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Yucca Plant Care (Including Yucca Cane)

Wondering how to care for a yucca plant? Learn all about caring for indoor and outdoor yucca plants with a specific focus on the yucca cane. This plant thrives on neglect and it’s beautiful, so it’s the perfect choice for beginner plant parents.

Caring for the hardy yucca plant—including the spineless yucca cane!

This one has been on my radar for a while, so I’m happy to finally be sitting down to write this post. Yucca plants are stunning specimens that can add a tropical feel to even the most boring rooms and gardens.

And because it’s so easy to care for, it has become a hugely popular houseplant and ornamental garden plant! For this post, I will focus mostly on yucca varieties that you can have as houseplants. But I will also touch on some outdoor care, including caring for both potted yucca plants outdoors and yuccas planted in the ground.

yucca cane plant in a bedroom

What is a yucca plant?

So let’s start with the basics. Yucca is a genus of perennial shrubs and trees in the family Asparagaceae. They are native to the hot and arid regions of the Americas and the Caribbean. Some species of yucca are also known as “yucca palms,” though they are not closely related to true palms.

Yuccas have a rosette of stiff, sword-shaped leaves and a tall spike of white flowers. They are drought-tolerant and can be grown in a variety of soils, making them popular as ornamental plants in xeriscaping (a style requiring little to no irrigation).

graphic that outlines the yucca cane care tips in this post

Table of contents

What are the most common types of yucca?

There are many different species of yucca plants—I’ve read around 40 different ones. But there are some more common varieties you might encounter.

  • Yucca elephantipes, also known as spineless yucca, giant yucca, or yucca cane, is a tall tree-like yucca that can grow up to 30 feet tall. It has a single trunk and a rosette of long, sharp, stiff leaves at the top. This is the species you’re most likely to encounter sold as a potted houseplant.
  • Yucca filamentosa, also known as Adam’s needle or bear grass, is a low-growing shrub with thin, blue-green leaves that are lined with curly white fibers. This species is hardy and can be grown in a variety of soils.
  • Yucca gloriosa, also known as Spanish dagger or Moundlily Yucca, is a medium to large plant that can grow up to 10 feet tall. It has long, narrow, sword-shaped leaves and white flowers.
  • Yucca rostrata, also known as beaked yucca, is a tree-like yucca that can grow up to 15 feet tall. It has a single trunk and a rosette of blue-gray leaves that are tipped with a sharp spine. This species is popular as a landscape plant in warm climates.
  • Yucca brevifolia, also known as Joshua tree, is a species of yucca that is native to the Mojave Desert in California, Nevada, and Arizona. It is a tree-like yucca that can grow up to 40 feet tall with a trunk topped by a rosette of spiky leaves.
variegated yucca cane

Are yucca plants indoor or outdoor?

While many yucca varieties make excellent landscaping choices in arid climates, one type of yucca makes an excellent houseplant and potted ornamental in the spring and summer. That’s the yucca elephantipes, aka the yucca cane, yucca gigantea, the spineless yucca, and the giant yucca.

I would say that yucca cane is probably the most common name I’ve seen it listed as, though. You can find yucca cane plants easily these days in big-box garden centers like Home Depot and Lowes, as well as your local nurseries. Ikea has been selling them for years, too.

It’s important to remember that the yucca cane plant is not the same as the common household plant the dracaena fragrans commonly called the “Yucca Elephantipes” or the “corn plant,” which is a drought-tolerant and low-light tolerant plant.

yucca leaves

What is the difference between a cassava/yuca and yucca plant?

Cassava and yucca are two different plants that are often confused because of their similar names and uses. Cassava (Manihot esculenta) is a woody shrub that is native to South America and is widely cultivated for its starchy root, which is a staple food in many parts of the world. It is also known as yuca, manioc, or tapioca.

Yucca, however, is a separate genus native to the hot and arid regions of North and South America. They are grown for their ornamental value and some species are used for fiber and soap production.

Does a yucca cane plant need direct sunlight?

Direct sunlight is beneficial for yucca cane plants as it helps to promote healthy growth and flowering. When growing yucca outdoors, it’s best to place the plant in an area that receives direct sunlight for at least 6-8 hours per day.

If you are moving an indoor potted yucca cane outdoors for the spring and summer, I recommend doing so early in the season so that the plant can acclimate to direct sun. If you throw a houseplant outside into direct midday peak-season sun, it will probably burn.

I have had my yucca cane for a while. But when we moved to the townhouse and I put it outside for the first time, it absolutely exploded with growth! I had it in an area that got direct sunlight for about 8 hours or so. It was poppin’ out new rosettes along the tops of the stems like crazy, giving it a nice and bushy look.

large mature potted yucca cane

Where should yucca be placed indoors?

When grown indoors, Yucca plants should be placed near a window that receives plenty of natural light. A room with south or west facing windows is a good location for indoor yucca plants as these tend to receive the most sunlight throughout the day.

East-facing windows are also suitable, but they tend to receive more light in the morning and less in the afternoon. Less light will lead to slower growth on this sun-loving plant.

This is not a low-light-tolerant plant. Don’t put it in a room with very little light or place it far away from a window. You can supplement your light with artificial grow lights, though.

How often should you water a yucca?

We can’t talk about how to care for a yucca plant without talking about watering needs. These plants are very drought tolerant because they hoard water in their trunks. They do not require frequent watering.

The general rule of thumb is to water your indoor yucca when the soil dries out completely. Treat this plant like you’d treat a succulent or a cactus. This generally means roughly every 7-10 days in the spring and summer for me.

During the winter when your plant isn’t actively growing, you can water it much less. We’ve brought our big potted yucca cane inside for the winter the last two years. So it lives in the basement with little light from about December to late March. I think I watered it twice last winter.

I recommend always checking the soil moisture before watering. When you do water, soak the soil thoroughly to mimic the plant’s natural environment: periods of drought followed by downpours.

As for yucca plants in the ground, I would wager that you don’t need to water them at all. My parents have a variety of yucca in their yard as part of their landscaping, and they let mother nature handle watering entirely.

large yucca plants in the ground
large yucca plants in the ground
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How do you tell if a yucca is overwatered or underwatered?

It can be difficult to tell if a yucca plant is overwatered or underwatered as both can cause similar symptoms. However, there are some key differences to look for that can help you determine the problem.

If a yucca plant is overwatered, the leaves will start to yellow and drop off, the stem may become soft and rot, and the roots may turn black. The soil may also be consistently wet and start to smell bad. If you notice any of these symptoms, stop watering the plant and allow the soil to dry out.

The trunk (or cane) can also begin to rot with overwatering, leading the entire plant to slump. If your trunk seems to be getting soft instead of tall and stiff, be worried! If this is happening, your plant is likely beyond saving 🙁

On the other hand, if a yucca plant is underwatered, the leaves will start to droop and wilt, the stem may start to shrink, and the color may change to yellow or brown. The leaves may also start to dry and crust over. The soil will be dry and hardened.

To fix this, break up the soil to aerate it a bit. Then give the plant a deep, thorough drink, letting all of the excess water drain out of the pot’s drainage holes.

yucca leaves

What is the best yucca soil?

Yucca plants prefer well-draining soil that allows water to quickly run through it. Look for something sandy, like a succulent or cactus soil mix. You can also use a regular houseplant mix with perlite added in—just make sure to monitor moisture levels to make sure it isn’t too dense.

I also recommend ensuring that your pot has drainage holes at the bottom to allow excess water to drain through the soil and out of the holes. This goes a long way in preventing issues related to overwatering and root rot.

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Here is a link to the Dropbox folder with the guide!

teaser image of the cover of the houseplant care guide

What temperature is too cold for a yucca plant?

Yucca plants are quite tolerant of high temperatures, and they do well in all normal household temperatures. Indoors, it’s best to keep the plant in a room with a consistent temperature of somewhere between 60 and 90 degrees.

However, some varieties are more tolerant of cold temperatures. The minimum temperature that some yucca plants can tolerate is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. I have read that yucca cane plants specifically do not tolerate temperatures lower than this.

However, I can say that from personal experience that this is not true. I kept my potted yucca cane outdoors all winter, and it was fine. It didn’t grow, and it certainly needed a few leaves trimmed off in the spring. But it showed no major signs of stress.

That said, I did have it under a covered patio up against the house. So it’s likely that the covered patio and ambient heat from the side of the house helped get it through winter.

gorgeous plant-filled back patio

Can you leave a yucca plant outside in the winter?

Whether or not you can leave a yucca plant outside in the winter depends on the climate and the specific variety of yucca you have. Some yucca species are more cold-hardy than others and can survive in temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s the marker I read while researching).

Yucca cane, the most common indoor yucca, it is not nearly as cold hardy as some of the others. Unless you’re a gambler like I am, I recommend bringing it indoors when temperatures fall below freezing.

I should note now that the second year I kept my yucca cane outdoors, it suffered. Why? Because it blew over during a storm. When I picked it up after several days of below freezing temperatures, I saw that the foliage that was laying against the ground had been completely blanched. It looked burnt…frost burnt!

So what’s the moral of the story here? It’s probably best to drag your plant indoors if you live in an area that routinely gets below freezing in the winter. When I started doing that, the plant got barely any light and almost no water, but it made it just fine to spring.

As for the more cold-hardy varieties—my parents do not do much maintenance to the yuccas they have in the ground. It routinely gets into the single digits where they live, so there are definitely varieties of yucca that can do fine in temperatures that low!

frost burned yucca cane plant
frost burned yucca cane plant

Does this plant need humidity?

Does a yucca cane need humidity? It’s a resounding no! It goes without saying that yucca plants tolerate low humidity levels very well since they are from arid climates. That makes them excellent choices for houseplants since usually indoor air is very dry.

However, summers here are extremely humid, and my yucca cane also does very well outside. Moral of the story? Don’t overthink humidity too much! It’s a patient plant.

When should I repot my yucca cane?

Yucca plants should be repotted when they have outgrown their current pot or when the soil is no longer able to support the plant’s growth. There are a few signs that you can look for to determine if your yucca plant needs to be repotted:

  • Roots coming out of the drainage holes are a clear sign that the roots need more room to grow.
  • Soil is dry soon after watering—this may indicate that the roots have grown too large for the pot and are no longer able to absorb enough water.
  • The plant is starting to lean or topple over and may need a larger pot.
  • If the plant is not growing, it could be due to the roots not having enough room to spread.

I recommend repotting your yucca cane every 2-3 years. And if you can, try to do it while the plant is actively growing, usually in the spring and summer.

I have repotted my yucca cane twice. The first time, it was still relatively small and easy to manage. The second time, it was so incredibly rootbound that I had to cut the pot off! It was so hard to get out of the pot. I ended up breaking up the plant and repotting separately.

small yucca cane plant

For more drought-tolerant plants, check out my Prickly Pear Cactus Care guide, my tips for Peruvian Apple Cactus Care, and my post about the cute Fairy Castle Cactus!

Do yucca cane plants need big pots?

Yucca plants do not necessarily need big pots. Their pot size depends on the plant’s maturity and the size of its rootball. They do prefer to be root-bound, meaning the roots are snug and tight in the pot.

A pot that is too large for the plant can actually create problems for a yucca. The excess soil can retain water and can lead to root rot. For this reason, I recommend choosing a pot that is just slightly larger than the root ball of your plant.

Yucca cane plants are very top heavy, too. I have mine in a heavy ceramic pot to help keep it stable. When I had it in a lightweight resin pot on the patio, it constantly blew over. Something to keep in mind.

spineless yucca plant in a living room

How big can a spineless yucca cane plant get?

The spineless yucca cane can reach up to 40 feet tall in its native habitat. This is another reason why people refer to yucca elephantipes as the “giant yucca.” However, when grown indoors, it is unlikely to reach those heights.

Typically, potted spineless yucca canes will grow to about 3 to 6 feet tall. The width depends on the number of trunks in your pot. Including the size of the pot, I’d say that mine is a little over 5 feet tall.

It’s a slow-growing plant and didn’t grow a ton while I had it inside. But once I started dragging it outside for the spring and summer, it really took off!

beautiful plants in a small backyard

How to prune a yucca cane plant

Yucca plants do require some tidying to keep them looking their best. While a lot of yellow, brown, or bent leaves is likely a sign of a problem, it’s normal for the bottom leaves to wilt and die off occasionally.

You can simply trim any dead, dying, or otherwise unsightly leaves with clean shears. Make sure to wear protective gloves and a long-sleeved shirt. The leaves are SHARP!

If your plant is getting too large, you might want to discourage growth by cutting it back a bit. To stop your yucca cane plant from getting any bigger, you can cut off the top portion of the trunk. Eventually new offshoots should sprout from this area.

This won’t look amazing for a while, though, as it will be bare. And, well, look like a plant that has had its head chopped off. So chop wisely. You can replant the part you cut off, too. Yay, more yuccas!

Since my plant suffered a bit of damage outside last winter, I’ve been slowly pruning it back to life this summer. I started by cutting the branches off of the smallest stump completely about a month ago. (There are three stumps, so I’m going to do this slowly.)

A few weeks after cutting them off and after doing absolutely nothing else to the plant, I noticed new yucca pups sprouting! I am so excited to get this plant going with some totally healthy growth again. Check out the pics below.

pruned yucca plant sprouting new growth
pruned yucca plant sprouting new growth
pruned yucca plant sprouting new growth

Do yucca plants multiply?

Yes, yucca plants can multiply. They do this through producing offsets, also known as pups. Offsets are small, young plants that develop at the base of the parent plant. These offsets are clones of the parent plant and will have the same characteristics.

Yucca plants will also produce seed pods that contain seeds. You can plant these seeds in well-draining potting soil and then put them in a warm, sunny location. Germination can take several weeks to several months.

It’s also worth noting that some yucca species naturally produce offsets and some others like the spineless yucca cane will only produce offsets when it’s mature. Some other species that are single trunk plants don’t produce offsets at all.

suckers growing on a yucca cane

How do you propagate a yucca cane?

Propagating yucca plants is very easy. There are two ways to propagate a yucca plant (not including seeds)—by dividing it, or through the offset pups I mentioned. This is very similar to snake plant propagation, as they are both rhizome plants.

A rhizome is how this plant produces new “babies.” Rhizomes are horizontal underground plant stems that create offshoots of the plant. This ultimately creates new plants that are capable of surviving on their own once removed from the mother plant.

You can remove yucca pups/suckers from the mother plant and plant them separately so they can become their own plant. Here are the steps:

  1. Carefully remove offsets; allow them to dry for a few days to allow the cut surface to callus over
  2. Fill a container with well-draining potting soil; plant the offset and firm the soil around it.
  3. Water the offset well; keep the soil consistently moist.
  4. Place the container in a bright, warm location but not in direct sunlight.
  5. After 4-6 weeks, the offset should have rooted and begun to grow.

To divide a yucca plant, remove it from its pot and use a pair of clean gardening shears to cut the yucca plant into two at the rhizome. Then plant separately in fresh soil and water slightly more than normal while the new roots are growing and settling in.

cuttings from a yucca cane
cuttings from a yucca cane
stumps planted in soil

How many years does it take a yucca to bloom?

The plant’s white flowers are called izotes—and they are actually the national flower of El Salvador. The flowers grow from stalks that the plant shoots out. Some yucca species can take several years to bloom, while others may bloom within a year or two.

The yucca cane usually takes several years to bloom, and it can take up to 10 years for it to reach maturity and bloom. The larger the plant and the more optimal the conditions, the more likely it will bloom.

Other species, such as yucca filamentosa, may bloom within 2-3 years of growth. My parents’ outdoor yucca plants bloomed after many years in the ground. I am kicking myself for not getting a picture, because it was fascinating to see. A flower shoot shot up maybe 10 feet in the air. And then a bloom opened up. Truly spectacular!

If your plant does flower, make sure to cut the stalk down to the base after the flower dies off. You might not even want your yucca to flower since the real draw to this plant is the foliage. If you don’t like the flowers, you can just cut off the flower stalks before they bloom. 

yucca and banana plants in a backyard

Is spineless yucca cane safe to have around pets?

Yucca plants are not the same as yuca plants as we discussed earlier in this post. Yuca plants—also known as cassava or manioc plants—are unrelated, if similarly named. Yuca plants have edible tubers that are often used to make different types of flours.

Yucca roots, however, are not edible. Yucca plants are generally considered safe to have around pets. While the leaves of yucca plants are sharp, they are not toxic to pets, and animals typically avoid eating them due to their tough texture.

However, yucca plants do contain saponins, a class of chemical compounds that can cause skin irritation or a rash in some people. This can also apply to pets. And yucca plants have small fibers called filaments that can cause skin irritation if they come into contact with pet’s skin.

For these reasons, and to err on the side of caution, I always recommend keeping plants away from animals or people who might be a bit too curious.

potted spineless yucca cane

Yucca plant FAQs

Here are a few more questions and tips you might have about caring for yucca plants, particularly the spineless yucca cane.

1. Where should I plant a yucca outdoors?

In an area with plenty of sun and well-draining soil. Additionally, keep in mind that the root systems can become very intense and difficult to remove completely. Even after digging up the plants, you could have more sprout.

The underground root structures of mature yucca plants can become large and powerful enough to crack foundations, so consider that before choosing your planting location.

2. Can you touch a yucca plant?

Yes, you can touch a yucca plant. But it’s important to be aware that yucca plants have sharp, stiff leaves that can cause skin irritation or even cuts.

Some yucca plant species also have small fibers called filaments that will cause irritation if they come into contact with your skin. Even when they don’t cause any direct harm, they can make your skin feel itchy. And they have saponins, a class of chemical compounds that can cause skin irritation or a rash in some people.

When taking care of the plant, I recommend using thick work gloves. And if you do come into contact with the plant, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water to remove any sap or fibers.

3. Should you use coffee grounds for yucca plants?

Coffee grounds are a good source of nitrogen, which is an important nutrient for plant growth. They also have a slightly acidic pH, which can help to lower the pH of the soil for yucca plants.

However, you should use coffee grounds in moderation. They can also contain high levels of caffeine and other chemicals that can be toxic to plants if used in large amounts.

One way to use coffee grounds is to make a coffee ground compost that you can use as a top dress to feed your plants. Make sure the coffee grounds are well-composted before adding them to the soil.

spineless yucca plant in a living room

4. What is the lifespan of a yucca plant?

The lifespan of a yucca plant can vary depending on the species and growing conditions. Some species of yucca are short-lived, only lasting a few years, while others can live for many decades.

The spineless yucca cane has a relatively long lifespan and can live for many decades if grown in optimal conditions. Under ideal conditions, it can live over 20 years or even more.

The yucca filamentosa and yucca glauca (Adam’s needle) are more cold hardy and these can live for many years, even a century. Other species of yucca, such as yucca brevifolia (aka Joshua tree), may live for several hundred years in the wild.

5. Are there any pest issues?

Yucca plants are hardy in many ways, and their resistance to pest infestations is one of them! Spider mites, mealy bugs, and scale are some of the things you don’t often find on yucca plants. If you do encounter issues with mealybugs or scale, simply wipe them off with a cloth soaked in alcohol or spray down with neem oil.

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