Why are My Yucca Leaves Turning Yellow?


Yucca leaves turning yellow

Yucca leaves turn yellow as a sign of stress due to over watering and too much moisture around the roots of your yucca. Yuccas are drought resistant and require well draining soil to avoid the their leaves turning yellow. Yellow leaves can also indicate your yucca requires more direct sun.

The leaves of a new yucca plant commonly turn yellow as a sign of stress due to the contrast in conditions between the garden center and your home or garden.

Keep reading to learn why yucca leaves turn yellow and how to solve the problem…

Yellow Yucca Leaves Due to Too Much Moisture Around the Roots

The most common reason for Yucca leaves turning yellow is because of too much moisture around the roots caused by:

  • Watering the Yucca too frequently.
  • Growing Yucca in pots without drainage holes in the base.
  • The use of a tray or saucer to catch excess water which keeps the soil too moist.
  • Rich compost or a potting mix that retains too much moisture around the roots of the yucca.

Yuccas are native to hot and dry environments such as dry deserts in Mexico and the Caribbean and arid regions of Texas in prairies and mountainous areas.

Yucca plant
Yucca plant in sandy soil.

Therefore they are drought resistant as they have specifically adapted to growing in dry sandy soils that do not retain much moisture and climates with relatively low rainfall.

If the roots of the yucca are sat in consistently damp soil then this is contrary to their preferred soil conditions and it can cause the leaves to turn yellow as a sign of stress.

Yuccas that are sat in damp soil for an extended amount of time are susceptible to the fungal disease root rot which turns the leaves yellow and then black and the leaves can droop down.

How to Save Over Watered Yucca Plants with Yellow Leaves

The key to saving yucca plants with yellow leaves is to replicate some of the conditions of the native environment in terms of light, watering and soil conditions.

  • Scale back the watering of your yucca plant. Yuccas are drought tolerant and should only be watered when the soil feels somewhat dry to a fingers depth. Typically this is around once every two weeks but this can vary according to different variables such as the intensity of sunlight, and the humidity of the climate so adjust the frequency of your watering for your specific conditions.
  • Yuccas should be grown in pots with drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to trickle out the base of the pot. If the pot has not drainage hole in the base the the soil becomes saturated and the yucca leaves turn yellow, the plant develops root rot and the yucca dies back. Transfer your yucca to a pot with drainage holes in the base and allow the soil to dry out so it can recover.
  • Often indoor yucca plants are grown with saucers or trays underneath the pot to catch any excess water. If the saucer or tray is not emptied and the pot is sat in a puddle of water, then the soil becomes saturated as it would in a pot with no drainage holes and the yucca leaves turn yellow as a sign of stress. It is okay to use a tray or saucer to prevent watering leaking into your home as long as the pot is not in standing water.
  • Ordinary potting soil is great for retaining moisture but yucca prefer a well draining potting mix so that the roots are not sat in moist soil. Amend the potting mix with around 1/3 perlite to 2/3’s potting soil if your are re-potting your yucca or if the leaves are yellow due to moisture retaining soil. This replicates the conditions of the yuccas preferred soil type in its native environment.

Once you have adjusted the conditions to support a dryer soil mix around the roots of your yucca, the plant should begin to show signs of recovery if located in a good amount of direct sun (South facing window).

However if all the leaves of the yucca are yellow and the plant has been in saturated soil for a long time there is a good chance that the yucca has root rot which more often kills the plant so best practices when it comes to watering and soil conditions is key.

(For how to establish the optimal watering frequency for yucca read my article how to water yucca plants indoors).

Yucca Leaves Turn Yellow Without Enough Direct Sun

Yuccas plants are native to hot and Sunny areas of the Americas and the Caribbean where they thrive in direct sun.

If the Yucca is in too much shade then its leaves begin to turn yellow and droop as a sign of stress.

Yucca plants can survive indoors in Winter as long as they are in a sunny South facing Window with access to as much direct light as possible.

Even if the yucca is in a sunny location the lower leaves can still turn yellow as the intensity of the light, as well as the hours of sun is significantly less in Winter. so as a survival strategy the yucca redirects its energy to the upper leaves as a response to lower light causing the low leaves to die back.

The lower leaves can then be pruned as they do not recover but the plant as a whole should revive once there is more sunshine either in the Spring or because you have moved it to a sunnier location.

It is important to note that yuccas can grow quite tall which can create a scenario where the upper leaves are shaded because of the angle of the sun coming through the window, so try to find an area where as much of the yucca as possible is in direct light, even in Winter months.

Yuccas are relatively slow growing, so it can take some time for them to recover from a bout of sunlight deprivation but with patience the yucca should recover in the Spring as long as it is located in as much sun as possible.

New Yucca Plant with Leaves Turning Yellow (Transplant stress)

A common problem with yucca plants is that there leaves can turn yellow not long after you have bought it from the store or nursery.

Yucca leaves turn yellow as a reaction to a contrast in their conditions when they are moved.

The yucca plant is acclimated to the specific conditions of the nursery greenhouse in which it was cultivated, therefore it can suffer some shock when it is moved from the garden center to your home or garden.

The affect is more pronounced when disparity between growing conditions is greater.

For example if the yucca has be growing with consistent temperatures, exposure to sunlight, and a specific water schedule then it is likely to be different from the conditions in your home.

The transplant stress is likely to be temporary as the yucca adjust to its new home.

As long as it is watered appropriately (around once every 2 weeks) and in as much direct sun as possible the yucca should revive.

Some of the yellow leaves may die back but new growth should come through, however this may take some patience as yuccas are relatively slow growing so expect improvement in the following weeks.

Prune back any growth that has died back to encourage new growth.

Yucca Leaves Turning Yellow Due to Lack of Water

Yucca leaves can turn yellow if they are suffering from serious drought as a result of under watering.

This is far less likely the cause of yellowing leaves as yuccas are resistant to drought, but it can still occur if the yucca has been neglected for a very long time or perhaps the yucca is in a small pot you are in a hot climate with low humidity which can cause water to evaporate too quickly for the yuccas roots to uptake.

Whilst yuccas do not require frequent watering (around once every two weeks or when the soil feels dry to a fingers depth) they do require a generous soak rather the a light watering.

The correct way to water a potted yucca is to soak the soil with enough water so that excess water trickles out the base of the pot. This ensures that the water has infiltrated the soil to reach the roots rather then just keeping the surface of the soil moist.

However if the yucca has been neglected for some time causing the leaves are turning yellow, then it is important to properly give the yucca a drink by watering the pot and placing it in a tray for 2 hours to ensure the water is properly absorbed rather then just run off the surface of the dry soil and out the bottom of the pot.

This should re-hydrate the yucca plant to help it recover.

After the initial soak I recommend resuming a watering scheduled of around once every two weeks or water whenever the soil feels dry to a fingers depth to keep the plant healthy and avoid yellowing leaves.

Key Takeaways:

  • Yucca leaves turn yellow due to over watering, slow draining soil or pots without drainage holes in the base. yuccas require well draining soil so if the soil is consistently moist the yucca leaves turn yellow as a sign of stress.
  • Yucca leaves turn yellow if they are in too much shade. Yuccas are adapted to full sun so if there is no direct light the leaves can drop, turn yellow and die back.
  • A significant contrast in the conditions from which your yucca plant was cultivated to your home or garden can cause yucca leaves to turn yellow. Yuccas become acclimated to a specific amount of light, watering frequency and temperature. When moved to a new location the leaves can turn yellow as a sign of stress.
  • If the yucca has been neglected an not watered for a long time the leaves can turn yellow. Water yucca with a generous soak once every tow weeks to avoid drought stress.

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