GROWING THE YUCCA PLANT

Although there are a number of hardy yuccas, such as Y. fllamentosa, the poisonous-rooted Y. gloriosa, and Y. re-curvifolia, that can all be grown in pots as young plants, it is the tender V. elepluui-tipes (syn. V. guatemalensis) that is usually sold by florists. Its popular name is spineless yucca.

Young plants of Y. elephantipes grow as a single stem, with a swollen base developing. The leaves are typical of the yuccas. being long and sword-shaped, sharply pointed, slightly toothed along the edges, and glossy green. Mature plants may branch at the base to produce a more shrubby habit. It can grow to a very considerable size but, although coming from Central America, is happy with about 7-10 deg C (45-50 deg F) as a winter minimum.

Y. aloifolia is similar to Y. elephantipes in

appearance and treatment.

A cream-edged foliage form ol’Y.filmnen-

tosa, slightly less hardy than the type, is

sometimes sold now as a houseplant. Its

attractive foliage is also edged with line

filament-like hairs. It only grows to

about 60cm (2ft) and makes a compact pot plant.

All yuccas are best suited to a bright spacious entrance hall, stair-well, large porch, or similar place. They will thrive in any good potting compost, provided drainage is satisfactory (some extra washed grit can be added to the peat-based composts). Potting-on is best done in spring. The container size will range from about an 18cm (7in) pot to a small tub, according to the age and species. Watering should be generous when active growth is proceeding and sparing

in winter. The more hardy species can be placed outdoors during the summer months for a time, taking care not to neglect watering. During this period they can also be fed with advantage. Mature plants, at least three years old, may produce striking spikes of creamy bell-shaped flowers.

Yuccas are remarkably free from pests. diseases, and cultivation problems if reasonably looked after. Propagation is usually from removal of basal suckers when they form. This is best done in spring.

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