How to Water Yucca Plants Indoors


How to water yucca plants indoors

Yuccas are one of the best plants that I recommend for beginner gardeners, as they are desert dwellers, and they are a little more forgiving than most houseplants if you forget to water them!

But in order for us to look after our yuccas we need to know how often to water them at different times of the year and the methods to know when it is the right time to water. I work in a garden center and have to water plants like yuccas and I’ve learned a lot through firsthand experience.

In this article, I’ll share with you my tricks, secrets and techniques so that you know exactly how to water your yucca with confidence..

Let’s get straight to the point! Here is my 3 sentence explanation…

Yuccas are drought-resistant plants that require the top 2.5 inches of soil to dry out between waterings. Always water yucca with a good soak so that water runs out the drainage holes of the pot. Watering every 14 days or so is typically appropriate, but this varies depending on climate.

Keep reading for how to establish the optimal watering schedule for yucca plants according to your specific climate and conditions indoors…

How Often to Water Yucca Plants (Indoors)

For us to undertsand how to water yucca, we need to appreciate how they grow in the wild…

Yuccas are drought-resistant plants that are native to Mexico and South Western USA, in deserts, rocky badlands, and mountainous areas with well-draining soil, and infrequent rainfall.

Our yucca plants are adapted to their arid environments with thick, fleshy roots that store water from infrequent rainfall, and their leaves are coated with an oily substance that reduces water loss (transpiration) from the leaves. (They’re some clever adaptations, right?)

In fact, our Yuccas are so well suited to growing in dry soils without much moisture that the biggest mistake I see when watering is always watering too often, which results in the leaves turning yellow and drooping as a sign of stress, with root rot being a common problem. (It’s an easy mistake to make; I did it myself when I first started growing yuccas!)

To grow yucca tress successfully it is important that we emulate the watering and well draining soil conditions of its native environment by keeping it on the dry side rather then overwatering.

The method that I was taught when I started working at my garden center was that yucca plants require the top 2.5 inches of soil to feel dry to the touch before watering. I’ve found that typically means watering yucca plants every 10-14 days, but this can vary according to climate differences.

However, how often you water depends on how quickly the top 2.5 inches of the soil dries out. From first-hand experience, I’ve seen that this can vary due to:

  • The humidity of your climate (higher humidity requires less frequent watering).
  • The size of the pot (small pots dry out much quicker).
  • The material of your pot (clay and terracotta pots dry out quicker than plastic or ceramic pots).
  • Whether your yucca is in an air current caused by air-con or forced air or next to any source of heat (air currents sap more moisture for the leaves).
  • The capacity of the soil to retain moisture (yucca requires well-draining soil).

My method establishing how often to water yucca plants that I use in the garden center according to your specific conditions is to feel the soil to a finger’s depth.

If you can still detect moisture then do not water just yet, but if the soil feels somewhat dry then this is the perfect time to water.

With some practice and diligent monitoring of the soil, you can establish the precise point at which your soil starts to go from moist to dry and create the optimal watering schedule for your yucca plant in your home.

Remember we talked about appreciating how yuccas grow in the wild? This frequency of watering replicates the cycle of drought followed by a downpour of rain in the yuccas native environment.

How to Tell if you are Watering your Yucca Too Often or Not Enough

If you are watering yucca too frequently, I’ve observed that the leaves start to turn yellow and droop which indicates water stress.

I’ve found that yucca are very susceptible to water stress and root rot due to their preference for dry conditions.

(To revive your overwatered yucca, read my article why are my yucca leaves turning yellow?)

If you are not watering yucca often enough or watering too lightly then what I’ve observed happen is that the yucca leaves start to droop, curl and can turn brown.

If this is the case, then I must emphasize the importance to water more frequently and use a generous soak every time you water.

Ideally, what I like to do with a dehydrated plant is to place it in a basin of water and leave it for 20 minutes so that the soil gets a good soak and the yucca can restore the stored water supplies in its roots. I have tested this method several times, and it is always the most effective way of saving an underwater yucca.

My Best Tip: I should add that you need to make sure you use lukewarm water, rather than cold water as if the water is too cold it can shock the plant (Remember our yuccas are native to the hot desert).

Within 2 or 3 cycles of watering at the right frequency, I always find that the yucca recovers.

It is worth noting that it is always easier to revive an underwatered yucca than an overwatered plant due to its natural resilience to drought conditions.

(Read my article, how to revive a dying yucca plant).

How Much to Water Yucca Plants

Knowing how much water yuccas require and the correct watering method is essential to avoid drought stress or root rot.

Whilst many variables influence how often to water your yucca, we need to acknoowledge that the amount of water should stay the same.

I was taught by expert growers to water yucca plants generously so that water visibly trickles out the drainage hole in the base of the pot.

I learned that this ensures that the water has infiltrated the soil and reached the roots so they can effectively uptake the moisture they require.

From my research, watering generously also promotes good root development to further increase the yucca’s resistance to drought.

If you water yucca too lightly, then only the top inch or so of the soil is moist and the water does not soak down and reach the yucca roots which causes drought-like symptoms of drooping leaves that curl and turn brown.

I see this mistake a lot which I think is due to the fact that some people understandably misinterpret the advice that “yuccas don’t need much water” to mean that they don’t require a great quantity of water, whereas it means that yucca doesn’t need watering too often.

We need to remember that watering with a good soak also recreates the typical conditions in the yuccas native environment of a heavy downpour of rain followed by dry weather with high temperatures.

Well Draining Soil Mitigates Over Watering

So, one of the first things I was taught about growing yuccas is that watering your yucca in the right amount should be in conjunction with the appropriate well-draining soil mix to effectively avoid root rot.

This is important because onventional potting soil that is unamended with sand or grit retains too much moisture around the roots for a drought tolerant plant such as yucca and can cause the leaves tot turn yellow and promotes the conditions for the roots to rot.

So many people make this mistake when repotting their yucca!

There is another common problem I see with watering yuccas…

Potting mixes that contain peat are also not suitable as peat becomes hydrophobic (repels water) when it dries out, which causes water to run off the surface of the soil and out the base of the pot rather than infiltrate the soil properly.

This can give the impression that you are watering your yucca with the right quantity, as water is trickling out the base of the pot, but in reality, the moisture has not reached the roots. I’ve found from experience that this happens more with yuccas because the soil needs to dry out for the first 2 inches.

So, what do we do to keep our yucca healthy?

To keep your yucca healthy, what we do in the garden center is recreate the soil characteristics of the yucca’s native habitat.

This means the soil for your yucca should be amended with horticultural sand or grit to promote good drainage.

The conventional advice that I’ve read online is to add around 30% by volume of grit and mix evenly with potting soil for the optimal drainage characteristics for yucca.

My Experiment…

I have personally tested growing yucca in the following ways:

  • 30% grit
  • 30% sand,
  • 30% perlite and
  • 30% succulent and cacti soil

I experimented with them all, and to be honest, they all worked very well. Each of these soil amendments was very effective at increasing the drainage, and the yucca avoided root rot and was very healthy.

What I did notice was that the soil dried slightly quicker with the grit, which I theorized is because the grit has a larger particle size, making the soil more porous so that it dries a little quicker.

In my opinion, grit is the best option to add to your potting soil because it dries quicker, so it is more forgiving if you overwater it. Yucca is much more resilient to underwatering than overwatering, which is the most common reason for a dying yucca.

When I tested succulent and cacti soil I found it can also work well for growing yucca, but it is usually much more expensive than ordinary potting soil and grit, hence why grit is my preferred option.

With good soil, it is so much easier to maintain the correct moisture balance for yucca to prevent root rot and keep the plant healthy.

Use a Pot With Drainage Holes in the Base

This may seem obvious to many houseplant veterans, but I think it is worth mentioning as I see a lot of beginners making this mistake!

As we discussed, our yucca plants really do not tolerate being in damp soil for any significant period, so we need to plant our yucca plants in pots with drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to easily escape.

Watering so that excess water trickles out the base of the pot is one of the best ways to ensure you yucca has been properly watered so that moisture reaches the roots to keep the plant healthy.

If your yucca pot does not have holes, then water collects around the roots, and the yucca dies back from root rot.

So, I think it is important to remember that water can still pool around the roots of your potted yucca if:

  • Saucers and trays underneath the pot are not emptied. Yucca plants often have trays underneath the pot to prevent water from spilling into the home. The tray must be regularly emptied of water as it can keep the soil at a level of moisture that causes the yucca roots to rot.
  • Compacted soil or roots can slow drainage. If you notice the water in your pot draining slowly then check the drainage hole to ensure it has not become blocked so that water can drain effectively.

Do you have any insights into watering yuccas? Please let me know your experience, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Key Takeaways:

  • Water yucca plants with a generous soaking so that water trickles from the base of the pot. Always wait for the top 2.5 inches of soil to dry out between bouts of watering to avoid root rot. Ensure that you empty any excess water in the tray underneath the pot.
  • Yucca should be planted in a well-draining potting mixture amended with grit for improved drainage.
  • Always plant yucca in pots with drainage holes in the base to prevent water from collecting around the roots and causing root rot.
  • The symptoms of underwatered yucca are leaves that droop and curl, eventually turning brown, whereas overwatered yucca leaves turn yellow.

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