The Yucca is a versatile indoor and outdoor plant native to the southwestern deserts of the USA, and parts of Mexico and Guatemala. These evergreen plants are drought-tolerant, low-maintenance, and pest-resistant, making them the ideal houseplants for busy individuals. What makes them visually interesting is their razor-sharp, spine-tipped leaves. It is no surprise that many folks love to have this elegant plant in their home for decorative purposes.
However, a Yucca plant turning brown can marr its natural beauty and is often a sign of a serious problem. The reasons for this can vary, but do not fret: Yuccas are highly resilient plants. There is a good chance you can nurse it back to health with the right care and attention.
Common causes of Yucca leaves turning brown
The long-leaved Yucca is one of the easiest succulents to care for. Unfortunately, its leaves are also susceptible to browning, a problem whose cause is often difficult to diagnose.
If you notice your Yucca leaves turning brown, you may need to correct the way you are caring for the plant. Here are some of the causes of browning Yucca leaves; the sooner you identify the exact cause, the more promptly you can address it and save your plant.
1. Not enough water
Yuccas in general do not like too much water, but bone dry soil can also be problematic for the plants.
To troubleshoot browning leaves on a Yucca, the first thing you need to check is the roots. Are they damaged or brittle? If you have neglected your plant for a very long time, then excessive dryness may have killed the roots and caused the leaves to turn brown. Without healthy roots, it will be difficult for your plant to absorb nutrients from the soil and maintain its lush green leaves.
2. Too much water
For a Yucca, being soaked in too much water can be worse than being underwatered. If you suspect that you might have given your plant too much water, it is best to check the soil and the roots, as this may be the reason the leaves are browning.
When the roots of the Yucca are soaked in wet soil for a very long time, they will start turning black and mushy. This is often the first sign of root rot, and without prompt action, the plant’s entire root system will become damaged. And, without healthy roots, it will be difficult to revive the plant as it has already started to wither and die.
Poor soil quality and a pot without proper drainage holes can have the same effect as excessive watering. The soil may hold too much water at the bottom, even though the top layer looks dry. Dig deep and carefully lift the plant, and you may find the roots looking mushy and rotting. If excessive watering is not an issue, then it may be time to transfer your plant to a faster-draining soil mix and a more appropriate container.
3. Lack of humidity
Did you know that Yuccas hate dry air? Homes that use central heating and do not have proper ventilation can have low humidity levels which may cause a Yucca’s leaves to turn brown. Unfortunately, this is often unavoidable, especially if you live in areas with a cold winter season and you need to take your Yuccas inside.
The lack of humidity can slowly brown the tips of Yucca’s leaves. At this stage, it may still be easy to revive your plant back to having lush, green leaves. Neglect it for an extended period of time, however, and soon the dry air will cause larger brown spots to appear on the leaves.
4. Fluoride toxicity
Yucca leaves turning brown may also be caused by tap water containing high levels of fluoride. If you are not aware of this, then chances are you have been using tap water for a long time to hydrate your plants. Unfortunately, these minerals accumulate in the soil over time and inhibit the process of photosynthesis.
Some obvious signs of fluoride toxicity in Yucca plants are the appearance of tip burns and necrosis. If you have noticed these symptoms, then you may need to consider changing your water source to a fluoride-free one, such as rainwater, to revive your plants.
5. Salt toxicity
Aside from fluoride, Yuccas are also sensitive to soil with high salinity. Salt toxicity may stunt the growth of your plant and cause various leaf problems such as yellowing leaf margins, necrosis, and the browning of leaf tips. One way to know if your soil contains too much salt is when it forms a white crust on the top layer.
5. Too much fertilizer
Yuccas are slow-growing plants. Owners may use fertilizer to give the plant a boost, as long as it is done in moderation. Providing the Yucca plant with more fertilizer than it needs may lead to several issues.
Young Yucca plants may benefit from low amounts of fertilizer to accelerate their growth and establish themselves. For mature plants, you can skip the fertilizer as it may not significantly benefit them.
6. Lack of sunlight
Yuccas love receiving plenty of sunlight every day. If you place your plant indoors without access to sunlight, its leaves will start turning brown or yellow.
On the other hand, exposure to too much heat from the sun can also be damaging to the plant. The intense temperature may cause the Yucca’s leaves to burn and dry out. So, just like watering and fertilizing, too much or too little sunlight can be detrimental to your plant’s health.
So you have done everything correctly to keep your Yucca healthy and vibrant. But still, you notice that the leaves, especially those at the base, are turning brown. This means that your Yucca must have reached old age. Just like any other plant, you may need to let go of your Yucca soon as this is a normal part of the plant’s life cycle.
How to revive a browning Yucca plant
1. Give the right amount of water
As you may already know, both overwatering and underwatering can be damaging for the Yucca. You can prevent these incorrect practices by simply monitoring the condition of the soil.
One way to check the moisture level of the soil is by feeling it with your fingers. Do not be deceived if the topsoil looks dry; the bottom part may still be holding too much water due to poor drainage. A moisture level sensor may be handy to help you accurately monitor the soil and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
In terms of the volume of water your plant needs, you may need to make adjustments according to the season. During summer or hot weather, you might need to give your Yucca more water to drink, but you will need to reduce the amount during cold seasons.
It is also highly recommended to use a watering can to efficiently control the amount of water you are pouring. Make sure that the water is evenly distributed on the soil.
Another important tip to remember, if your plant has become too dry, is not to overcompensate by watering it too much. This may shock the plant and cause further damage. Instead, gradually water the plant in small amounts until it has recovered.
2. Avoid using tap water
Instead, use rainwater to hydrate your plant.
Another good option is to fill your watering can with tap water and let it sit, uncovered, for at least 24 hours. Most of the chemicals should evaporate naturally, leaving your water free of fluoride.
If you have a water purifying system at home, then you can also use this as your water source for the plant; this is ideal for your Yucca to maintain its lush green leaves.
3. Place your plant in an area with the right humidity levels
You may already know that an environment with low humidity can dry out your plant’s leaves. A humidity monitor may be handy to know whether the indoor climate is already hurting your plant.
One way to help revive your plant is to mist its leaves using a spray bottle several times a week. It is best to do this in the morning to allow the water to evaporate naturally. We do not recommend misting the leaves at night, since the cooler temperature will prevent the leaves from drying fast enough. Wet leaves may be a breeding ground for fungi and bacteria, which encourage rotting.
You can also use a pebble tray to raise the humidity level in the room. Allow your Yucca to sit on top of the pebble tray, which is filled with a little bit of water. Make sure that the roots are not in contact with the water, to prevent root rot.
Another tip is to transfer your plant to the bathroom or kitchen. The steam from the shower or from cooking helps increase the humidity level around the plant. Alternatively, you can give your plant a quick shower; this will give it a good soak and remove long-standing dust on its leaves.
Lastly, you could purchase a humidifier for your plants if you have the budget to spare. You can even run this device on an automated schedule to maintain the desired humidity level. This will ensure that your Yucca receives a controlled level of humidity to prevent excessive dryness.
4. Give your Yucca some sunlight
Exposure to partial sunlight for four to five hours daily should be sufficient to keep your Yucca happy. Remember not to put it under direct sunlight or you will end up with burnt leaves.
5. Repot your plant in soil with good drainage
You can protect the healthy roots of your plant by using a mixture of soil and perlite, which is a soil mix for succulent plants or try mixing your potting soil with sand to achieve better results.
Gardening enthusiasts also recommend using a layer of rocks about three inches deep at the bottom of the pot. This will help facilitate fast drainage and prevent standing water.
If you do find any rotten roots while repotting your plant, trim them off, as they will not help your plant recover.
Should I cut the dead leaves off my Yucca?
Any dead leaves will naturally fall off on their own. However, you may want to remove these unsightly brown leaves sooner, to improve the appearance of your plant.
To do this, gently cut the dead leaves off just above their base, using clean pruning shears. Keeping the base intact will avoid exposing the trunk to pests and diseases. Take note, however, that pruning the dead leaves alone will not help revive your plant; you will need to address the abovementioned issues to restore its green, sword-like leaves.
Wrapping it up
Under the right conditions, growing Yuccas is relatively easy, even for novices. However, you may occasionally see their lush leaves turning brown, which is not aesthetically pleasing. It is also often an indication of a serious problem, which could be due to any one of various incorrect or inadequate growing conditions.
Fortunately, there are ways to address this issue and hopefully restore your Yucca to its normal, healthy state. Identify the problem, give the plant the correct care and attention, and you should see this tolerant evergreen flourishing again.
Image: istockphoto.com / sergeyryzhov