Yucca is one of the most common species of plants found in the United States. It grows wild in many places throughout the country, but it is primarily cultivated for its ornamental value and as a source of fiber. There are two main kinds of yucca: yucca glauca (common type) and yucca elephantipes (rare type). Both types grow naturally or they may be artificially introduced into cultivation. The common type is generally smaller than the rare type.
Common types of yucca include:
Yuccas are native to Mexico, Central America, South America and Hawaii. They are also known as “the tree-nipples” because their leaves resemble the female genitalia. Some species grow up to 30 feet tall!
Yucas have been used in traditional medicine for centuries and some cultures still use them today for fertility purposes.
The rare type of yucca is not native to North America. It was brought here from other parts of the world by early settlers. These plants are only found in a few locations around the world: Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador.
Some people believe that yucca elephantipes can be dangerous to humans and should not be grown or sold. The leaves and flowers of this plant are more toxic than those of the common yucca. This rare type of yucca contains saponins, which are a kind of toxin.
Ingesting this substance can result in weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of hearing and even death. Children seem to be extra-susceptible to these effects.
As with other types of plants, you should take care when handling yucca elephantipes. Always wear gloves and don’t allow children or pets near the plant. If you get sap on your skin or in your eyes, rinse it off immediately and seek medical attention.
Saponins are not the only thing you have to worry about when handling yucca species. Their leaves are covered with sharp edges and their flowers are full of fine hairs that can irritate your skin. It is best to wear gloves when handling either type of yucca plant, even the common types.
It is possible for animals and insects to be harmed by yucca as well. When a yucca plant is young, its spine-covered seed pods may snag the fur of passing animals. The spines can then work their way into the skin of the animal, causing infection.
If you notice spine pods on your yucca plant, you may want to remove them immediately.
Indoor types of yucca include:
Like many other species of plants, there are several different types of yucca that make great houseplants. If you’re looking for a plant that is easy to care for and looks great, you might want to consider the following:
Y. baccata is a smaller kind of yucca that grows naturally in the American southwest. Its trunk is thick and gray and its leaves are sword-shaped and green.
This is one of the more common types of indoor yucca.
Y. baccata “Silver Falls” is a particularly attractive variety of Y. baccata.
This plant has leaves with white and silver edges that look like they’ve been lightly frosted with silver. These leaves are very narrow and straight, almost like spears.
Y. baccata “Sticks on Fire” is similar to the regular Y. baccata, but the edges of its leaves are a rich red instead of green.
This plant can reach up to eight feet in height if it has enough space to grow.
Y. baccata “Tricolor” is similar to the regular Y. baccata in many ways.
It has thick, gray trunks and long, straight green leaves. The difference is that the edges of these leaves are white and purple instead of green.
Y. elata is a tall kind of yucca that grows naturally in the southwest and parts of Mexico. Its trunk is thick and gray and its leaves are slightly blue-green in color.
These leaves have jagged edges covered with small white hairs.
Y. elata “Blue Gem” is similar to the regular Y. elata, but its leaves have green edges instead of blue-green ones.
Y. elata “Bright Edge” is similar to the regular Y. elata, but its leaves have green edges instead of blue-green ones.
The most notable feature of this plant is that the tips of its leaves are bright green.
Y. elata “Golden Sword” has yellowish-green leaves and thick, gray trunks. Its leaves are sword-shaped and slightly wavy along the edges.
Y. elata “Tiburon” is a particularly attractive variety of Y. elata.
It has thick, gray trunks and long, straight blue-green leaves. The edges of these leaves are wavy and have a slightly purple tinge. These leaves are very narrow and almost lance-shaped.
Most yucca plants are fairly easy to grow. They do best in sandy soil that drains well but is moist enough to allow the roots to “breathe.” They’re fairly drought-resistant plants once they’re established, but you still need to make sure they don’t dry out too much or their leaves will begin to wilt.
It’s best to water yucca from the base and water it infrequently, rather than watering from above and watering it more frequently.
A yucca plant will grow well in an area that has a lot of sun. If it’s indoors, it’ll also grow better if placed near a window that faces south.
While yucca plants are fairly pest-resistant, they can still be bothered by the same pests that bother other kinds of plants. These include (but aren’t limited to) mealy bugs, scale insects, and thrips. You can purchase special insecticidal soap to kill these off, or else wipe them away with a soft cloth or cotton swab dipped in alcohol.
Because a yucca plant doesn’t need to be watered very frequently or much at all, it can be easy to forget that it needs watering at all. Never let its soil dry out completely, or its roots will begin to rot and the plant will wither and die. If you don’t have time to water your yucca plant often, it’s better to let it get slightly dry on the soil surface before you water it again, as this will cause less root rot and stress than watering it too much.
Some yucca plants can reach be very tall and imposing. If you have small children or pets, you should take care to either put your yucca in a place where people won’t brush up against it or fence it around. The edges of yucca leaves are very sharp and can cause serious cuts.
If you have any other questions about your yucca plant, or problems with it, please feel free to contact us.
*Please note that the succulent(s) included in this kit are living plants and they can arrive wilted or dried out. Be sure to follow the care instructions provided to ensure their long-term survival!
**Please note: Height and width dimensions are estimates based on averages. Age, sun, and water conditions can affect growth rates.
Ideal Light Conditions: Full Sun
Forever Blooming Size: 2′ Tall X 3′ Wide
Hardiness Zone: 9-11
philisophyllum ‘Silver Star’ (Silver Dollar Plant, Pony’s Tail) Description: Planted in the ground or in a large container, the Silver Star will quickly grow into an impressive specimen. The plant will quickly spread out to form a thick mat. The leaves are thick and shaped like an American Silver Dollar, hence the name.
The edges of the leaves are lined with silvery hairs that glisten in the sun and give the plant its common name. Additionally, the leaves turn a coppery-red in the fall, adding greatly to the plants beauty. Where to Grow: While commonly grown as a houseplant, the Pony’s Tail is actually a wildflower native to Mexico. It does very well in the ground as a garden plant and is also very easy to grow in large containers. The thick, succulent leaves store water and will quickly rot if grown in ordinary potting soil. The roots can become quite invasive, so it’s best to grow this plant in a large container or directly in the ground! Water: The Pony’s Tail is very drought-tolerant and usually never needs watering.
Sources & references used in this article:
Yuccas, yucca moths, and coevolution: a review by O Pellmyr – Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003 – JSTOR
Variation in host specificity in the yucca moth, Tegeticula yuccasella (Incurvariidae): a morphometric approach by NJ Miles – Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society, 1983 – images.peabody.yale.edu
Gas exchange and chlorophyll fluorescence responses of three south‐western Yucca species to elevated CO2 and high temperature by TE Huxman, EP Hamerlynck, ME Loik… – Plant, Cell & …, 1998 – Wiley Online Library