How to Revive a Dying Yucca Plant

How to revive a dying yucca plant

A dying yucca plant is usually because of overwatering and poor drainage, which causes the leaves to wilt and turn yellow. Low humidity and indoor heating cause yucca leaf tips to turn brown and underwatering causes the leaves to droop and turn brown with a dying appearance.

Yucca plants prefer to grow in bright light with some direct sunlight.

Yucca plants turn brown, droopy with spindly leaves if they are in too much shade, however they can also scorch brown if they are moved from shade or less intense light to full sun without a chance to acclimatize.

Yucca plants have several adaptations to tolerate drought (as they grow in relatively arid conditions) and prefer slightly dryer soil then most houseplants, which is why overwatering and damp soil are the most common causes for a dying yucca plant.

To revive a dying yucca, recreate their preferred environmental conditions by watering when the top 2 inches of the soil are dry, locate yucca plants in bright light with some sun and keep indoor yucca away from sources of heat.

Some humidity is preferred in arid climates or in Winter to counteract the drying affects of indoor heating, so mist the yucca plant’s leaves regularly to avoid brown leaf tips.

Yucca plants can tolerate a wide range of indoor temperatures but their preferred temperature range is between 65°F (18°C) and 90°F (32°C), but it yucca plants can tolerate temperatures as low as 43°F (7°C) and as high as 100°F (38°C) for a short time.

Keep reading for how to implement the solutions to save your dying yucca plant

Yucca Plant Leaves Turning Yellow

  • Symptoms. Yellowing leaves can occur predominately at the base of the plant, or all the leaves can turn yellow. Leaves can wilt and drop off eventually.
  • Causes. The lower leaves turn yellow and then brown as the plant matures. If all leaves are turning yellow, this is due to underwatering or overwatering and possibly poor drainage.

The most common reason for yucca plants turning yellow is because of damp soil due to overwatering or poor drainage. Yucca plants require the top 2 inches of soil to dry out between bouts of watering. If the soil is saturated then yucca leaves turn yellow and the stem starts to rot with a dying appearance.

Yuccas are native to Mexico and South-Western USA where they grow in relatively dry areas with well draining soil and infrequent rainfall.

Yuccas have several adaptations for surviving in dry climates such as thick, fleshy roots that store water and an oily coating on their leaves to reduce water loss (transpiration).

As yuccas are well adapted for dry conditions, the most common mistake is to water yuccas too often.

If yucca is watered too often with out allowing the soil to dry slightly between each bout of watering, then the excess water exudes oxygen in the soil and prevents root respiration which interferes with the yucca’s roots ability to uptake moisture and nutrients.

If the roots transport water and nutrients around the plant, the leaves turn yellow and often droop as a sign of stress.

Saturated soil also promotes the conditions for root rot and fungal disease which also turn the yucca leaves yellow with a wilting appearance and causes the stem to rot.

It may not be overwatering that is the direct cause of the yucca turning yellow and dying.

If your indoor yucca plant has a saucer or tray underneath (to prevent water from spilling in the home) then this causes water to pool under the base of the pot and prevents the soil drying out sufficiently between each watering.

Yucca plants are also sometimes sold in decorative outer pots that do not have drainage holes, which prevents water from escaping from the bottom of the pot, creating boggy potting soil around the yucca’s roots which results in yellowing leaves and root rot.

If your yucca generally looks healthy apart from some of the lower leaves turning yellow then this can be attributed to the natural process of the yucca plant, in which the lower leaves turn yellow as the plant invests more energy into growing new leaves that have more access to light as the plant grows taller.

Some lower leaves turning yellow is natural process and does not mean there is anything wrong with the care or cultivation practices of your yucca plant. Just snip the leaves off with a sharp pair of pruners if they droop.

How to Revive a Yucca Plant with Yellow, Drooping Leaves

  • Wait until the top 2 inches of the soil has dried out before watering again. This creates a balance of soil moisture that replicates the typical watering conditions (deluge of rain followed by a period of drought) that yuccas experience in their native environment.
  • To establish the correct watering schedule for your yucca, feel the soil to a fingers depth. If you can detect moisture, delay watering for a few days. If the soil feels as though it is drying out, this is the optimal time to water your yucca. Typically watering once every 2 weeks is optimal but this can vary. Read my article how to water yucca plants to learn how often to water your yucca according to different conditions, climates and at different times of the year.
  • Replant the yucca in 1/3 horticultural grit to 2/3’s potting soil . Yucca plants grow in sandy or gritty soils that drain relatively quickly in their home range. It is important to replicate the soil conditions of the yucca’s native environment by amending the potting soil with horticultural sand or grit. The optimal soil mix contains around 1/3 grit to 2/3’s ordinary potting soil or compost. which provides the optimal balance of moisture and drainage and mitigates the risks of overwatering and root rot.
  • Plant yuccas in pots with drainage holes in the base. You can plant yucca in any type of pot as long as it is proportionate to the size of the plant (to avoid pot bound roots) and has drainage holes in the base. Avoid placing the yucca in a decorative outer pot that does not have drainage holes as this causes water to pool around the base of the pot and results in root rot. Terracotta, unglazed clay or ceramic pots work best as they are porous and therefore allow the potting soil to dry out more evenly.
  • Ensure that there are no roots or compacted potting soil that is blocking the drainage holes of your pot, so excess water can flow freely from the base.
  • If you are using as saucer or tray underneath the pot, empty it regularly to allow any excess water to drain freely, so that the soil can dry out before bouts of watering.

Once the yucca’s potting soil has had a chance to dry out, and you have adjusted how often you water the yucca and replaced the soil (if it retains too much moisture), then the yucca plant has a chance to revive.

How long it takes for the yucca depends heavily on how long it has suffered due to overwatering, but there should be signs of recovery over the following weeks.

Remove any leaves the remain yellow (gently) which may come away easily or cut them back with a sterile pair of pruners to avoid potential inflicting unnecessary damage.

Save Yucca with Severe Root Rot

If you repot the yucca or replace the potting soil, look for any roots that appear to be rotting with a bad small and soft mushy texture. Cut these rotting roots back to healthy growth with a sterile pair or pruners.

Wipe the blades of your pruners with a cloth soaked in disinfectant to avoid spreading any fungal pathogens to otherwise healthy growth.

Clean the pot out with disinfectant and repot with new soil to give your yucca the best chance of recovering. Place the yucca in an area of bright indirect light or morning sun followed by afternoon shade whilst the yucca recovers.

If the yucca does have severe root rot it can often be very difficult to revive the plant which is why it is always better to err on the side of underwatering yucca (as they are drought resistant) rather then overwatering.

(Read my article, why are my yucca plant leaves turning yellow?)

Yucca Plant Leaves Turning Brown and Leaf Tips Turning Brown

  • Symptoms. Yucca plant leaves or leaf tips turning brown.
  • Causes. Low humidity when indoors due to central heating or forced air causes brown leaf tips. Not watering often enough or watering too lightly cause yucca leaves to turn brown. Placing yucca in full sun or moving from shade to sun can cause yucca leaves to turn brown. Lower leaves can turn brown naturally as the plant matures.

The reason indoor yucca leaf tips turn brown is because of low humidity, most often caused by indoor heating in the Winter causing the leaves to lose moisture too quickly. The reason for entire yucca leaves turning brown is usually because of drought stress due to underwatering.

Yucca plants are well adapted to dry conditions as they are native to Mexico and South-Western USA.

Yucca plants are capable of acclimatizing well to indoor environments, however they can suffer brown leaf tips due to a sudden contrast in humidity.

Brown leaf tips on yucca leaves, most commonly occur in Winter when the indoor heating is turned on. Heat from radiators or forced air dries out the air and lowers the humidity almost instantly.

This sudden contrast in humidity causes the yucca plant’s leaves to lose lots of moisture quickly which results in the brown leaf tips which indicate drought stress.

If the the entire leaf starts to turn brown and perhaps droop, then this is a sign of underwatering from:

  • Not watering the yucca plant often enough or…
  • Water the yucca plant too lightly.

Yuccas require the top 2.5 inches of the potting soil to dry between bouts of watering as this replicates the typical rainfall followed by drought, cycle in their native environment.

Usually this means watering the yucca plant every 2 weeks (although this can depend on climate).

If weeks go by without watering the the yucca reacts with brown wilting leaves as a sign of not being watered often enough.

If you water the potting soil too lightly, this can also be the cause of the yucca plants leaves turning brown and drooping.

Watering too lightly only moistens the top inch or so of the potting soil and the water does not infiltrate the soil to reach the roots where it is required.

If the roots cannot access the moisture in the soil the yucca’s leaves turn brown and droop due to drought stress.

Leaves can also turn brown due to sunburn.

Yucca plants can tolerate direct sunlight but if they are moved from a relatively shady area to a sunny area without any time to acclimatize then the leaves can burn and turn brown.

Yucca typically grow best in morning sun followed by shade or partial light in the afternoon when the sun is at its strongest.

Lower leaves of yucca plants also turn brown as the plant matures, in which case brown leaves may not necessarily be a sign that anything is wrong with care and cultivation of your yucca plant and the plant should continue to grow.

How to Revive a Yucca Plant With Brown Leaves and Brown Leaf Tips

  • For yucca plants with brown leaf tips, increase the humidity by misting the leaves every day or so. To combat the dry air, create a humid micro-climate around your yucca plant by spraying the leaves every day or so, whenever you start to turn the heating on regularly or observe the leaf tips starting to turn brown. This should help to counteract the dry air and slow the rate of water loss from the leaves.
  • Move yucca plants out of the direct path of air currents and sources of heat. If the yucca is next any source of heat then this can sap moisture from the leaves and dry out the potting soil too quickly. Yucca often tolerate the temperature of a heated room once they have had time acclimatize, but it is best practice to keep the plant away from any direct source of heat.
  • Water yucca plants when the top 2.5 inches of the soil feel somewhat dry. Typically watering yucca plants once every 2 weeks is sufficient but this can vary according to climate and time of year. The best way to tell when your yucca needs watering is to test the soil to a fingers depth and assess. If the soil is damp then delay watering for a few days. When the soil feels as though it is just drying out, this is the best time to water your yucca plant to avoid the leaves turning brown.
  • Water the yucca’s potting soil with a generous soak, each time you water. If you water the yucca so that excess water trickles from the drainage holes in the base of the pot, this ensures that the water has infiltrated the soil and reached the roots where it is required. This soil should be evenly moist after watering to ensure that the roots can access the water the they require.
  • Avoid moving yucca leaves into full sun immediately and expose the yucca to brighter light gradually. Suddenly moving yucca plants from a relatively shady area to a sunny one causes sun burn. Gradually expose the yucca to stronger light by moving it to a sunnier location over the course of 2 weeks, so that the leaves can acclimatize to more light and avoid turning brown due to sunburn. Place the yucca in the sunnier spot for 20 minutes or more each day for around 2 weeks.

Cut away (with a sharp pair of pruners) any brown leaves that have dried out and turned crispy.

If the leaves have dried out, then they generally do not recover, but cutting back can help to stimulate new growth.

Yucca plants are able to tolerate drought well, so it should start to recover after a really good soak of water and regularly misting.

With a few cycle of watering (wait until the top 2.5 inches are dry between bouts of watering) the yucca should start to revive.

Yucca Plant Leaves Wilting And Leaves Dropping

  • Symptoms. Leaves wilting or drooping in appearance.
  • Causes. Not enough light, underwatering, overwatering or poor drainage.

The reason for yucca plant leaves wilting is usually because of not watering often enough or not enough direct sunlight. Yuccas plants prefer bright light and even some direct sunlight. If the yucca is in the shade, the growth is spindly and begins to wilt.

Yuccas grow well indoors due to their adaptability and their ability to tolerate drought, but the leaves tend to grow weak, spindly and wilting if they are in too much shade.

Without enough direct sunlight the yucca plants leaves do not have enough energy to grow and droop or wilt as a sign of stress.

Yucca’s prefer to grow in brighter light or with some direct sunlight which helps to prevent a wilting appearance. (Do not move a yucca from shade immediately to full sun or the yucca leaves can burn and turn brown).

Yucca plant leaves also wilt if they are not being watered often enough or being watered too lightly.

Some people misinterpret the misleading advice that ‘Yucca plants do not need much water’ to mean that they do not need a good quantity of water and can survive with a light watering occasionally.

Yucca plants actually require a good soak of water that ensures all the potting soil is evenly moist, but should only be watered when the top 2.5 inches of the soil feels somewhat dry.

Wilting is the first sign of stress that the yucca plant is not getting enough water.

Yucca’s can also wilt and eventually turn yellow or brown if they are watered too often, so that the soil is consistently saturated or the pot or potting soil does not allow excess water to drain away, efficiently after watering.

For this reason yucca plants should always be grown in pots with drainage holes in the base.

Also, it is important to empty saucers and trays often to ensure that excess water does not pool around the bottom of the pot, which keeps the soil too damp for the yucca’s roots to tolerate.

Too much water in the potting soil exudes oxygen which is required for root respiration. If the yucca’s roots cannot respire, this means they cannot transport moisture and nutrients from the soil, around the plant, which is why the leaves are wilting.

How to Revive Yucca Plants with Wilting Leaves

  • Locate yucca in an area of bright indirect, with a few hours of sun. Morning sun followed by afternoon shade is often best for yucca plants, but this is not always possible indoors so either bright indirect light or a few hours of sunlight should be sufficient. Avoid any areas of significant shade as the yucca does not have the energy to grow properly without bright light.
  • Expose the yucca to the more light gradually to avoid sunburn. Moving a yucca plant from an area of shade to several hours of direct sunlight can cause the leaves to turn brown and exacerbate the wilting appearance. Move the yucca to a direct sunlight for around 20 minutes more each day over the course of 2 weeks or so. This gives the yucca’s leaves a chance to acclimate to a sunnier location which prevents the leaves from burning and turning brown.
  • Water the yucca plant thoroughly (If the soil feels dry). To alleviate drought stress and revive wilting leaves it is important to water yucca plants with a generous soak, so that excess water trickles from the drainage holes in the base of the pot. This ensures the water has reached the yucca’s roots where it is required.
  • Water yucca plants when the top 2.5 inches of potting soil feel somewhat dry. Water with this schedule, replicates the typical -rainfall followed by drought- pattern that yucca are adapted to, in their native environment. This ensures you have the correct balance of moisture (to prevent wilting leaves) and prevent problems associated with underwatering or overwatering.
  • Always plant yuccas in pots with drainage holes in the base to prevent wilting. It is essential that excess water can escape freely from the base of the pot to prevent the yucca leaves wilting or drooping due to the affects of overwatering. Empty saucers and trays of excess water regularly from the the soil does not remain boggy at the bottom of the pot.
  • Keep yucca plants in their preferred temperature range of 65°F (18°C) and 90°F (32°C) to reduce any additional stress on the plant to help it recover.

If the cause of your yucca wilting is due to damp soil (from overwatering pots without drainage or saucers and trays causing water to pool around the base of the pot) the the yucca should start to recover once the soil has had a chance to dry somewhat.

If you have addressed the problem early then there is a good chance the yucca should start to recover over the following weeks. Placing the yucca in more light and allowing the top 2.5 inches of soil to dry should help significantly.

Underwatered, wilting yucca plants tend to recover well after a through watering. Within 2 or 3 cycles of watering the yucca should start to look much more healthy and revived.

If the yucca plant is given time to acclimatize to an area of more sun and potentially higher temperatures then the leaves should start to recover from a drooping appearance. How long it takes to recover depends on how long it has been in a shady area but with enough time the yucca can start to look healthy and grow new leaves when in a sunnier location.

Key Takeaways:

  • Usually the reasons for a dying yucca plant are overwatering and poor drainage. Yucca plants are drought resistant plants that do not like consistently damp, boggy soil. If the soil is too damp then the yucca plant’s leaves turn yellow with a wilting, dying appearance due to root rot.
  • Yucca plant leaves turn yellow and droop due to root rot which is caused by overwatering. If the yucca plants potting soil is saturated, then the excess water excludes oxygen from the soil, which prevents root respiration and causes the yucca leaves to turn yellow with a drooping appearance.
  • Yucca plant leaves turn brown due to underwatering, sunburn and because the yucca plants lower leaves naturally turn brown as the plant matures. Yucca plant leaves can scorch brown if they are moved from an area of shade to full sun, without a chance to acclimatize to more intense light.
  • Yucca leaf tips turn brown because of underwatering, low humidity and indoor heating. If the yucca is next to a source of heat indoors, the sudden temperature increase can sap moisture from the leaves and dry out the soil too quickly. The sudden decrease in humidity and lack of moisture results in brown leaf tips.
  • Yucca plants leaves wilt because of underwatering, lack of sunlight or because a lack of drainage. Yuccas need watering with a good soak, when the top 2.5 inches of the soil dry out. If the soil is too damp or excessively dry, they leaves wilt or droop as the first sign of stress.
  • The most common reason for yucca plants losing leaves is because of a lack of light. Yucca plants require either bright indirect light or partial sun. If the yucca plant is shaded the leaves grow long and spindly and drop off. Lower leaves drop off as the plant matures.

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