Yucca: plant profile, care & propagation


For many years now, I have been growing various vegetables as a hobby in my spare time, which is what ultimately led me to studying horticulture. I find it fascinating to watch as plants grow from seed to fruit and to then finally be able to make use of the literal fruits of my labour.

Favourite fruit: Strawberries and cherries
Favourite vegetable: Potatoes, tomatoes and garlic

It is hard to imagine any living room without a yucca plant. We have collected for you all the information you need about this popular indoor palm.

Yucca plant
Yuccas are reliable houseplants that thrive in the home with little effort [Photo: Alexeysun/ Shutterstock.com]

Yuccas (Yucca) are reliable houseplants that thrive indoors with little effort. Despite its misleading name, the palm-like plant is not a palm in the true sense of the word, but an agave (Agavoideae). In this article, we explain how to successfully care for, propagate, and prune yucca in your own home.

Yucca: origin and characteristics

Originally from the deserts of Central and North America, the plant has found its way into our homes and is very popular due to its exotic appearance. In living rooms, the giant yucca (Yucca elephantipes) is especially common. But in addition to indoor plants, there are also a number of yucca species that are suitable for outdoor cultivation and survive the cold winter in this country. All species are characterised by their pointed and hard leaves that emerge from the centre of the plant like spines. Because of this, careful handling of the prickly agave plants is advised.

Yucca plant in the wild
Originally from the deserts of Central and North America, the plant has found its way into our homes [Photo: Karel Stipek/ Shutterstock.com]

Is the yucca poisonous?

There are always myths about the toxicity of yuccas that are not easy to answer. One thing at least can be said: the palm-like plants contain so-called saponins, which are secondary plant compounds that can because stomach and digestive problems when consumed, especially in babies and pets. It is not possible to completely clarify how poisonous yucca really are. However, another aspect is the risk of injury from the sharp-edged leaves of the plant.

Consider the following aspects with yuccas:

  • Leaves and stem contain saponins
  • Can potentially because discomfort in babies and pets
  • Injuries can occur due to sharp-edged leaves

Growing yucca: what location is best?

Most often yuccas are kept indoors as a normal houseplant. In this case, you should always ensure a bright location in the house, ideally place the plant near the window. Cool temperatures indoors during the winter do not usually bother exotic plants much. However, the fact that some species of agave plants can grow outdoors in our part of the world is known only to a few, so below, we provide an introduction to the optimal garden location.

Growing yuccas outside

As desert plants, yuccas also bring a southern flair to the garden that can be maintained even during the winter. Several species, such as Adam’s needle (Yucca filamentosa) or the Roman candle (Yucca gloriosa), are hardy and can thus be cultivated here over a long period of time. These species can also attract attention outdoors with their large white flowerheads. Due to its sunny origin, the following applies to both the ground-hugging Adam’s needle and the taller Roman candle: if cultivated outdoors, the plant needs a warm spot in the full sun and protected from the wind. A good position would be along the south-facing side of the house or by a wall.

Needle palm plants with white blossoms
Some species also produce large, white inflorescences [Photo: guentermanaus/ Shutterstock.com]

Yucca: the right soil

The right substrate is definitely an important factor for the yucca, as the greatest damage is caused by too much water. Yuccas – whether outdoors or in pots – do not tolerate waterlogging and therefore thrive best on loose and nutrient-rich substrate. The soil should always be permeable, so it is advisable to add a drainage layer of expanded clay when growing in pots. If the substrate is too compacted, mixing in sand can help.

These aspects must be considered when choosing the right location:

  • As a houseplant: choose a bright location
  • Outdoors: full sun, protected from the wind and warm place (south side)
  • Permeable and nutrient-rich soil
Yucca plant in a pot on the window sill
The yucca feels most at home in a bright location by the window [Photo: Amilao/ Shutterstock.com]

Caring for yuccas: professional tips

Yucca palms are considered very easy to care for, which makes them particularly popular as houseplants. Nevertheless, some points should also be observed with this plant of the Agavaceae family.

Watering yuccas properly

Yuccas are very sensitive to excessive amounts of water, so in principle, you should underwater rather than overwater. You should still water the plant from time to time so that it does not stay dry for a prolonged period of time. When growing in pots, always make sure that too much water does not collect on the saucer.


When it comes to nutrient supply of palm-like plants, the following applies: for outdoor plants, it is quite sufficient to lightly incorporate some compost, whereas additional nutrients should be added to plants grown in containers due to the limited soil volume. A first step is to change the substrate approximately every two years. Stinging nettle liquid manure makes an excellent organic fertiliser, but it should always be diluted with water. Use tap water rather than rainwater, as it contains more of the lime that is important for yuccas.

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Liquid Houseplant Food, 800ml
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  • Perfect for a wide variety of houseplants & foliage plants
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Common diseases and pests

With proper handling, yuccas are seldom threatened with major problems, as these are often the result of over-watering. Nevertheless, in some cases, diseases and pests can also settle in, and you should be sure to get rid of them. These include fungal diseases such as mildew or animal pests such as spider mites. While the latter feel particularly well in dry air, fungal diseases as well as rot are favoured by too high (air) humidity. More detailed information about diseases in yucca can be found here.

Yucca problems

Changes in the leaves of this agave-type plant may occur from time to time. We will go through the reasons and what you can do about it.

Yucca palm has yellow leaves

One of the most common problems is the discolouration of the leaves to a yellowish tone. In most cases, the reason for this is excessive humidity or an oversupply of water, to which the plant reacts sensitively. If you can rule this out as a because, lack of light may be the cause. In any case, the discoloured leaves in the upper part of the plant are a sign of improper care.

Yucca: leaves have brown tips

Brown tips on the elongated leaves, as with yellowish discolouration, may indicate an overabundance of water. On the other hand, strong sunlight or very dry air in winter (for example, next to the heater) can cause sunburn or withering. Especially with the yucca as a houseplant, make sure it is in a bright place, but not too exposed to the sun, and provide additional moisture in the air only in winter.

Brown leaves of the yucca plant
Discoloured leaves often indicate improper care [Photo: ChandraSekhar/ Shutterstock.com]

Yucca palm loses leaves

If not corrected, all the above-mentioned mistakes in care can eventually cause the leaves to fall off the plant. Leaf fall can be particularly serious if, in addition, parts of the plant become soft and rotten. This may be due to either waterlogging or a bacterial or fungal disease. In this case, remove the affected areas immediately.

But beware: If, from time to time, leaves fall off the lower part plant, it is usually a natural process, as the trunk grows and new leaves are replicated at the crown.

Discoloured and falling leaves can be signs of the following problems:

  • Too much water/too much humidity
  • Too little/too much light
  • Excessively dry air in winter
  • Infections caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses

How to prune yucca

With their spiky shape, yuccas can definitely grow very sprawling and tolerate pruning well. We show when and how you should prune a yucca.

When is it best to prune yuccas?

Yuccas will sprout again after a short time if they are pruned. Therefore, it is recommended to prune the plant in the spring during the growing season, leaving enough time until winter. In addition to capping plant parts for space, thinning or cutting off diseased plant parts can also be good for the yucca.

Leaves of the spineless yucca
Spineless yucca, with their spiky shape, can grow quite sprawling and tolerate pruning well [Photo: Peter Maerky/ Shutterstock.com]

What is the correct way to prune a yucca plant?

Crooked and densely growing leaves can be easily removed at the base with sharp scissors to restore more light and space to the plant and to you. In addition to smaller cuts, the trunk can also be cut without any problems, without causing major damage to the plant. Due to the thickness, use a saw to cut the trunk. The wound should ideally be sealed with tree wax after cutting to prevent infection and moisture loss from the plant.

Note: When cutting a yucca, it is easy to injure yourself because of the sharp-edged leaves. It is therefore always advisable to wear gloves when pruning/cutting.

Propagating yuccas

Yuccas are great for growing new cuttings and offshoots. In this way, the desert plant can be multiplied in a very short time, especially if it needs to be cut in any case. To grow cuttings, proceed as follows for palm lilies (with taller growth):

The yucca plant cut for propagation
The yucca palm is easy to propagate yourself [Photo: Mala Iryna/ Shutterstock.com]
  1. Either cut off individual shoots or take a portion aside when pruning the trunk more severely. Cuttings should only be taken from spring to early summer.
  2. Put the part of the plant in a growing medium of soil and sand. Leaves should not be in the soil.
  3. Keep the soil moist, the pot should be in a sunny and warm place.
  4. After a few weeks, new roots will form in the substrate and the yucca can be repotted.

By the way: For low-growing species such as the Adam’s needle, propagating the yucca by division is also a good option.

You can learn more about how to take care of yuccas here.