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Yucca Cane Plant Care

Learn how to care for a yucca plant indoors and outdoors.

Caring for the hardy yucca plant

This one has been on my radar for a while, so I’m happy to finally be sitting down to write this article. Yucca plants are stunning specimens that can add a tropical feel to even the most boring rooms and gardens. And because they’re so easy to care for, they make a great choice for even beginners.

For this article, 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

Yucca cane care overivew

  • Yucca plants are easy to care for and thrive on neglect, making them ideal for beginner plant enthusiasts.
  • Native to arid regions of the Americas and the Caribbean.
  • Require direct sunlight and well-draining soil.
  • Do not need frequent watering; let the soil dry out.
  • Overwatering can lead to root rot and a softening of the trunk.
  • Does fine in normal household humidity levels.
  • Propagate easily through offsets or division.
  • Pruning can help manage their size and encourage new growth.
  • Not known to be toxic, though they have very sharp leaves.

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

What are the most common types of yucca?

There are many different species of yucca plants—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.
  • 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.
  • Yucca brevifolia, also known as Joshua tree, is a species of yucca that is native to the Mojave Desert. It is a tree-like yucca that can grow up to 40 feet tall.
variegated yucca cane

Are yucca plants indoor or outdoor plants?

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. 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

Does a yucca cane 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.

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.

large mature potted yucca cane

How often should you water it?

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

Overwatering vs. underwatering

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 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.

Temperature & humidity

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.

But 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. I kept it on a covered patio by the house.

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 also does well outside. Moral of the story? Don’t overthink humidity too much!

gorgeous plant-filled back patio

When should I repot my yucca?

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.

Yucca cane plants are very top heavy, so it’s usually best to choose a heavy pot. I have mine in a large ceramic pot to help keep it stable. When I had it in a lightweight resin pot on the patio, it constantly blew over.

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 article about the cute Fairy Castle Cactus!

How big can a spineless yucca 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

Yucca plants do require some pruning. 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 trim off any dead or unsightly foliage. Make sure to wear thick 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. It will look like a plant that has had its head chopped off. So chop wisely. Below is an example of when I’ve actually done this to a plant. A few weeks after cutting the top off and doing nothing else, I noticed new yucca pups sprouting!

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 its mature. Some other species that are single trunk plants don’t produce offsets at all.

Propagating 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

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. A flower shoot shot up maybe 10 feet in the air. And then a bloom opened up. Truly spectacular! Below is a photo I got on the tail-end of the bloom when it was dying off.

If your plant does flower, make sure to cut the stalk down to the base after the flower dies. 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 toxic?

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.

spineless yucca plant in a living room

In conclusion…

Yucca plants, especially the spineless yucca cane, are beautiful, resilient plants. They have adapted to thriving with minimal attention and are an excellent choice for anyone looking for a low maitenance houseplant in an area with plenty of light.

With proper care, yuccas can be a long-lasting, striking addition to any plant collection. Have you had success with yucca plants, or are you considering adding one to your space? Share your thoughts or questions below. Happy planting!

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collage of plants that says all about caring for yucca cane

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