Growing A Yukka Plant
The yukka plant is native to the American southwest. It is a desert plant which can also do well in a moist temperate zone. The yukka also makes an excellent and easy to care for houseplant.
The yukka plant was widely used by Native Americans for various medicinal purposes as well as a foodstuff. It was particularly useful in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders and as a detoxifier. If not consumed in excess it does not appear to have any harmful side effects. The yukka has edible parts although this varies according to the particular variety. If you are planning on preparing the seeds, fruits, flowers, or roots for eating you would be well advised to ensure that the variety you are growing is indeed fit for consumption. Today the yukka is primarily regarded as an ornamental plant, and can be found in gardens throughout much of this country.
There are many varieties of yukka plant on the market but all of them feature sword-shaped leaves growing from a single trunk. When the yukka blooms, it features creamy-white to sometimes yellow flowers on a stalk. A single stalk is most common, but sometimes a plant will produce multiple stalks of flowers. While the flowers can be overwhelmed by the size of the plant's foliage, they are nevertheless very attractive. The plant is most often grown for its foliage. Varieties of the yukka plant include the well known Joshua tree, a familiar sight in the southwest, the Spoon leaf yukka, a popular garden fixture, the Great Plains yukka, and the Big Bend yukka found, where you might expect, in Texas.
The yukka tree is pollinated by a specific type of moth that will only use yukka flowers as a place to lay their eggs. In the process of egg-laying the moth pollinates the yukka. The moth seems to take particular care not to lay too many eggs, as the larvae eat the yukka seeds. Just enough eggs are laid to satisfy the moth and the yukka plant!
Pruning - Planted outdoors, a yukka seldom needs to be pruned, unless a particular shape or height is desired. Indoors it can be another matter, as pruning is usually needed to keep the plant at a manageable size. Pruning a potted yukka (a tree variety, not a bush variety) is as simple as cutting the tree in half. The bottom half will recover nicely, and begin to grow again. Cuttings can be taken from the pruned off half and used to propagate the plant if you so wish. Pruning is best done before new spring growth appears, though this is not an absolute rule. The flower stalk, if there is one can be pruned off at any time. Generally a yukka will not produce flowers when kept as an indoor plant.
Growing Indoors - Indoor plants require bright light to do well. Direct sunlight is best if possible. If the light is not adequate the plant may cease to grow, or at best grow very slowly. Room temperature is fine, though the plant will benefit if exposed to somewhat lower temperatures during the winter months. If you can move it to a cooler room where there is still plenty of light, it would be an ideal situation. The plant's root ball needs to be kept moist during the growing season, but can be allowed to partially dry out during the winter months.
Finally, if you plant a yukka tree indoors, consider using a heavy container with coasters. The yukka can become top heavy as it grows, and needs a heavy base to avoid tipping. The coasters allow you to move the plant easily when needed. If possible, move the plant outside during the summer. It will thrive in very hot weather.