6 Ways to Prep a Yucca for Winter

ways to prep Yucca for winter

Knowing how to care for a yucca outside is essential. Although most yuccas are warm weather plants, they can also survive cold weather. But how do you prepare a yucca for winter?

Yuccas are hardy plants. They can withstand harsh conditions and still flourish. But you should know just how much cold your type of yucca can tolerate. Here are the steps to prepping your yucca for the cold.

Reduce Watering in Fall

Yuccas are semi succulents. This means that they store water in their leaves, stems and roots. They engorged themselves when they were watered. This is an adaptation to living in drought areas. The yucca basically grabs as much water as it can and keeps it.

Water freezes. To prepare for that, most yuccas go dormant in the winter and resist storing water. This makes watering futile.

But if the temperature drops while the yucca is still storing great quantities of water and the water freezes, damage or death can occur.

So, reduce watering in late summer and don’t water during the fall or winter if you have an outdoor yucca. The absolute final watering should be September if you’re in the northern hemisphere.

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Hold up on Fertilizing Yucca

Don’t fertilize in late summer, fall or mid-winter. Fertilizing encourages growth. With growth comes tender shoots. These shoots will be damaged or die in cold temperatures.

Instead, hold off until very late winter or early spring after the risk of arctic temperatures or frost can occur.

Cut Back Flower Stalks

If your yucca flowered, there may still be some flower stalks left over. It won’t hurt the plant to cut them back. Make sure before you cut that the stalk has completely died. This allows the yucca to store nutrients.

When cutting the stalk, take some shears and go to the bottom of the stalk. This should be close to the ground. Be careful when cutting back any yucca. Many of them have sharp points or edges. Wear gloves, long sleeves and safety glasses.

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Apply Ground Covering

Take precautions in late fall with mulch or other ground cover. You should mulch around the base of the yucca plant. Apply six to eight inches of mulch or other ground cover. If you have trees, there are probably a lot of leaves in your yard. Use these leaves as mulch for the yucca.

By placing ground covering over the plant, you’ll insulate and protect it from the cold.

You don’t want to over-mulch or even have ground covering in the spring and summer. Be sure to remove all the mulching, leaves, or any other material in the spring. If you don’t, you could promote the retention of water that could lead to root rot.

Insulate the Roots

You’ll need to go a step further when protecting your yucca. Just laying ground cover won’t be enough.

You’ll want to lay plastic or thick cloth over the ground cover (mulch). This will give your yucca more insulation. Stake or place heavy objects like rocks over the plastic or cloth to hold it down.

Do not ever put plastic over the plant. Plastic doesn’t breathe, and it holds in moisture. This can promote freezing in the leaves and stem if the temperature drops. So it actually does more harm than good.

There are other methods to cover the leaves and stem if a cold snap is predicted.

Cover The Yucca’s Stem and Leaves

If a freeze or bad cold snap is expected, you might want to cover the yucca. Once more, do not use plastic to cover the yucca. Use material like burlap.

Burlap is heavy enough to protect, but it still breaths. It does become a little heavy if it rains. Yuccas are so hardy that it probably won’t be necessary to keep it covered the entire winter. Here’s an article we have on snow and cold that will explain a yucca’s tolerance.

Another option is to purchase a cover. Amazon has several choices like this large one for a big yucca. Or, if you have smaller yuccas, this might work for you.

Potted Yuccas Need Prep

Follow the same basic steps for potted yuccas. In addition, you’ll want to cover the soil with mulch and plastic or a thick cloth. Also, use burlap or purchase a cover to lay over the plant during deep freezes.

If you are bringing your potted yuccas in for the winter, make sure they have plenty of sunlight. Don’t put them in front of the heating vent; that will damage them. Instead, a cool area with plenty of sunshine will work best.

When you return them outside in the spring, do so gradually. If you thrust them in full sunshine right away, you could burn their leaves. They need to get used to all that sun again.

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Most Yuccas Tolerate Cold

Many yuccas can tolerate cold despite most yuccas’ desert origins. The desert is a brutal place to grow. It has little rainfall and wild temperature fluctuations.

The sand and sun regulate a desert’s temperature. The sun seems obvious, but the sand doesn’t absorb the intense heat during the day. Instead, the sand radiates the heat. Then, it sends the heat back into the air. This is one of the main reasons temperatures soar during the day.

The sand loses heat at night since the sun isn’t there to reheat it. This cools the sand and the surrounding area and brings the temperature down – sometimes near freezing.

The logical question is why the temperature doesn’t plummet on a sandy beach at night. Keep in mind that a beach has an ocean or other body of water. This creates humidity. A desert doesn’t have humidity; the air is dry. So at night, humidity helps keep the air heated.

Prep Your Yuccas But Don’t Worry

Yuccas are incredibly hardy. Even if they die back during a horrendous winter, they usually eventually return. Often, a yucca will have pups to ensure it lives on.

Hedge your bets when it comes to winter. Prepare your inground and potted yucca so you can enjoy it for years.

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