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In my student days - way back in the 1980s and 1990s - EVERYBODY had a yukka plant. These monsters were dragged up and down the country at the end of term and brought back again. They would put up with being shoved in the back of your mum's car, ignored, watered too much, watered too little (actually they prefer less rather than more water) and they just wouldn't die - even when you wanted them to. However, whilst they wouldn't die, they were inclined to look sick, getting brown tips to their leaves, getting droopy leaves and just hanging around shooting their owners 'accusatory' looks.
At Christmas you could hang the odd bauble off yours - if you were so inclined.
Thankfully these days they aren't so ubiquitous but you do come across them quite often. I find I come across BAD yukkas more than good ones, typically in offices where nobody loves them but nobody has the authority to throw them in a skip. These are usually ones whose stems have gone out of control and have just a few ugly dusty leaves on the end.
We've had them in the garden where I didn't mind them quite so much and we even got a few yukka flowers but my husband hated them and hacked them down. He said the prickly leaves kept attacking him.
The basic problem with a yukka is that they really don't do much. They are like an unattractive ornament you got from a relative. You'd love to throw them away but you just don't dare. These days they are as dated as a Swiss Cheese Plant but even more pointless.
Yucca plants have a very tall trunk with palm type leaves at the top.
Dont worry when thinking about buying a yucca plant about it growing like wild fire and out growing you house as they have been known to get to over 40 foot in there native lands but they grow very very slowly, i have had my yucca about 7 years now and it has only grown a small amount over that time, 3 inches roughly.
Yucca plants love direct sunlight so dont go making the fatal mistake that a lot of people do by putting there yucca in a shaded bathroom or dark hall way, near a window in direct light is best and on a very warm summers day they love to go out side in the sun.
You will need to water your yucca a lot during spring, summer and autum and not let the soil dry out but during winter let your soil dry out inbetween watering.
Because yuccas have thin trunks and lots of leaves at the top they tend to be a bit top heavy so you are better using a heavy ceramic pot to keep your yucca in to stop it falling over instead of a plastic pot.
Yuccas come from a dry sandy area naturally so it thrives best on a sand and soil mix approximately half and half but you dont need to be too accurate with this.
Yuccas make great house plants, they are hardy and look lovely bringing a little bit of paradise to your home.
My sister has a Yucca plant neglected in the bathroom. It's a sad and sorry sight. It has a few straggly pale leaves. Though it has begun to make something of a recovery in the more light exposed bathroom after having only recently been moved there from the dimly lit living room where it had been suffocating for many years from a lack of light and too much smoke. Yuccas are easy to grow but that's no way to treat your Yucca.
~~ In The Wild ~~
There are between thirty or forty species of Yucca growing naturally in South America. In it's natural habitat the plant can reach up to fifty feet in height. It is a hardy plant that can withstand more temperate climates and even survive severe frosts. In the wild they produce a white flower but these must be fertilized by a special species of moth found only in their native areas. Cultivated plants in the UK therefore will not produce seeds.
~~ Varieties ~~
As an indoor plant the Yucca (usually Yucca elephantipes sometimes know as Yucca guatemalensis) will reach about eight feet at most and should take long time to do so if grown from a small stump. Yuccas can make unusual but attractive plants with their light brown stems topped by rosettes of leaves forming a crown. The leaves of this variety, although pointed and tough, are not very dangerous. However, if you have the Yucca aloifolia variety, more commonly known as Spanish Bayonet, you'll find that the leaf points are very sharp indeed and can cause considerable damage to skin. So this plant shouldn't be placed by doorways or where people are likely to pass on a regular basis.
~~ Purchase ~~
When you buy a Yucca plant you should make sure that the leafy rosettes are quite well developed. Avoid buying a plant if they are only just breaking out. If some of the leaves are blackened this means that the plant has probably been damaged whilst strapped during transit. You should make sure that the canes or stems of the elephantipes variety are sufficiently well routed so that the plant is held secure in its pot.
~~ Light And Growth ~~
The Yucca plant handles a variation in temperature very well, but needs plenty of direct sunlight to flourish so a South facing window or conservatory is preferable. You will find that over time the plant will bend towards the light source so it should be turned around every couple of weeks in order to maintain its shape. Indoors the Yucca is a very slow growing plant so it should take a few years to hit your ceiling.
~~ Plant Care ~~
During spring and summer the plant should be well watered on a regular basis and given a feed every two weeks. However you should be careful not to over water as this will cause the base of the stem to rot. If this happens stop all watering immediately and let the soil dry out. You can also spray the plant in summer with a fine mist spray. In winter the plant will need very little watering. You can let the compost dry out a little and it should survive a week or two on holiday. You should not use leaf shine to clean the leaves and instead carefully wipe off accumulated dust with tepid water.
~~ Pests and Disease ~~
You are unlikely to find an indoor Yucca suffering from pests or disease but they have been know to be prone to scale insects which can be removed individually with a swab soaked in methylated spirits. Sometimes plants are affected by Botrytis which is a type of grey mould. This can be remedied by dusting the effected parts with sulphur and by improving the ventilation.
~~ Conclusion ~~
This is a moderately easy plant to grow as long as you make sure your plant receives plenty of light and you get the watering right. You certainly shouldn't leave it to wither in dimly lit smoke filled rooms. You should find the small plants in most indoor garden centres. Small plants should cost about £5, larger plants of a few feet in height can be quite expensive ranging from £30 upwards.
The Yucca plant (Yucca Elepantipes) belongs to the Agavaceae family and, like many members of this family, originates from the warm, dry, sandy soils of Central and North America. In it’s natural habitat the Yucca can grow up to forty-five feet in height, and is crowned with dark green, stiff, sword-shaped leaves. But before you start thinking about cutting a whole in your ceilings and roof to accommodate this monster fear not! At the very most indoor specimens grow to about eight feet in height and can be comfortably housed in any room. A word of warning about the leaves though, they are very pointed and sharp, not only on the ends but also the edges, so when going near them please be aware of this or they could have your eye out! The Yucca is a plant that handles a variation in temperature very well, being able to withstand as low as 37 degrees Fahrenheit, and so is an excellent choice for nearly all rooms of the house. However, they do require a lot of direct sunlight so a South facing window or conservatory would be ideal. This direct light means that the plant will stay bushy and their bark-like trunks will be able to support the foliage. If the Yucca is not close enough to the light it will begin to stretch itself towards the nearest light source. This results in the plant becoming top heavy and can lead to foliage breaking off. One of my own Yuccas has done this, although no foliage has actually broken off. It began to tilt at an alarming angle until I put it in my front room window, the bent foliage facing away from the light. Over time it has grown back towards the light, although it now has a rather bendy stalk, which I think has added a bit more character to the plant! During the spring and summer, the Yucca’s period of most growth, water as much as the plant needs and feed every two weeks, wintertime requires very little watering. As they come from quite arid areas of the world, the Yucca can tolerate going for a while with
out water. Let the potting compost of your Yucca dry out quite a bit in-between each watering, and if you do forget about it for a while it won’t die overnight as its thick trunk stores water for just such emergencies. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can leave it for months on end gasping for a drink. Signs that your Yucca could do with a drop of H2O are shrivelled stalks and the lower leaves turning yellow or brown. If this does occur then give it a drink and remove the discoloured leaves. If the leaves start to collapse or the trunk seems to be rotting near the base of the compost then the plant is being over watered. Stop all watering at once, leave the plant to dry out and cross your fingers that it will pull through! The watering of a Yucca is a fine balancing act, but once you have worked out what your plant can and can’t tolerate it should become just a matter of routine. The Yucca is a plant that does not suffer very much, if at all, from pests or disease. Spider mites just do not like this plant, although it can occasionally attract mealy bugs or scale. If your plant does seem to be a host for creepy crawlies then just follow the guidelines of a houseplant insecticide and it should be pest free within no time. The long, thick leaves should be kept dust and dirt free, using either a damp cloth or a leafshine product. If leaves split or become torn then they can be easily removed at the base without affecting the plant adversely. As Yucca’s age random black spots may appear on the foliage, removing the whole leaf, or the part affected, will soon knock years off your plant. If your Yucca does reach a height that is unmanageable for you then don’t feel you have to throw it out or pass it on to someone with higher ceilings. The easiest and best thing to do is to take a saw, decide what height you can cope with and hack it down. I know that sounds quite drastic but just shut your eyes and shout timber! F
or a while you’ll be left with a rather sad looking stick of wood, but eventually little green shoots will begin to appear, either on the top or along the sides, and a bushier, more manageable plant will start to emerge. I haven’t tried this with any of my Yucca’s, as all of them are at a medium sized height; however, my sister inherited a Yucca that had been almost nine feet in height! Before she took it home it was sawed down to about two feet and it is now sprouting a lot of healthy growth all over it. An averaged sized Yucca is not a cheap plant to buy, but propagating them can be quite difficult. You can buy the thick, round trunks without leaves for a fraction of the price of an established plant and then pot them up yourself to see what grows. Another option, if you have just cut a large plant back, is to pot up sections of the growth you have cut away and see if it will take. I myself managed to produce a baby Yucca from one of my own plants quite by accident! When I potted my large Yucca into a bigger pot I thought that the bare compost looked a bit of an eyesore and so I covered it with smooth pebbles. I packed these over the compost and around the plant’s trunk up to about an inch in height. About a month later I noticed tiny green shoots poking through the pebbles. Upon closer inspection I saw that these were fresh new leaves growing from the base of the trunk. With much excitement I managed to leave it to get on with growing, removing a few pebbles at a time so it could push its way into the light. That was two years ago and I decide to leave the baby where it was, it’s still growing strong and looks very attractive next to it’s bendy trunked mother. If you are a fan of the indoor Yucca then you maybe interested to know that they also come in many outdoor varieties, so not only can you have them pushing you out of house and home but also your garden as well! Three of the most popular outdoo
r varieties are Yucca Filamentose, Yucca Flaccida and Yucca Gloriosa. They don’t like heavy clay but as long as the soil is free draining they will do well in all parts of the country. In areas that suffer very frosty winters it is advisable to wrap them up in a horticultural fleece to allow some form of insulation. However, don’t use polythene as this makes the plant sweat and when you open the packing up in the spring you will be presented with a plant that has rotted. I have a Gloriosa in my own garden and it is a stunning plant, about four feet wide and five feet high, with sturdy, sword-like green leaves that have a creamy yellow centre. Living in the north of England we tend to have colder winters than the south, but even so I have never had to protect it from the frost or wrap it up until the spring. It produced a baby one year, but hard as I tried I’m afraid it wilted away to nothing. Once again, be careful whilst weeding around these plants, as they can really give you a nasty scratch if you catch yourself on the pointy ends. If you’re not a great outdoor gardener, or don’t want all the fuss of one of these plants in your garden, then you can actually put your indoor Yucca outside during the hot weather. Two words of caution here though; make sure it comes back in at night when temperatures can drop, and beware of thieves. I had a very large Yucca that I decided to put out one afternoon to soak up a few rays. It was in a large pot with castors attached so it was easier to move about and I wheeled it out to stand just by my backdoor. When I went to get it in later that evening all I found was the base that the castors were attached to, someone had had it away with it! This plant was huge so how they managed to pick it up, carry it down the garden and get it over the wall I will never know. As I’ve said, these plants are quite expensive so I informed the police about its theft, although I did fe
el a bit silly, what with having to give a description of it and all! To my surprise they were actually very responsive, apparently there had been a spate of thefts from gardens and they really wanted to catch this person. A neighbour who thought they saw someone lurking about even had to go down to the police station and make a statement! Even so, I never got my Yucca back and now I tend not to put my more expensive specimens outside. But don’t let this put you off, if you have a secluded back garden then there is no reason why you can’t put your Yucca out for a spot of sunbathing. Yuccas in the wild, and sometimes those found in gardens, do produce flowers. These can be either purple or white blossoms emerging from a long stalk, and sometimes lead to a fruit being formed. It is quite rare for an outdoor Yucca to flower or produce fruit in this country as they need the help of the Yucca Moth for pollination. The plant and the moth are a great example of interdependence, as the moth needs the plant to lay its eggs on, and thus have something for the newly hatched larvae to feed on, and the plant needs the moth to reproduce. The Yucca plant, and the fruit it produces, has long been used in its country of origin for cooking and traditional folk remedies. It can be added to stews, casseroles and soups, or made into a tea. Its medicinal properties are said to help with kidney problems, arthritic and rheumatic pains and many stomach ailments. They have also been used to make soap and many of the native tribes put the leaves to use weaving scarves, twine, sacks and livestock fences from them. Whilst we have no need in this country for the versatile uses the Yucca offers it is still one of the most popular houseplants around today. I wouldn’t recommend it for someone looking for a ‘first time’ plant, but if you want something more dramatic than the Spider plant, and less demanding than the Venus Fly Trap you couldn&
#8217;t do any better than the Yucca. ---------------------------- If you are interested in seeing a Yucca in flower then check out www.29palmsinn.com/unknown/j5.html You can find pictures and details of the three outdoor Yuccas I mentioned at the following websites: Yucca Filamentosa www.tmseeds.co.uk/plants/pages/365.php3 Yucca Flaccida http://hjem.get2net.dk/conben/Yucca/817.htm Yucca Gloriosa. www.rootsnshoots.freeserve.co.uk/yuccas.htm