Yucca plants add a unique architectural element to gardens, thanks to their height and spiky silhouette. Plus, they’re pretty hardy, which makes them an excellent option for those who don’t want to make so much fuss over gardening.
Yucca plants are remarkably drought-tolerant, with moisture reserves in their succulent leaves, trunks, and stems. That said, they still need a drink now and then to stay happy and healthy.
In this yucca watering guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this sun-loving plant’s water requirements.
The general rule is to give your yucca plant one inch of water per week during growing seasons (spring and summer). Over the winter, it’ll need much less, so limit your watering to once every few weeks.
When watering, give your plant a good soak until the water drains out of the holes at the bottom of the pot. You should wait for the soil to dry out completely before watering again.
We do this soak-and-dry method to simulate the conditions in their natural habitat. Yucca plants are native to sunny locations with fast-draining soil and limited access to water.
When it rains, it’s usually a heavy downpour that drenches the soil. Yucca plants draw up water, store moisture, and release it as needed.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to how often you should water your yucca plants. The amount of water they need varies depending on several factors, including:
A coarse, sandy, and porous potting medium drains quickly, so you need to water more often. To improve water retention, you can amend your potting mix with perlite.
Meanwhile, rich and heavy soil may retain moisture longer and require less watering.
Keep in mind that yucca plants don’t like wet soil. So, to enhance drainage and aeration, add horticultural sand to loamy and clay-like soil.
Yucca plants can soak up direct sunlight for extended periods. Naturally, they’ll lose moisture rapidly and require more frequent watering.
If your plants are in shady areas or indoors, they won’t need as much water as plants growing in full sun.
In hot, dry climates, yucca plants need more frequent watering to prevent them from drying out and wilting.
On the other hand, they may need less water in colder and more humid environments.
Yucca plants have a robust root system that allows them to find water during a drought. If you’re growing yucca plants in the ground, how often to water them will depend on the elements.
An outdoor yucca plant in full sun can usually go around for two weeks or longer before needing watering. If you have a potted plant in partial shade, you can probably get away with watering it every three weeks.
However, with strong winds, your plant could lose moisture faster than it can replenish it. When it’s time to water your outdoor yucca plant, water around the base slowly and thoroughly to ensure it reaches the deepest roots.
It’s a good idea to plant your yuccas with other desert plants with similar watering needs. Not only do you create a drier environment that mimics their natural habitat, but you also avoid overwatering them.
To ensure your yucca plants get their water requirements, develop a watering schedule tailored to their specific needs and the environment in which it’s growing.
By monitoring how your plants respond to watering, you can determine the best frequency for watering.
Besides, you can make adjustments to your watering schedule as needed. That way, you can avoid overwatering and underwatering, which can both lead to disastrous results such as root rot or dehydration.
Here are some ways to gauge if your yucca plant needs watering:
Stick your finger about one or two inches deep into the soil to check its moisture levels. If it feels dry, it’s time to give it a thorough soak.
For in-ground yucca plants, drive a wooden skewer three inches into the soil and see if it comes out dry before watering.
A well-hydrated plant will have firm structures. Once your yucca plant has used up its moisture reserves, its leaves will wilt or droop, which means it’s time to water it.
Yucca plants are quite forgiving and can go for long periods without water. In the wild, they can go for several months without rainfall.
For example, yucca plants in deserts, coastal sage scrubs, and chaparrals experience prolonged dry spells and only mildly wet winters. But with their extensive root systems, they can collect and store water to prepare for the hot, dry periods.
Meanwhile, indoor yucca plants can go without water for several weeks to a month, depending on the temperature and humidity levels in their environment.
Yucca plants grow actively in the spring and summer and take a break when winter rolls around. They still need to be watered, but only once every 2–3 weeks.
Cold-hardy species, like Adam’s needle and Spanish dagger, need even less. When there’s a freeze or frost advisory, it’s best not to water at all.
Wet roots and cold temperatures create the perfect condition for root rot, which can kill desert plants.
Here are the ways you can overwater your yucca plants:
- Watering too often
- Watering too much in the winter
- Using a pot without drainage holes
- Using garden soil instead of a well-draining potting mix
- Leaving standing water in the tray or saucer
Unfortunately, waterlogged soil can make your yucca plants vulnerable to fungal growth, leading to root rot.
Once root rot has set in, your plant will have trouble absorbing water and nutrients. The usual signs of root rot in yucca plants include:
- Stunted growth
- Wilted and yellowing leaves
- Brown leaves that eventually fall off
- Soft and spongy trunk
- Black and mushy roots
- Musty or foul smell from the roots
Catching root rot as early as possible increases the chance of saving your yucca plant. If not treated promptly, your plant may eventually die.
Follow these steps to treat root rot in yucca plants:
- Remove the plant from the pot.
- Rinse the root ball under running water.
- Inspect the roots and identify the damaged sections.
- Cut off the dying roots with a clean pair of scissors or pruning shears.
- Sterilize the pot with bleach or use a new container.
- Repot the plant in fresh potting soil, preferably a blend of horticultural sand, perlite, and peat moss.
- Water the soil until the excess runs off the drainage holes.
Underwatering your yucca plant can lead to stress and dehydration. While less damaging than overwatering, extended periods of underwatering can still hurt the plant.
These are the signs that you’re underwatering your yucca plant:
- Slow growth
- Brown, crispy leaves
- Drooping or falling leaves
To correct this problem, give your yucca plant the much-needed watering by following the soak-and-dry technique.
Here are some quick tips to keep in mind when watering your yucca plant:
- Always check the soil’s moisture level before watering.
- Ensure the top inch is dry before watering.
- Use a hose or watering can to deep soak the roots of a yucca plant.
- Let excess water trickle out of the drainage holes before placing the pot on its tray.
- Empty standing water on the tray under the pot after watering.
- Take a cue from weather patterns to determine when to water and how much to give your plant.
- Cut back on watering during the fall and winter months.
- Group your yucca with other drought-tolerant plants to avoid overwatering them.
- Watch out for signs of underwatering/overwatering.
- Water the plant when the soil is still wet.
- Use cold or hot water, as this can cause cellular damage or trick the plant into dormancy.
- Leave your plant sitting on a tray of water.
- Splash water on their stem and leaves to prevent disease-causing fungus from infesting the plant.
- Water your plant during the dormant period in the winter months.
- Assume that a lack of water is the issue if your plant looks sickly.
So, follow the guidelines discussed in this yucca watering guide and watch your precious plant flourish!
Remember to pay attention to your plant’s needs and use the soak-and-dry method of watering.
With proper care, you can expect your yucca plant to reward you with vibrant foliage and gorgeous blooms for years to come.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.