Spineless Yucca - Y. Elephantipes/Gigantea


Yucca gigantea


Listen to the Yucca Podcast here!



Contents

  1. Top Tips
  2. Location, Water, Humidity & Fertilisation
  3. Common Issues
  4. Origins, Temperature, Propagation, Repotting & Toxicity.

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Top Tips & Info

  • Care Difficulty - Easy
  • Provide a few hours of morning or evening sun a day, avoiding the risk of sun scorch during the height of summer.
  • Allow the majority of the soil to dry out in between waters, especially during the autumn and winter months to downplay the increased chance of root rot and over-watering.
  • Supplement using a general plant fertiliser at monthly intervals throughout the year.
  • Yellowing lower leaves are the direct result of too little light and/or over-watering. Scroll down to ‘Common Issues’ for more information.
  • Repot every three years using a well-draining potting mix (we'd recommend a Cactus & Succulent Compost to prevent over-watering).




Location & Light - 🔸🔸🔸

Never situate a Yucca in a location where you can't read a newspaper, as typical signs of excess darkness are stunted growth, a pale foliar crown and yellowing lower leaves. The ideal setting for this plant is somewhere that can offer a few hours of morning / evening sun, or at least with over-head lighting. A bright, warm conservatory is best, or within a few metres of a south-facing window. Never situate one in a north-facing room, especially in the autumn and winter months, as there won't be enough light during the day.


Water - 🔸

As less is more with Yuccas, be sure to allow at least half of the soil to dry out in between waters. It's recommended to either use fresh bottled water, or tap water that has been allowed to sit for at 24hrs before application. This is purely on the basis of reducing the count of fluoride, which can damage the root system over the course of a few months and is commonly found in tap water to preserve hygiene. In terms of the frequency of irrigations, the season and light levels will directly govern the amount of waters per month. Specimens placed in darker areas must endure periods of near-droughts, whereas sunnier locations will require only the top half of the soil to dry out. Under-watering symptoms include entirely yellow/brown leaves, stunted growth and greying leaves; these issues are usually down to too much light/heat or forgetfulness, but is rather uncommon among gardeners. Over-watering symptoms include spotty brown leaves with yellow perimeters and a rotting stem. Yuccas will only thrive in a bright setting; locations that are too dark will significantly increase the chance of over-watering and yellowing lower leaves.


Humidity - 🔸🔸

Average room humidity is more than enough to accommodate this species. Never situate a Yucca within a few metres of an operating radiator due to the enriched chance of browning leaf-tips.


Fertilisation - 🔸

If you're someone who forgets to supplement their plants during the year, this is the plant for you. Monthly intervals is best, using either a houseplant feed or general plant food at half of the recommended strength. Never apply a 'ready-to-pour' fertiliser into dry soil without a pre-water beforehand, as this will significantly increase the risk of root-burn, with typical signs including yellowed leaves, elongated or poor growth and a general decline of health.



The death of a small trunk is common, but unnatural and shouldn't happen; scroll down to the last paragraph in the 'Common Issues' section for more information.



Common Issues with Yuccas

Yellowing lower leaves - A gradual loss of lower leaves is the natural part of ageing, but if there's evidence of heavy soil with yellowed foliage, remove its pot (leaving the rootball untouched) in a brighter location to aerate the soil. Root rot is the breakdown of roots when its soil has remained overly-saturated for long periods of time, suffocating them of oxygen and air circulation. Without immediate action, you'll run the risk of total destruction as the rot will slowly make its way up to the plant's base. For more information regarding this issue, be sure to click on the link above!

Too low humidity can cause browning leaf tips with yellow halos. Although this won't kill your specimen, you may want to increase the local moisture to prevent the new growth from adopting these symptoms. Mist or rinse the foliage from time to time and create a humidity tray whilst the heaters are active to create a stable environment for your specimen.

Small, brown spots are typical traits of over-watering. Coupled with root rot, leaf-spot disease is an issue among specimens that are situated in too little light with too much soil moisture. Click on the link to learn about how to address this issue.

Spider Mite are small, near-transparent critters, that'll slowly suck out the chlorophyll out of the leaves. Have a check under the leaves, most notably along the midrib, for small webs and gritty yellow bumps. Click here to read our article about the eradicating Spider Mite, along with some extra tips that you may not find elsewhere!

Transplant shock is a big issue when it comes to heavy-handed repots. Give the plant a good soak 24hrs before the action and never tinker with the roots, unless it has been affected by root rot. Typical signs of transplant shock are largely similar to under-watering, with wilting, yellowing leaves and stunted growth among the most common symptoms. Click here to learn more about addressing transplant shock, and a step-by-step guide on performing the perfect transplant.

If your specimen is located in a dark environment, use a chopstick to gently stab the soil in various areas. You should aim to enter the compost between the base of the plant and the pot's edge, as failure to do so may lead to damaging its lower portion. Leave the holes open for a few days before re-surfacing the compost to avoid it becoming overly dry. Not only will the gentle shift in the soil's structure mimic the work of small invertebrates in the wild (worms, etc.), but it'll also add oxygen back into the soil, thus reducing the risk of root rot. Repeat this monthly, or whenever you feel the potting-mix isn't drying out quickly enough.

The final issue to mention is the death of smaller trunks when arranged in a 'trio' of one potAlthough this is a common issue among horticulturalists, this shouldn't happen. The obvious cause could be over-watering and if the soil has been rather heavy for a long period of time, think about relocating it to a drier, brighter environment with an inspection for root rot. In some cases, it may be to do with too little light and not enough water. As Yuccas tend to have smaller root systems (similar to the Dracaena), their root systems won't penetrate the soil enough, thus leading to dehydration and death. If this has happened to you, be sure to remove the trunk once it fully dies off, as leaving it may cause a spread of disease. Send us an email via this link or a DM on Instagram if you're stuck with what to do next!




Origins 

The Yucca gigantea was first formally described in 1859 by a French botanist named Charles Lemaire. Although this is the official name of the species, some still refer it to Y. guatemalensis, which was named by Baker in 1872, or E. elephantipes due to its thickened stems when cultivated in Europe. The flower, Izote, is the national flower of El Salvador. The species primarily originates from central America but has been introduced in other semi-arid climates around the world within the last century.

Distribution of Yucca elephantipes (E. gigantea)


Temperature

10° - 32°C   (50° - 90°F)
H1c  (Hardiness Zone 11)  - Can be grown outdoors between late spring and summer throughout most of the UK while nighttime temperatures are above 10℃ (50℉). If you decide to bring the plant outdoors, don't allow it to endure more than an hour of direct sunlight a day as it may result in sun-scorch. Regularly keep an eye out for pests, especially when re-introducing back indoors.


Spread

Over 2m in height and 0.7m in width once they reach maturity. The ultimate height will take between 5 - 10 years to achieve, with 15cm of growth being put out per year.


Pruning & Maintenance

Remove yellowed or dying leaves and plant debris to encourage better growth and all-round appearance. Pruning must be done with clean scissors or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases - remember to make clean incisions as too much damage can shock the plant.


Propagation

Via Seeds, Stem Cuttings & Sucker Seperation.

Stem & Sucker Cuttings (Moderate to Difficult)

  1. Hygiene is the most crucial element of successful propagation. The secateurs must be dirt-free with a fresh (or well stored) batch of compost. As you'll be cutting through vulnerable tissue, using uncleanly equipment will introduce harmful pathogens to the cutting and its mother plant.
  2. For stem or sucker cuttings, the best specimens are those located at the leading growths. You should aim for a semi-wooded base, but still juvenile enough to slightly bend with the diameter achieving between 1.5 - 2.5cm (0.7 inch). Never use diseased or weakened growth, as this will likely fail to root.
  3. Make the best incision possible to prevent the development of disease and remove the bottom half of the leaves.
  4. Decide on rooting the cutting via water or soil. The first option tends to have better success, especially if you're a new-time propagator. Remove any rotten debris and replace the water every ten days with lukewarm tap water to prevent shocking the plant. Although collected rainwater is acceptable, the risk of harboured diseases is too high, especially with an open wound. Once the roots surpass 3cm (1.1 inches), you can safely pot them up. For both options, use an aerated soil that has a fluffy texture with some perlite, too. Never use a poorly stored bag of compost as it'll promote larvae or perennial seeds to arise. ukhouseplants would recommend using 'Cactus & Succulent Compost' with a 7cm (3 inches) pot that has adequate drainage holes.
  5. Place a 2cm (0.8 inch) layer of soil at the bottom of the pot, and then rest the cutting vertically in the middle - you may have to hold it for support.
  6. Fill the soil around the cutting, making sure that its bottom half is submerged. Do NOT press or compact it. Condensing the compost to support the cutting will push the oxygen above the soil line, suffocating the roots until they rot. If it needs support, introduce a cane or something that won't lead to compaction!
  7. Place the potted cutting in a transparent bag or box. Because of the lack of roots, it'll start to lose stored water - very quickly. A confided environment will lock-in the humidity and reduce the rate of transpiration (water loss through the leaves).
  8. You'll rarely have to water the soil due to the moist air. If the compost compacts itself after the first irrigation, level it out by adding more compost. 
  9. Open the bag every few days for fresh air, keeping the soil evenly moist and NOT soggy - if it looks saturated, leave it! The surrounding humidity in the container will do its job by hydrating the leaves and its stem.
  10. Situate it in a bright, indirect location away from any heat sources (i.e. radiators). Keep the temperature around 18℃ (64℉) as this is the optimum temperature for root development - you can even use a bottom-heat pad to speed-up the process. The roots will develop BEFORE the foliage. You can safely remove the bag or box once new leaves emerge, as, at this point, there'll be a sufficient root system. Introduce a Pebble / Humidity Tray to maintain a good level of atmospheric saturation and to reduce the severity of environmental shock 
  11. Keep the soil moist and maintain a bright, indirect location away from direct sunlight and other heat sources. After around six months, transplant into a slightly bigger pot, keeping in mind transplant shock (where the root hairs are damaged or over-touched). For more information on how to perform the perfect transplant, click here!


Flowers

The time in which it takes Yuccas to flower greatly depend on its level of maturity and its growing conditions. If the dormancy period is served well during winter, white flowers arranged in panicles will develop high above the foliage, lasting several weeks.


Repotting

Repot every three years in the spring using a Cactus & Succulent Compost and the next sized up pot. Whilst transplanting your Yucca, be sure to support the stem of the plant as they're top-heavy and prone to toppling over. For matured specimens, introduce more grit to promote a stronger root ball - hit this link for more information on how to perform the perfect transplant.


Pests & Diseases

Keep an eye out for mealybugs, spider mite, scale, thrips, whitefly & vine weevils. Typical diseases associated with Yuccas are root rot, leaf-spot disease, botrytis (grey mould) & powdery mildew - click here to learn about these issues.


Toxicity

This plant is classified as poisonous so keep away from pets and children who have tendencies to eat the leaves. If parts of the plants are digested, vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite could occur. Consumption of large quantities must be dealt with quickly; acquire medical assistance for further information. Please note that the leaves' edges are also razor sharp, so always wear protective gloves when handling.


Retail Locations

IKEA,  Dobbies,  Online Stores.



If you need further advice with indoor gardening, never hesitate to send us a message or leave a comment in the section below. This could be about your own specific plant, transplantation into a bigger pot, pests or diseases, terrarium ideas, & more!


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