow in the right environment.
7) Yucca baccata (Banana yucca)
Unlike most other yuccas, Yucca baccata has soft, fleshy fruit that resembles short green bananas. Southwestern Native Americans and Mexicans baked and pounded the fruit’s flesh to make sun-dried cakes.
The plant has a rosette of blue-green leaves which grow up to 30” long. The leaves sit on the ground or on top of a short stalk.
You can plant the banana yucca outdoors in zones 6-11. The banana yucca’s flower stalks are shorter than those of other yuccas, so it’s a good choice for areas with limited height.
8) Yucca schidigera (Mojave yucca)
Native to the Mojave desert, Yucca schidigera grows on sandy soil and rocky areas. It grows as an evergreen tree with a thick trunk or multiple stems topped with clusters of long, sharp leaves.
The plant grows slowly, but it can reach 30’ tall. This yucca thrives in arid conditions and can be grown outdoors in zones 7-11.
Some companies add the Mojave yucca to pet food to help with joint health and arthritis.
9) Yucca glauca (Soapweed yucca plant)
The soapweed yucca plant grows on the ground in a spherical shape. It has narrow, sharp leaves that grow up to two feet long.
It is native to Central North America in areas including Alberta, the Dakotas, and Texas. It is exceptionally cold tolerant and can be grown outdoors in zones 4-9.
This yucca is relatively easy to care for in the right environment. It can survive drought and cold, but it doesn’t do well in coastal areas.
10) Yucca elata (Soaptree yucca)
The soaptree yucca starts out as a shrub before developing trunks and growing into a tree. It can grow up to 12 feet tall.
Yucca elata is native to the Southwest United States as well as Northern Mexico. It is relatively cold tolerant and can be grown outdoors in zones 6-11. It isn’t recommended for indoor growth.
The interior of the trunk and roots contains a soap-like substance that the Zuni used to make soap.
11) Yucca pallida (Pale-leaf yucca)
As its common name suggests, this yucca has light blue-green leaves. Compared to other yuccas, the leaves are quite wide.
The pale-leaf yucca grows as a rosette on the ground. The leaves grow about a foot and a half tall with a flower stalk that can reach eight feet tall.
It is cold hardy down to 0°F, so it can be grown outdoors in zones 6-10. However, it’s rarely used as a landscaping plant.
12) Yucca faxoniana (Giant white yucca)
The giant white yucca grows as a large shrub or small tree with one thick trunk and potentially multiple branches. Each branch is topped with a rosette of long, dark green leaves. This yucca can reach 25 feet tall, but it grows slowly.
Yucca faxoniana is native to the Chihuahuan Desert in Northern Mexico and Texas. As you might expect, it has tolerance to both high heat and cold.
You can grow the giant white yucca outdoors in zones 6-11 as long as the area is dry. It is not recommended as a houseplant.
13) Yucca x schottii (Mountain yucca)
Also known as Schott’s yucca or hoary yucca, this yucca is a natural hybrid of Yucca baccata and Yucca madrensis.
It is a tree yucca with thin trunks that can grow over 15 feet tall. The trunks may branch or remain as one trunk.
The mountain yucca is found at higher elevations than many other tree yuccas, hence its name.
You can grow this yucca outdoors in zones 5-10.
14) Yucca thompsoniana (Thompson’s yucca)
Thompson’s yucca is native to Texas and Northern Mexico where it thrives on rocky hillsides.
It grows up to twelve feet tall and six feet wide with a slightly branching trunk and slender leaves. The old leaves fall neatly around the trunk, unlike many other yucca species.
You can plant them outdoors in zones 7-11. These plants are low maintenance as long as you provide lots of sun and a well-drained location.
15) Yucca flaccida (Weak-leaf yucca plant)
Yucca flaccida grows as a stout, stemless shrub. It has pointed, dark green leaves that can grow up to two feet long. The leaves fold down over time, leading to the common name.
This yucca is native to the South-Central and Southeast areas of the United States. It can grow to two feet tall and five feet wide.
You may plant this yucca outdoors in zones 5-11. It is also suitable as a houseplant.
16) Hesperaloe parviflora (Red yucca plant)
While people call this plant a yucca, it is actually a member of the false yucca genus. It’s native to the Chihuahuan Desert.
The plant produces narrow, green leaves with white threads along its margins. The red yucca plant can grow up to six feet tall and wide. Unlike true yuccas, it produces a tall stalk of pink flowers.
You may plant it outdoors in zones 5-10. It isn’t commonly grown as a houseplant.
17) Yucca rupicola (Twisted yucca)
Twisted yucca is a small plant with leaves that remain under two feet tall and flower stalks that grow up to five feet tall. The leaves emerge straight but become twisted as they grow older.
It’s native to Texas where it grows in full sun or part shade.
You can grow the twisted yucca outdoors in zones 6-10.
18) Yucca wipplei (Our lord’s candle)
Yucca wipplei has long leaves with sharp tips and serrated edges. It grows about two to three feet tall over the course of around ten years. At this point, it sends up a 10-15 foot tall flower spike and then often dies.
This yucca is native to California and Baja California where it grows in scrubby and woodland habitats.
The plant is relatively easy to grow in its native range, but difficult to care for outside of this area.
How to Grow Yucca Plants at Home
What to Do Before Planting a Yucca Plant
If you’re planting your yucca outside, make sure it has enough room to grow. You’ll also want to select a site with good drainage and full to partial sun.
If you’re planting inside, you’ll want to choose an area where your plant has enough sunlight and room. Since most yuccas are big, a planter on the ground is a good idea.
What’s the Best Soil Mix for Yucca Plants?
Yucca plants need a well-draining soil mix.
One option is to mix one-part standard potting mix with one one-part perlite.
If you prefer to make your own mix, combine the following.
- one part coco coir
- one part sand
- one part perlite
How to Plant
When you plant your yucca, the first step is to make sure your container has drainage holes.
After you fill your container with potting mix, place the yucca so the soil is covering the rootball.
Yucca Plant Light preferences
Most yuccas thrive in full, direct sun. However, some species can tolerate partial shade.
If you are growing a yucca plant indoors, place it near a south-facing window. If you’re growing it outdoors, make sure it receives at least eight hours of direct sun.
Yucca Plant Temperature & Humidity Preferences
The ideal temperature, as well as temperature tolerations, vary between yucca species. Some species can handle freezing temperatures while others cannot.
In general, most yuccas will perform well in temperatures between 50-90ºF. If you are growing a yucca plant indoors, temperatures between 60-80ºF will work well.
The humidity preferences also vary between species, but most yuccas will do fine with moderate humidity.
How to Care for Yucca Plants
When and How to Water a Yucca Plant
Yuccas are drought-tolerant plants that cannot handle excessive moisture. Therefore, they do best in arid landscapes.
If you are growing a yucca plant in the ground outdoors, you will only need to water it during intense drought.
If you are growing your yucca indoors, you don’t need to water it very often. Aim to water when the top 3-4 inches of soil is dry, about once every two weeks in the summer.
Fertilizing a Yucca Plant
Yucca plants are not heavy feeders. Therefore, you have to watch out for overfertilizing as well as under-fertilizing.
In general, you will only need to fertilize your yucca plant once or twice a year. Look for a balanced fertilizer and dilute it to half the recommended strength before applying.
Yucca plants will grow fine without any pruning. However, you can choose to prune off leaves and the flower stalk.
If you want to remove the drooping leaves known as the yucca skirt, you can do so. Use a sharp and sanitized pair of pruning shears to cut the leaves near their bases.
If you wish to remove the flower stalk, cut it a few inches above its base.
Propagating Yucca Plants
You can propagate yucca plants via seeds, root cuttings, stem cuttings, offsets, and division.
The easiest method is via stem cuttings. However, this method is best for species that form multiple stems.
To propagate a yucca by stem cutting, follow these steps.
- Use a sharp and sanitized knife or pair of shears to remove 1-3 feet of a stem.
- Strip the leaves from the bottom 9-12” of the stem.
- Place rooting hormone on the bottom of the stem cutting.
- Place the cutting in a container filled with well-draining potting mix.
- Place the container in a shady location and water well.
- Keep moist and wait 4-6 weeks for roots to form.
Most yucca plants are slow-growing, and they like to be a bit rootbound. Therefore, you will only need to repot them every two to five years.
Choose a pot that is a few inches larger than the current container. When repotting, add new potting soil and inspect roots for disease.
Common Yucca Plant Problems Pests & Diseases
Fortunately, yucca plants are relatively pest and disease-free. However, they do deal with some problems.
Brown, gray, or black spots on leaves are likely caused by numerous fungi. These fungal diseases are more common with high humidity or recent rains.
Remove infected leaves to stop the spread. You can also apply a fungicide if the issue is spreading.
Now that you know more about yucca plants, it’s time to find a species or two that works in your area or home.
Yucca Plant FAQs:
Is yucca a good indoor plant?
A yucca makes an excellent indoor plant. They’re generally low-maintenance, pest and disease resistant, relatively slow-growing, and will happily miss the occasional watering cycle.
Do yucca plants need full sun?
Yucca plants thrive best in bright, sunny locations in the home or garden. Somewhere near a south-facing window indoors would be ideal or a spot in the garden that receives direct sun for the majority of the day.
How long do yucca plants live?
With due care and attention, yucca plants can live for many years. Expect indoor yucca plants to thrive for at least 5 to 8 years and 10 years+ for those grown in the garden. You can easily propagate yucca plants via seeds, root cuttings, stem cuttings, offsets, and division as well.
How tall do Yuccas grow?
In their natural habitat, yucca plants can reach 7m in height or more. Indoor yucca plants are typically slow growers though and will reach 1.5m to 2m after several years.
Do yucca plants clean the air?
According to NASA’s clean air study, yucca plants were one of the leading plant types to remove toxins from the air.
Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.