What Is Beargrass Yucca : Learn About Beargrass Yucca Plants

What Is Beargrass Yucca : Learn About Beargrass Yucca Plants

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Yucca are evergreen, perennial, arid region plants. They require plenty of sun and well-drained soil to thrive. Beargrass yucca plants (Yucca smalliana) are commonly found in sandy soil in the southeastern United States. Surprisingly, the plant has naturalized in areas like Illinois, a USDA zone 4 to 5 region. For a desert plant, it has adapted to extreme cold and even occasional frost.

What is Beargrass Yucca?

Beargrass yucca looks similar to the common Adam’s needle yucca. To identify beargrass yucca vs. Adam’s needle, you just need to look at the leaves. Beargrass yucca has narrower leaves which are flattened and also bear a smaller flower. Yucca filamentosa, or Adam’s needle, is commonly misidentified as Yucca smalliana. Each is of similar size, but their leaf and flower characteristics indicate that they are different species in the same genus.

Beargrass yucca plants are unmistakable succulents with sword-like leaves. These leaves are softer than and not as dangerous as the sharp, knife-edged Adam’s needle yucca foliage – it has even been termed weak-leaf yucca because of this. Individual leaves may approach 30 inches (76 cm.) in length. Leaves all rise from a central rosette. As new leaves appear, the lower older leaves dry and hang down against the stem.

The beautiful flowers are born on stems which may be up to 8 feet (2.4 m) in length. Adorning this stem are the saucer-shaped flowers, dangling in panicles of iridescent creamy white. Fertilized blooms become 3-inch (8 cm.) long pods bearing large, black flat seeds.

Additional Beargrass Yucca Information

In the wild, beargrass yucca can be found growing in sand and sun locations. In areas where it has naturalized, it may be found in vacant lots, roadsides, woodlands, prairies, and open woods. In southeastern America, gardeners who are growing beargrass yucca may inadvertently spread the plant, as the seed is a speedy and ready germinator, and young plants seem to be able to get a foothold in a variety of settings.

The plant can also reproduce by developing offsets or pups. This is common in the succulent group of plants. Young pups can be divided from the mother to create individual specimens. In nature, the pup often continues to grow alongside the parent, only to eclipse it when the offset is mature.

Beargrasss Yucca Care

Yuccas prefer moderate to dry conditions, full sun and well-draining soil. It is this last requirement – well-draining soil – that is crucial because boggy sights can lead to root rot and enhance fungal disease issues. Sandy soil is preferred, but these tolerant plants can also thrive in loam, clay, rocky or other types of soil as long as it drains freely.

Remove spent flower stalks after blooming to help the plant channel its energy into foliar growth and prevent the spread of the yucca. Water in the morning or under the leaves to prevent the formation of black spot. Remove damaged leaves as they occur. For the most part, beargrass yucca care is minimal. This stoic plant can be planted and enjoyed without any fuss.

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Factsheet | HGIC 1077 | Updated: Sep 14, 2007 | Print

Yuccas are evergreen, perennial shrubs or trees with tough, sword-shaped leaves and large clusters of white, rounded to bell-shaped flowers. Several species are native to the Southeast and they are described here.

A large clump of Spanish bayonet in early spring.
Photo by Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension

How to grow yucca

Yuccas do best in bright light and can cope with some direct sunshine. Water only when the top few centimetres of soil are dry. Yuccas are tolerant of drought.

Growing yucca: jump links

Where to grow yucca

Yuccas are one of the least fussy plants you can grow. Ideally, grow it in a warm room where the temperature won’t fall below 7°C. It can cope with some direct sunlight.

How to plant yucca

Plant your yucca in soil-based compost, with some added horticultural sand or grit added for good drainage. Repot every two or three years. Use a sturdy pot to avoid the plant becoming top heavy and toppling over as it grows.

Caring for yucca

You’re more likely to kill a yucca by watering it too much than too little. Water when the top few centimetres of compost have dried out but don’t worry if the soil dries out completely from time to time – yuccas are tolerant of drought. Allow any excess water to drain away. Water more sparingly in winter.

Feed every couple of months with half-strength liquid fertiliser from spring to autumn. Yuccas don’t need high humidity so you won’t need to mist it. Wipe the leaves occasionally to keep the leaves free of dust.

Yuccas do well when slightly pot bound so don’t need repotting very often – every two or three years in spring is fine. It can be hard to repot a mature yucca due its unwieldy shape – in that case, remove as much compost from the surface as you can using a trowel, and top up with fresh.

If your plant becomes too big, just cut the trunk down to the height that you want – it will look ugly for a while but should soon re-sprout. You could repot the chunk that you have cut off to propagate as a new house plant.

How to propagate yucca

The easiest way to propagate yucca is from the offsets (pups) at the base of the trunk. You could do this when you repot the plant in spring. Simply cut off an offset using a sharp knife. Allow the wound to dry out for a few days, then plant the new plant into a new pot and water well. Keep in a warm spot.

You can also propagate yuccas from 20cm stem cuttings in spring, in a similar way to dracaenas.

You can also grow yuccas from seed.

Growing yucca: problem solving

Yellow leaves are normal on the lower leaves – they will die back and fall naturally, giving the plant a palm-like appearance over time. You can gently pull or cut the leaves away. If there are yellow leaves all over the plant you have probably under or over watered it.

Brown or black spots on the foliage is leaf spot, caused by bacteria or fungi. Remove any affected leaves and treat with an organic fungicide.

Brown leaf tips are due to erratic watering. You can cut these off, but don’t cut into green growth, otherwise they’ll reappear.

Sagging, droopy leaves are due to underwatering.

Pale leaves are due to too much shade.

A rotting stem is due to overwatering, and is more likely to happen in winter. Yuccas do not enjoy sitting in cold, wet compost, so reduce watering. If the problem has spread too far, you may not be able to save the plant.

Mealybugs may be a problem – look out for insects that look like white, fluffy blobs on the undersides of leaves. Wipe them off with a damp cloth or cotton bud that has been soaked in an insecticide that contains fatty acids or plant oils. Keep checking the leaves, as mealybugs can be hard to eradicate.

You may also spot scale insects – small, brown sap sucking insects that are around 6mm long. Wipe off as with a cotton bud or cloth soaked with an insecticide containing fatty acids.

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