Plants have always been a part of our daily lives. Yucca plants are one that really stand out because they not only provide aesthetic in a place but also provide medical benefits.
It is drought tolerant as it stores water in its trunk. It is also known for its bulbous bases. Furthermore, yuccas are also slow-growers and almost do not need maintenance to survive.
More than that, they are visually pleasing and it is fortunate to know that there are different types of yuccas to choose from. If you are planning to get your own yucca plant, here are some essentials you need to know about.
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Facts about yucca plants
- It is considered as one of the most diverse plants with almost 50 different species. Each species has unique characteristics from the leaf, flower to the fruit it bears.
- They relatively thrive anywhere, in different climates, regions, and topography. Nonetheless, they are more endemic in dry and arid climates.
- They pollinate uniquely. This plant is only pollinated by the Yucca moth.
- They store water in their leaves. This is made more possible by their waxy coating, beneficial in preventing evaporation and water loss. They also have built-in channels, directing water to the base of the plant.
- They bear edible fruit. As a matter of fact, they taste like cucumber or pepper and are used as food ingredients in the southwest. They are often stewed or friend but they can also be eaten raw.
- The famous Joshua Tree in California is a yucca plant and it is protected under the California Endangered Species Act.
- They are medicinal. The roots of the yucca plant are processed into capsules, and ointments, among others, to treat osteoarthritis, hypertension, migraines, high cholesterol, diabetes, liver, bowel, gallbladder, and circulation disorders.
- It is the state flower of New Mexico.
Yucca plant symbolism
Despite its appearance (in some of its variety), yucca Plant is considered to have many symbolic meanings. It is said that having a yucca plant around the curb or in the home symbolizes new opportunities, loyalty, protection and purity. Yucca Plants are also known as fortune plants.
In many cultures, the yucca is also a symbol of divinity, or the connection of humanity to the divine. Being connected to spirituality makes the Joshua Tree in California one of the most popular camping sites and hiking grounds for reboot and keeping close with one’s psyche.
Types of yucca
While Yucca Plants grow best in southwestern areas, there are always types that are good for your location. Here are the different types of yucca that you should know of.
1. Adam’s Needle ‘Color Guard’ (Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’)
The first type of Yucca Plant is the Yucca Filamentosa ‘Color Guard’ or commonly known as Adam’s Needle.
It sports yellow and green leaves typical of yucca plants. Adam’s Needle is described as the most spectacular type of Yucca filamentosa.
It grows from 2-3ft feet and 1 meter tall having the same width. Its flowers emerge during the month of June. Its most unique characteristic is it has sharp leaves used to deter animals and intruders.
2. Adam’s Needle ‘Excalibur’ (Yucca filamentosa ‘Excalibur’)
This one is also called as the ‘thready yucca.’ It is known for its stiff shrub, sword-shaped leaves that have bluish-green to gray-green color. This type of Yucca Plant produces a bell-shaped creamy white flower and emerges best during summer.
3. Banana Yucca Plant (Yucca baccata)
This type of yucca plant is present at all seasons of the year. It is an evergreen shrub that is found in deserted areas in some parts of the United States and Mexico.
It is identifiable for its white flowers and banana shaped fruits. This is a smaller yucca, growing to just 3ft.
4. Beaked Yucca Plant (Yucca rostrata)
This one is a single stemmed yucca tree and is known because of its bluish green leaves radiating from the top of its trunk. Its foliage grows to up to 2ft long, but be careful in touching it because it has small, thin, sharp blades.
The white flowers are directly emerging from foliage and overall, it grows at a height of 6-15ft. It is cold-hardy yucca as it could withstand -10F.
5. Bear Grass Yucca (Yucca filamentosa)
This one looks similar to that of Adam’s needle. Their only point of comparison would be the leaves. Beargrass yucca’s leaves are narrower, flatter, and lancing.
They do not have the sharp edge of Adam’s needle. Like the Beaked yucca, their flowers also emerge from the stems. They have a creamy white color and overall, they grow to a height of 8ft.
6. Blue Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia blue)
This one gets its name for its rare blue leaves, making it a real standout from the others. It is considered as a cold hardy yucca, although it is known for its ability to grow and thrive in dry areas.
The main difficulty in keeping this yucca alive is the fact that it would rot in wet conditions.
7. Buckley’s Yucca (Yucca constricta)
This type of yucca plant is considered as an evergreen shrub, growing in four seasons and endemic among rocky, and sandy soils as well as in hot and arid deserts.
It grows to up to 3ft and is known for its narrow, twisted leaves that are striking in their pale blue to dark green color. If you are looking for a yucca plant that would survive in poor soil conditions, this is a firm choice.
8. Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
This type of yucca plant is also known as ‘Sonoran Blue’ and is a fast-growing desert tree. It is identifiable for its thick, fibrous trunk and branches.
It also has spiky and sharp leaves, crowing each branch with dark green hues. This one grows to up to 50ft and roots that branch out to up to 36ft.
Its white flowers bloom during late winter or early spring. This is the most popular yucca, having been featured in album covers, specifically of the British band U2.
9. Mojave Yucca Plant (Yucca schidigera)
This one is also known for its common name, ‘Spanish Dagger.’ As the name suggests, it is native to the Mojave Desert.
Like some yuccas, it also features sharp leaves but unlike them, sports a spiked green crown and yellow green to blue green foliage. Its flowers are also striking, with its white and purple color, standing on a 4ft flower stem.
10. Our Lord’s Candle (Yucca whipplei)
This is another evergreen yucca, identifiable for being trunkless. It features sharp and rigid, bluish leaves with serrated edges. The stiff blades can grow up to three (3) feet long.
It is unique because it has the tendency to die after bloom time. It is much loved for its beautiful flower stalk, producing creamy white flowers with a special scent. Its stems grow to up to 14ft.
11. Red Yucca Plant (Hesperaloe parviflora)
This type of yucca is identifiable for its grass-like, spineless leaves and bell-shaped, pink flowers. As such, it is considered as a false yucca. Nonetheless, it is loved for its high ornamental value.
It gets its name from its blue-green leaves that turn reddish-bronze during winter. It is also drought tolerant and perfect for Mediterranean gardens. However, you should be aware that the red yucca contains poisonous substances.
12. Soaptree Yucca (Yucca elata)
This type of yucca plant is very unusual. It starts off as a ball of thin needles that grow close to the ground. While a slow-grower, it could reach up to 20ft tall.
After bloom time, it shall produce brown capsules that will last until fall. It is frost and drought tolerant and is ideal for landscapes and in succulent gardens.
13. Soapweed Yucca Plant (Yucca glauca)
This one is also called as the Spanish bayonet. It features small, sharp-leaved yucca plants and thrives in arid conditions.
Its main identifier would be its long, narrow, and spiky leaves with a globular growth habit. It grows to up to 2ft white greenish-white flowers.
14. Spanish Dagger ‘Bright Star’ (Yucca Gloriosa ‘Bright Star’)
This one grows at a ground level with its spherical rosettes and bold leaves. It is unique for its striped leaves which are yellowish at the tip and bright green inside.
With strong light, the colors can turn purple and cream. The flowers of this yucca are also interesting. The buds are magenta or purple at the bud and then turn white at adulthood blooming the whole summer.
15. Spanish Dagger ‘Variegata’ (Yucca Gloriosa ‘Variegata’)
This one is special because their leaves are said to look like the arranged Roman swords of the olden times. The leaves form a rosette of green and blue leaves with gray or cream stripes at the side.
Its flowers are bell-shaped and cream colored. It is a known salt-resistant yucca, making it a perfect accent plant along coastal gardens. Overall, it could grow to up to 4ft.
16. Spineless Yucca Plant (Yucca Elephantipes)
This one is considered as one of the tallest of all yucca trees. It gets its name for being one of the rare yuccas with no sharp spines on its leaves. As it matures, its thick gray stem begins to look like an elephant’s foot making its botanical name ‘elephantipes.’
This type of yucca plant can be identified with its leathery leaves that grow in a spiral rosette shape, making it look like a tropical palm tree. They grow up to 30ft in the wild and 5ft as container plants. It is one of the very few yucca plants that can be used as houseplant.
17. Thompson’s Yucca Plant (Yucca thompsoniana)
Thompson’s yucca plant looks like the beaked yucca plant but is somehow smaller. Its leaves are sharp, with silver green or silver blue color, growing out from thin stems. The flowers are beautiful all summer long. They are cup shaped and cream in color.
18. Twisted Yucca (Yucca rupicola)
This one is also known as the rock yucca. As the name suggests, it features twisting, sword shaped leaves that have bright green to dark green color.
This also has very sharp leaves with pointed tips. This has flowers that grow up to 5ft, bell-shaped and is white in color.
19. Weak-Leaf Yucca Plant (Yucca flaccida)
This one is considered as the cousin of Adam’ needle. It is identifiable for its weak leaves that tend to bend over, giving it a drooping look.
It is a slow grower and could only reach 2ft in height. It has sword shaped leaves, overall, with a contrast of yellow and green. The flowers are bell-shaped and are white in color.
20. Yellow Yucca Plant (Hesperaloe parviflora yellow)
This type of yucca plant produces bright yellow, waxy, inch-long trumpet flowers during early spring. Its foliage reaches two 2-3ft tall and the flowers’ bloom reaches four 4-6ft.
Yucca plant benefits
The Yucca plant, though not as beautiful as other plants, can provide a lot of benefits. From its roots to its fruit, the yucca plant is known to be a great source of medicine.
Yucca plants are said to contain anti-inflammatory properties as well as being rich in antioxidants. As such, it can aid arthritis, colitis, hypertension and migraines. It can also provide vitamins like B, C, iron and calcium. Aside from these, the following are also known benefits of the yucca plant.
- Boosts immunity: As it is rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants, yucca plants aid in the production of white blood cells which help us to naturally be protected from infections and viruses.
- Pain relief: Even in the olden times, yucca plants were already used in traditional medicine to aid pain relief, thanks to their high anti-inflammatory content. At present, the yucca is used in treating arthritis through yucca plant parts that are turned into tablet or capsule forms.
- Skin rejuvenation: Yucca is also ever present in the beauty and cosmetic industry because of their antioxidant content. Studies show that yucca has photoprotective properties and has the ability to protect our skin from sun damage and is believed to be better than that of the SPFs.
Yucca extract can also be seen in products such as lotions, soaps and soaps. Yucca can also treat a variety of skin conditions such as dandruff, balding, sores and cuts, sprains and skin diseases and infections.
- Helps in regulating blood sugar: Research suggests that yucca has glucose reducing properties which help in regulating blood sugar, hence, beneficial in aiding diabetes. However, since this is not yet a wide-held fact, it should be used sparingly and with the go signal of your physician.
Yucca plant care
Yucca plants (in all varieties) are known to be independent, thriving in neglect and are very low maintenance in the garden. However, you should still know some of the basic yucca plant care tips if you want them to remain vibrant for a long time.
- Soil: Yucca plants grow in a hot sandy soil but make sure that it has drainage. Always make sure that the water flow is excellent.
- Light: As it loves the hot areas, place your Yucca plants in areas where they get plenty of sunlight. Do not put your yuccas in a place where it can get direct sunlight as its growth may result in a brownish leaf.
- Water: They do not require frequent watering. They must only be watered when the soil is dry. Check if 2-3 inches of the top soil is dry. If it is, that is the only time for watering.
- Pruning: Yuccas have spikes and sharp blades in their leaves and other parts so make sure to put some protective gear when pruning the dead and brown leaves in a yucca plant. The best time for pruning would be summer or fall.
- Fertilizer: While not necessary, fertilizers are good for small-growing yuccas. Make sure that you check the best mixture for the type of yucca plant that you have. Fertilize before the growing season or during summer.
How many varieties of yucca are there?
There are more or less 50 recognized types of yucca plants out there. Although often categorized as cacti, it has to be understood that they are under the classification of perennial evergreens Asparagacae and not cacti or succulents.
What is the difference between a yucca plant and a yucca tree?
The yucca plant does not only have ornamental value but its roots could also be used in generating starch and flour alternatives.
On the other hand, yucca trees are those that are found in desert regions, flower bearing, and are considered more ornamental. You have to know too that not all yucca trees are Joshua trees.
Why are yucca plants bad?
Although we cannot discount the benefits of yucca plants not only to medicine but also to food especially that it is considered as one of the most carbohydrate laden food sources in the world, yucca plants are said to contain a specific toxin called cyanogenic glucosides.
When eaten raw or prepared callously, this could trigger cyanide poisoning. Depending on the amount eaten, it could lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or even instant death.
Can yuccas grow in pots?
Yes. Yuccas can be grown in pots. Even when grown in pots or transferred indoors, they remain low maintenance. The only consideration would be the right amount of sunlight and using the right type of soil.
Can you cut the top off a yucca and replant?
Yes. As a matter of fact, you can cut just one off from the top, split in two and plant them in two separate pots. The other good thing about yucca plants is that they can be planted even without the roots so they are very replanting friendly.
Is yucca a good indoor plant?
Yes. Aside from the fact that they do not require too much attention and maintenance, they also exude a lot of ornamental value. Also, if you know how to use them medicinally, they can be a stable supply of natural remedies in the home for different purposes and conditions.
How long do yucca plants live?
Yucca plants grown indoors have an average lifespan of 5-10 years. On the other hand, yucca trees would have a lifespan of 75 years and more especially if they remain in their native habitats. The longevity of yucca plants is owed to their ability to store water and love for lots of sunlight.
What kills a yucca plant?
If you think that yucca plants are not the right one for you, you may use herbicides or stump removers in eliminating them for good. Attacking the root system of yucca plants once and for all is the best remedy for you to kill it. After this, you can dig it up and remove it from the area. It would not be an instant fix but it will surely do the trick.
Are yucca plants invasive?
Although they are hard to kill and their roots have a tendency to branch out, they are not considered as invasive. They just have to establish their roots deep for them to form strong mats of ground cover but they do not parasite on the nutrients of other plants near them.
Can yucca plant roots be eaten raw?
As has been mentioned, yucca roots contain cyanide toxin. The toxin is specifically concentrated on the root’s skin so never ever, consume it raw. Plus, if you cook it, you should be an expert at doing it already so as not to be exposed to the toxic component found in the roots.
Yucca plants are striking on their own not only because of their distinct characteristics but also because they can be used for different functions.
It is one thing that we have them as landscape plants, or as beautiful ornamentals. But it is another thing to know that it is full of medicinal properties offering healing wonders to different conditions.
Indeed, there is more to yucca plants than just what we know. Having this list of yucca plants is beneficial for you to narrow down the best one that should make it in your garden.