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What Are Yucca Plants?

What Are Yucca Plants?

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Yucca plants are among the most widespread houseplants among gardeners and plant enthusiasts today. They look good with their long leaves in any setting, indoors or outdoors.

Because they’re hardy and undemanding, they’re considered ideal indoor plants for people with busy lifestyles. Despite being low-maintenance, there are still things we have to clarify about the Yucca plant.

For example, you might be asking: “Are they succulents?” or “Do they need a lot of water?” or “What are they used for?”

In this article, we’ll answer your questions and settle once and for all what Yucca plants really are.

Yucca vs. Yuca: What’s in a Name?

First and foremost, let us distinguish the difference between Yucca and the other Yucca plant with one ‘c.’

While they may sound the same, these two are entirely different.

Yucca is a member of the Asparagaceae family. They’re evergreen perennial shrubs and trees native to dry areas of the Americas.

They’re primarily grown for ornamental purposes. Most Yucca species are acaulescent, meaning they have small stems or are even entirely stemless.

Some Yucca species have long trunks. They even grow to become giant trees.

Although different species have different-colored foliage, the most common species range from being various shades of green to having bits of green with yellow stripes.

In addition, some species have a smoky blue and purplish color, like the endangered Yucca endlichiana. They all have linear to lanceolate leaves arranged in a rosette formation.

Yuca, with a single ‘c,’ on the other hand, is the starchy root crop Cassava.

Is the Yucca Plant a Succulent?

Yucca plants are regarded as succulents by Encyclopedia Britannica and are grown by most succulent enthusiasts. However, it’s important to note that some species have relatively limited succulence in their leaves.

If you plan to grow Yucca for its plump leaves, research the species you’re getting first.

There are 51 species in the Yucca genera. All of them are adapted to the arid conditions of Central America and are considered xerophytic.

This makes them drought resistant and low-maintenance. You could forget watering them for days, and they’d still manage just fine.

Just make sure they get full sun when you grow them indoors. Otherwise, their leaves will be thinner, and they will grow slower.

Is the Yucca Plant a Palm?

Yucca plants, especially those with long trunks, share a close resemblance with palm trees because of their lanceolate leaves. However, they’re not members of the palm family Arecaceae.

Their morphology has many differences, but the foliage is the most noticeable.

Yucca plants have simple leaves, which means they have a single leaf blade.

On the other hand, palm trees are characterized by their pinnate leaves. Their leaves have multiple leaflets connected by petioles or leaf bases to the plant’s stem or trunk.

What Are Yucca Plants Used For?

From the Native Americans years ago to today’s modern gardeners, Yucca plants have served many purposes.

Their uses range from ornamental to gastronomic to medicinal and even in toiletries. Here are some of their more common uses:

Ornamental Plants

Generally, Yucca plants are mainly used as ornamentals. Their variety of species makes them suitable for different settings.

If you want a tree to add to your landscape garden but don’t want to keep sweeping the fallen leaves, you can opt for a Yucca with fewer branches. The best species are Yucca aloifoila, commonly known as Spanish Bayonet or the larger Yucca carnerosana.

If ground cover is what you’re looking for, acaulescent Yucca plants that have dense basal foliage are ideal. Try to get a Navajo Yucca or Adam’s needle.

For interior design, a Blue Boy Yucca can add elegance and style to your home with its purple-colored foliage. Alternatively, if you want to stick to a green and yellow motif, you can choose the small Spanish Bayonets.


The Yucca plant is consumed as food in many Central American cultures because the flowers are rich in vitamin C.

They’re blanched and cooked with tomatoes, onions, and chilis. In other areas, they’re mixed with beaten eggs to make tortillas con salsa.

In El Salvador, the tender tips and flower blossoms of Yucca plants are cooked in a dish called cogollo de izote.

In some parts of Guatemala, they’re eaten with a dash of lemon juice.

Medicinal Uses

Yucca plants are also used in modern medicine. That’s because they contain chemicals that help alleviate inflammation.

As such, they’re used for conditions like arthritis, joint pains, and migraines. They’re also commonly taken as oral dietary supplements.

Plus, research has been done on the antifungal capacities of the extracts found in the plant’s roots and flowers.

Additionally, there are claims that the Yucca plant helps with diabetes, high blood pressure, poor blood circulation, and other ailments, but they have little to no evidence.

Another claim about the Yucca plant’s medicinal use is that they improve the digestive tract, ease joint pain, and boost the respiration properties of horses. Of these claims, only their effect on digestive function has been proven.

Cleansing Agents

There are Yucca species that contain saponins, such as the Soaptree Yucca.

When mixed with water, these saponin compounds make the plant’s sap lather like soap. So, Native Americans would cut the plant’s roots and stem and use it as soap and shampoo.


Native Americans also found a use for the Yucca plant in handicrafts because of how its long thin leaves are perfect for weaving.

As a result, they’d use it to make baskets, mats, and sandals. They also used it to create durable ropes for different applications by twisting the leaves.

Final Thoughts

From its likeness to palm trees to its similarity to Yuca, the Cassava plant, Yucca plants have been the subject of much confusion.

Though more commonly grown for ornamental reasons, these succulents have proven to be a lot more than just a pretty face.

Native Americans used them to make colorful weavings and handicrafts. Not only that but for decades, Yucca plants have been used for various purposes ranging from culinary and medicinal to cleaning and disinfecting.

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