The Yucca elephantipes is our most popular yucca – but most of its owners only cultivate “a shade of the giant yucca”. The best-selling yucca is rush-produced for bulk trade. An adult yucca is cut into pieces, shipped to us, three trunks are placed in a pot, are rooted in the giant greenhouse and sold with the first roots. You will learn how to grow the indestructible, easy-care young palm lilies into strong plants. They become more and more beautiful over the years and with the right trimming they remain in sizes suitable for the living room. This is how you get a “real giant palm lily”.


Although the Yucca elephantipes got its name because of the thickened trunk base reminiscent of an elephant ‘s foot, growth the size of an elephant would have been an equally appropriate reason. Also known as Yucca gigantea, the Yucca can grow up to 9 meters high and 5 meters wide.

Even if it is usually limited to “only” 6 meters in height growth, the Yucca elephantipes is truly a giant palm lily. Their mostly multiple trunks develop from a powerful base on the bottom of the pot. The pot itself must also be powerful. Or rather, it should develop from a powerful base, but there is not the slightest trace of an elephant’s foot base on most yuccas sold in local shops.

The commercially available giant palm lily does not grow naturally from a seed, but is created in the quick process described above. It grows somewhere warm and is shipped to Europe as a “naked” cutting in a container. When she has ended up in a greenhouse in a Belgian, Dutch, North German nursery landscape, she is allowed (usually with two other cuttings) in a pot with peat for a few weeks. As soon as the first new shoots can be seen, “the yucca palm is ready” (= ready for sale). It is brought to the gardener by some mass trader in a sale.

Such yuccas (they are not palm trees, but asparagus plants, subfamily agave plants) are anything but ready in terms of plant growth. They come to you in fairly small pots. Very often they remain in small pots and at this stage of rudimentary development throughout their lives. If you want to make a “real” giant palm lily from the cutting, it must be transplanted into a large bucket. It will then not only grow at the top, but also put a lot of energy into root development, right down to the thickened foot.

The right thing for beginners

The quick process just described for yucca production already gives the first indications that the giant palm lily does not belong to the squirrels. In fact, the giant palm lily grows so fearlessly that it likes to escape in regions of the world where it can grace gardens. She makes her way over the garden fence to her new habitat far from her homeland and then goes wild there.

This means that there is hardly a houseplant that is as easy to care for as the Yucca elephantipes. If the location, soil and pot size are right, the giant palm lily will grow well, even for beginners among indoor gardeners.

demands on the location

The Yucca elephantipes does not come from dry desert regions like most yuccas, but from semi-arid climates. It originally grew in the coastal region of the Gulf of Mexico and south of it, in Central America.

It’s warm and humid there. The yucca knows every soil there, even the humus-rich one in forest areas. It tolerates almost everything except a completely nutrient-free substrate. It thrives in (light) shade just as well as in (not too bright) sun, in normal humidity just as well as in slightly damp air.

The Yucca elephantipes in the pot is best placed in bright, light-flooded rooms without being grilled in direct midday sun. She likes strong sunlight, also great heat, but needs to be used to the sun. Inside, in direct sunlight, it has to be behind the right glass that doesn’t focus the rays into a kind of laser. Conservatories are usually equipped with suitable glasses. The Yucca elephantipes should be sunlit in winter. This reduces the risk of sunburn when moving outside. It tolerates dry air and constant (light) air currents.

You should allow your yucca this move outdoors if possible, only a summer outdoors provides it with at least a rudimentary amount of light that it is actually used to. It can be put outside when the temperatures outside have reached approximately the same as in the living room, if in doubt initially with sun protection.


The usual discounter yucca fits well in normal living spaces the rest of the year, if they are not very tiny and very low. Here you have the choice. You cultivate the yucca in a fairly small pot, in which it will remain fairly small until it finally dies out as a plant.

Or you put them in the largest pot that the living room can tolerate optically and let them grow a little more naturally. If she gets along well with the environment she will develop a nice, healthy root system and also put on a lot of growth in the upper part, probably too much. Then you can rein them in by pruning. It will sprout again bombproof and will sprout again and again in a surprising way. If you “trim the plant to living room size” by frequent pruning, it goes a little in the direction of “miniature plant creation”. You could say you are growing a yucca bonsai. Which becomes more and more beautiful and interesting over time, up to the impressive small plant sculpture in a size suitable for the living room.

If you want to grow a “real” giant palm lily, it needs a powerful planter in which it will eventually grow into a powerful palm lily. This should be considered from the start when choosing a location. A well-developed Yucca elephantipes is the right plant for spacious conservatories, spacious lofts, impressive entrance halls and foyers.


The substrate for a giant palm lily should ideally not be a (commercial) substrate. Most substrates still contain peat. It has now gotten through to many indoor gardeners that peat is not the best material for plant care. You can use peat-free substrates, but you only have to make these (not inconsiderable) expenses if you don’t have a garden or have access to garden soil somewhere.

The Yucca elephantipes is so undemanding in terms of substrate that it can tolerate a few foreign microorganisms. You can pot them in normal garden soil if it is permeable and reasonably nutritious. Some mature compost can be mixed into rather lean soil. Coarse sand, gravel, perlite loosens heavy compacted earth.

Ongoing maintenance and overwintering of Yucca elephantipes

The Yucca elephantipes only needs a little water and definitely doesn’t want to get wet. It belongs to the CAM plants, plants with Crassulaceae acid metabolism, which keep their stomata closed on hot days and thus lose significantly less water. In warm temperatures, the yucca does not have to be watered more than usual. If you use water sparingly over a long period of time, you will notice this from the brown tips of the leaves. Increase the water ration slightly at the first sign.

Depending on the space in the pot and space for growth, the pot will be completely rooted after two to four years, then the yucca will have to be repotted. In new permeable and nutrient-rich soil, and carefully so that as few fine roots as possible are damaged.

The giant palm lily has its growth season between April and October, when it gets container plant fertilizer, once a month is usually enough.

If the care is basically right and a Yucca elephantipes is still not bursting with strength, but rather “growing along” miserably, it is usually because it is experiencing deficiencies during the winter.

All natural habitats of the Yucca gigantea in Central America are much closer to the equator than Germany, and if it has spread somewhere on its own, then a little closer to the equator, to Puerto Rico, the Leeward Islands and Ecuador.

This shows how much light the giant palm lily needs if it is to be evergreen, i.e. to grow all year round. With us, she gets pathetic traces of it in winter, even in the brightest location.

That’s why the Yucca elephantipes needs a break in winter here, it needs to be given the chance to slow down its metabolism. This only works if it is set up in a fairly cool place (temperatures around 10 degrees), in a bright room, and kept fairly dry. Which really means very little watering for the giant palm lily, no more than once or twice a month, the less light there is in winter, the less.

What not to do

Precisely because the Yucca elephantipes is so easy to care for, it is worth giving a brief overview of what is considered a gross care mistake in this Yucca – this is the best way to illustrate unintentionally caused deficiencies:

  • Cultivate in low light. For the Yucca elephantipes, which are used to the high light intensity at the equator, “little light” is quick and a dark corner indoors is not. Even when the leaf tips begin to hang down, the yucca is probably too dark.
  • Also, if your giant palm lily develops yellow, soft leaves, it is probably due to a lack of light.
  • Too much water goes quickly with the Yucca elephantipes, resulting in root rot, loss of leaves, yellow leaves
  • Too much heat in winter, generally or from below from a cozy underfloor heating system, the same consequences as too much water
  • No place to grow, above e.g. B. if your yucca hits the ceiling. Consequence: Sickly growth controlled by the obstacle, remedy: shortening

Cultivated varieties and the “right” Yucca elephantipes

The Yucca gigantea (synonyms Y. elephantipes, Y. guatemalensis) is cultivated and traded in several cultivars. Here are some common varieties of the giant palm lily, some with variegated leaves:

  • ‘Artola Gold’
  • ‚Jewel Gold‘
  • ,Jewel’
  • ‚Puck‘
  • ‚Silver‘
  • ‚Silver Star‘

There are also entire breeding series of Yucca elephantipes, the Australian ‘Sierra’, the complexes ‘Medio-Picta Jewel’, ‘Medio-Picta-Aurea’ and ‘Marginata-Aurea’.

If you come across a botanical name and a cultivar name when you buy a Yucca elephantipes, you have left the realm of Yucca fast production and are about to buy a “real” Yucca elephantipes. Which forms a thickened root base right from the start, from which one or more stems rise upwards. On which not only three small “pompoms” are hanging, but crowns are growing ever denser and fuller.

It is more expensive than the Yucca fast production, but not much more expensive: If you are willing to pay €30 instead of €20, you will get a Yucca elephantipes that has been slowly grown in a specialist company from seeds and not “produced” by cuttings. Which will develop a completely different shape as it grows up than the usual collections of cuttings that stand side by side with straight stems. A shape of its own, not quite straight, full of character, with large, dense crowns.

You can get a giant palm lily with a healthy root base even cheaper if you grow it yourself from seed. You can also find the instructions for this on the Internet.

The Yucca elephantipes is always a nice big and nice green plant. The weakly rooted young plants usually obtained from cuttings are so willing to grow, undemanding and easy to care for that even complete beginners in plant care will be happy with them without any problems.

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