I have been the owner of a yucca plant since my 21st birthday! A pouring wet day just before my Finals at university and I remember everyone scuttling in and out of my room to wish me a happy birthday and then scuttling back off into the rain to revise. One friend knocked on the door and, when I opened it, I could barely see her as she was holding a not inconsiderable plant – a yucca!
As you can imagine, the label was lost many years ago so I have no idea what sort of yucca other than it’s the one you still seem to be able to buy as a house plant should you feel so inclined. However, I would urge caution before popping one into your trolley on the next visit to the garden centre or DIY store.
For the first eight or nine years of my yucca’s life it happily sat in its pot in my bedroom. I think I potted it on once or twice to give it some new compost. However, when we moved into our first house, we placed it in the dining room adjacent to the patio doors. It absolutely loved it there! Spurred on by all the light, it grew and it grew … and it grew! The most common question we were asked was, “What are you going to do when it hits the ceiling?” We were spared this decision for a little longer as, in the course of moving and being squashed into the front well of a Peugeot 205, it had developed a kink in its trunk which delayed the ceiling problem for a little while.
Eventually we had to take the plunge and, having consulted a number of books (bearing in mind this was the days before the internet was ubiquitous!), we chopped it in half! I can assure you that it took a huge amount of courage to do the deed and, if I remember rightly, the chosen tool was the bread knife as the trunk was too wide for anything as normal as secateurs. Following the instructions, we doused the newly cut base in hormone rooting powder, plunged it into compost and waited. We need not have feared, soon the top looked remarkably happy and was clearly getting taller. Meanwhile, to our amazement, the bottom began to shoot in two places and soon we had a double headed yucca!
Of course, this only solved the problem for a year or two and soon the original plant and its offspring were also getting rather tall and so we repeated the process all over again. By the time we moved into our current house in 2000, we had no less than five yucca plants! My sister-in-law once commented that, if we didn’t have the plants, we would have had room for a three-piece band in the corner of the dining room!
Eventually sense prevailed and we reduced our yucca numbers down to two. I can’t remember what happened to them all but at least one ended up a work and graced the university’s main reception for some years.
Our remaining yuccas continued to grow and, guess what? We built an extension with a high ceiling! It was a really good way of avoiding the problem again! In fact that summer, during the building works, we were amazed that the plants survived so well outside. As the build timescale extended, we were eventually chivvying the builders to get a move on so that we could get the plants into the warm before winter began.
In 2015, it would be fair to say we hit a crisis – two yucca plants almost at ceiling height … again! So, it was out with the bread knife and rooting powder once more. We decided not to do both plants at once. Despite having done this process many times, we still lack confidence that we are going to be successful and only on that first occasion has the base of the old plant continued to flourish. I also didn’t fancy being left without any tall, structural plants in the lounge as they do look good in the high-ceilinged room.
With our 2015 cutting now reaching a sensible height, this spring we had to do the inevitable and tackle the remaining tall plant. We left it later than usual. Not until the 29th May did we summon up the courage to man-handle it out of the backdoor and onto the patio for surgery!
it is only now, four months on and with two or three brand new leaves emerging from the middle, do I feel we can say that we have another successful cutting and that the tradition of us owning a yucca plant looks set to continue for many years to come. I have now lost count but I think this cutting is now the fourth generation, making it the great-grandchild of the original!