How to Plant, Grow and Care for this Desert Classic

Desert Classic: I love yucca, which is why I have a lot growing around my house. They are very easy to propagate, plant and raise.

You don’t have to do much to make them happy. They look good without maintenance and grow quickly, so if you have an area of ​​your landscape that you want to fill, yuccas are a great choice. They also look great in pots.

The best yucca is an evergreen that is drought tolerant, making it a popular choice for busy gardeners like me.

There are so many varieties for a low-maintenance garden, so let’s talk yucca.

What is Yucca?

From the family Asparagaceae, yucca is a perennial evergreen native to the arid, warm regions of the Americas, the Caribbean, and the West Indies. They are a familiar sight in the southwestern US and Mexico.

There are many species that are quite different from others, but most love hot, dry areas and don’t require a lot of water or attention.

How to Plant, Grow and Care for this Desert Classic

Not to be confused with yucca, which is the name for the edible root of the cassava plant, yucca is commonly used in landscaping and as ornamental plants. There are some yuccas that produce edible flowers and fruit, however, that require a special insect for fertilization. This insect lives only in the south-central and southwest US.

Many varieties can be used to make soap or shampoo.

varieties of yucca

There are many varieties of yucca, but below are my picks that I think are particularly worth a look. They all look different and are also good for making some soap and shampoo.

I could really go on forever as there are so many varieties of this great plant. See what goes well in your area and what you like in yucca. I guarantee you’ll find one or many that you’ll love.

spineless yucca (yucca elephant)

I started with this because it is the most common outdoor variety in my area. It grows up to 30 feet tall, but it is also the variety you most often see in pots and is perfectly suited to indoor environments.

Spineless in name and form makes it a safe yucca to grow inside, but beware of the sharp point at the end of the leaves.

Adam’s needle (yucca filamentosa)

Also known as ‘Adams Needle and Thread’, this variety has a historical place in Native American culture. The fibrous leaves are used for materials and clothing, and the roots for soap and shampoo.

The needle part of the name comes from the very sharp point on the leaves. It is a trunkless variety that looks like flax with leaves that grow up to four feet in length.

If you’re lucky, ‘Adams Needle’ will bloom in early spring with a wonderful display of white flowers that hang like lanterns.

Soapweed Yucca (yucca glauca)

Desert Classic

Grown primarily in desert grasslands in central North America, it has sharp leaves that grow up to four feet tall. The roots are especially good for soap and shampoo due to their high levels of saponins.

Between June and August you can see green and white flowers with a lovely fragrance.

Spanish Dagger (yucca gloriosa)

I have this variety and I can attest to the fact that it is really easy to grow.

It grows up to 12 feet tall and if you prefer a prominent trunk, you can remove the lower leaves, or leave them bushy. Make sure you wear safety goggles when pruning because leaf tips are razor sharp.

Bear Grass Yucca (yucca filamentosa)

Similar to ‘Adam’s Needle,’ it is yucca that can withstand extreme cold and frost, so you don’t need to miss out on these awesome plants if you live in such an area. Think of environments like Alberta and British Columbia.

Bear grass is called grass because bears like to eat shoots, keep this in mind if there are bears in your area.

Banana Yucca (Yucca Bakata)

This variety produces edible fruits. Native Americans ate the sweet fruit the size of a banana. Banana yucca will flower in spring and, like all of its kind, have sharp-pointed leaves.

Mojave Yucca (Yucca Shidigera)

Although this species is found in the Mojave Desert, it actually grows well in a large pot. Of course, for it to survive you need to live in a hot and dry area.

The roots are said to be edible and beneficial to the immune system, making it an ideal variety if you have a living garden.

Spanish bayonet (yucca aloifolia)

If you live on or near the coast, this variety is for you because it is resistant to salty environments. Spanish bayonet will grow to 15 feet tall with tall flower spikes.

How to plant yucca?

Desert Classic

Yucca plants can grow in a variety of environments depending on the species. Adam’s needle will thrive in zones 5 to 10, while banana yucca will thrive in zone 3. Others are best in zones 6 to 11. See what’s best for where you live.

Yucca prefers slightly alkaline soil with a pH of about 6.0. If there is less lime then add and measure again. The soil should be free-draining and preferably sandy, although most yuccas are forgiving.

If the soil is not sandy, plant the yucca on a slightly higher ridge so that the water drains naturally.

Yucca struggles a bit if the soil is too wet. Take a handful of clay and squeeze out the moisture. The clay crumbles when you open your hand. If it remains in a clump, it is too wet.

Plant in full sun and don’t worry about shielding it from wind unless you have very strong winds that destabilize a young plant.

Water from time to time, but don’t overdo it.

promotion of yucca

I honestly can’t think of another plant that is easier to propagate than yucca. Even if you make a mistake, you are unlikely to fail.


I highly recommend this method for making new yucca plants. Offset is a clone of the mother plant that grows from the side of the trunk.

Most trunked yuccas grow longer than you need, so you can always pot and sell them.

When the offset is about 10 to 12 inches tall, cut it off from the mother plant. You can do this when they are older, but smaller ones are easier to handle and do better when planted. Leave 1/4 of the offset on the mother plant.

You don’t need to do it the next bit, but I think it helps with success. I get a saw and scrape off the bottom of the offset with the teeth.

Leave it outside to dry a bit. I’ve left them for a week, so don’t rush.

Fill a pot with seed-growing soil and push the offset into the soil about four to five inches deep. Water when the soil is dry and after a few weeks to months, roots will form and you will have a new yucca.


How to Plant, Grow and Care for this Desert Classic

All yuccas can be propagated this way. Simply dig down and uncover a fleshy root and cut it off. It should be about 12 inches long. This will not harm the plant.

Cut this rhizome to three inches in length and plant it in good quality seed-growing soil. In about four weeks new roots will form and a new plant will grow from the soil.

This method takes longer to obtain a good sized plant than using an offset.


If you have a yucca with a long straight trunk, you can cut it by leaving the parent plant at the height you want.

Cut the removed length into 12-inch pieces and put one end into a bucket of water. After 10 days transfer them to a tray containing water and stand lengthwise on the tray with the ends already submerged in water.

After about 24 days you will have roots at the bottom and buds at the top. When the roots are about six or more inches across, repot into the pot.

yucca care

Yucca doesn’t need much fertilizer, if any. I don’t usually feed them, but if you think your yucca needs help, use a well-balanced fertilizer once or twice a year in spring and summer.

Water frequently, although if you live in an area with a lot of rain like me, don’t water at all. Just keep an eye on the condition of your yucca.

If your yucca is potted indoors, water once or twice a month when the soil is dry.

Once you make your yucca longer than you want, you can cut it. Remove the yucca from its pot and cut it to the desired height.

Insert the rooted end into fresh potting soil. It will soon grow back to its former glory to its desired size.

Along the top of the leaf, remove the leaves leaving a few at the top. Use the water method described in trunk propagation above to create roots and replant.

You can use the same method for an outdoor plant.

How to Plant, Grow and Care for this Desert Classic

I like to pull out the lower third of the leaves on my yucca trunks. It creates a tree-like appearance. In a few weeks, the area where the leaves were removed will become a protective shield like the rest of the stem.

Common Problems and Solutions for Growing Yucca

Yucca are actually a near bulletproof plant and they look great as an ornamental in a pot or as a landscape specimen. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener, you won’t be disappointed by the ability of yucca to just go ahead and grow.

But that doesn’t mean they are completely problem free. You may run into some of the following issues, especially if your plants are stressed.

agave plant bug

These are sapsuckers that leave a brown mark where they damage the foliage. Use insecticidal soap, although this can have multiple applications.


Even the indestructible yucca can fall prey to these prolific pests. Read our article on how to deal with aphids here.

yucca weevila

This is probably the most serious pest for yucca. They burrow into the crown and are nearly impossible to remove once the infection begins. Keep your plants as healthy as possible to avoid becoming overcrowded. Regular treatment with neem oil can help prevent them.


I’ve heard that scale sometimes attacks yucca. Read our article of scale here.

make yucca soap

You can make soap using the root and leaves from most species of yucca. To make soap from a yucca leaf, remove a leaf and scrape off the waxy green exterior. Put the scrapings in a jar and fill them with water. Shake the jar for about a minute and then strain out the green pieces. You can use this liquid as soap or shampoo.

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