Past Articles Library | Growing a Yucca Plant
A Yucca filamentosa is a plant of many names, which includes Adam’s needle, needle palm, Confederate flax, grass cactus, and thread and needle. Its flexibly makes this plant a landscaping favorite for those trouble spots since it is carefree and only requires sunlight and a well-drained soil.
The yucca is also a wildlife favorite, which attracts hummingbirds and the Yucca moth. The lifecycle of this plant is tied directly to the Yucca moth who fertilizes the plant during their nightly visits. While at the first flower, the moth rolls the pollen into a ball that is the size of their head. The moth then carries this ball of pollen to the next flower where her eggs are laid into the premature ovary. Once that is done, the pollen is deposited on the flowers stigma. This is done so that there is a guaranteed food source of the moths, which are yucca seeds.
After the larvae have hatched, they will eat the seeds but do not worry. This plant is so prolific with seed production that 60 to 80 percent of the seeds will be left for propagation.
Yucca can be propagated in three different techniques. This includes division, root cuttings and seeds. When considering propagating a yucca, start with the easiest technique, which in this case is division. This technique is not only the easiest but is also a way of controlling this plant, which can spread through root and seeds. To begin this process, first find a yucca that has several side shoots to it. Once you have found that yucca, begin to cut down into the soil making a circle that is about 5 inches from the plant. Continue to dig while lifting up. Do not worry if you cut through roots. This plant is very resilient. As the process continues, begin to lift up on the plant until you can remove the plant and root ball from the ground.
Once removed from the ground, examine the plant mass and choose the side shoots you want to plant. After that is done, take a sharp knife and begin to cut away from the mother plant. Continue to cut until the side shoot is separated. Now that is done, replant the mother plant and place the side shoot in its new location.
The second technique that one can use to propagate a yucca is through root cuttings. This process needs to begin while the plant is dormant and requires one to dig up the plant. Once that is done, examine the roots and single out those that are about as thick as a pencil. Now measure off one-third of the root and cut with a straight line. Never take more than one third from the mother plant. Doing this will provide enough energy so that the plant can make it through the winter. On the other end of the root, make sure to make a diagonal cut. This will help you distinguish between the ends of root.
After that is done, take a tape measure and begin to cut the root every three to six inches starting at the angle end. Continue with the angle cut. Once that is done, fill a flat with moistened soil and lay the cutting horizontally on the soil surface. Cover the cutting with ½ inch of soil and cover with plastic wrap or a pane of glass. Place the flat in a sunny location. Once sprouts appear, remove the cover and transplant into individual pots. Keep until the weather warms and the plants can be planted outside after the local frost-free date has passed.
The third way of propagating yuccas is through seeds. To do this, one will need to start the seeds in the winter. Do not try to direct seed into the garden space. Yuccas have a low germination rate and those which are sowed directly have even a lower rate.
Once you have your seeds collected, gather a plastic container and paper towel. Place ¼ inch of water inside the plastic container and place a paper towel on top. After that is done, place the seeds on top of the paper towel and place the container in room that is kept between 50 and 80 degrees.
Keep the paper towel moist for at least a month or up to a year. After this time period has passed, remove the seeds from the plastic container. Fill a flat with a mixture of 50 percent sand and 50 percent compost and plant the yucca seeds down ½ inch into the soil. Water in and place on a western facing windowsill. Keep the flat watered until sprouts appear. This can take up to a year.
Once sprouts appear, transplant each seedling into a deep pot. Yuccas have deep roots and will quickly grow out of their new home. Transplant as needed. Keep them indoors for up to two years. After that time period, harden off and plant in the garden space.
Pruning a yucca depends on the growth habit of the plant. Yuccas can grow in one of two ways. One is that of a tree and the other is in a rosette form. If you have the tree variety, prune the plant to control size. On the other hand, if you have the rosette form, prune to remove the flower stalk at the end of the season. When doing this step, make sure to take the stalk down to the rosette. Leaving a cut stalk can lead to the rotting of the rosette.
Another approach to pruning consists of removing the sharp tips at the end of the leaves. This should only be done as a last resort when the yucca has been planted in an incorrect location, like near a park or schoolyard. Always remember when pruning this plant to wear not only gloves but goggles.
Companion plants that look wonderful with yuccas include sedum, sage, yarrow, rudbeckia and decorative grasses. Keep in mind though that regardless of what you plant you will need to make sure that they meet both the sun and soil requirements.