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Plant Diseases/Dying yucca plant leaves


yucca leaves
yucca leaves  
yucca leaves
yucca leaves  
QUESTION: Hi Melissa,

I bought a yucca plant (3 plants varying in height in one container) that seemed to be in very good health about 3 weeks ago. I bought a pot (with drainage holes) that was only slightly larger than the original container it came in. For my soil: about half was Miracle Gro soil, 1/4 perlite, and 1/4 fine sand. I did not prune the roots before transplanting it but I did hear some rip apart during the move; as I mentioned there's 3 plants sharing the roots system. I've watered it once a week with about half a glass full of water. I've been checking the soil to make sure it dries between watering to avoid root rot. I have not added any fertilizer but both the Miracle Gro soil and perlite packaging say there is fertilizer added in. My apartment has only north facing windows; I have the plant situated by my patio door window, which is somewhat drafty, and I keep the temperature in my apartment between 55-73 degrees. I've noticed over the weeks that some leaves have started turning brown/yellow at the tips and proceed down until the entire leaf dies; first it was a few, now it's many. A few of the tips are black in color but haven't turned too brown/yellow yet. What's your opinion? Transplant shock? Cold air shock? Root damage? Over or under watering? Lack of sun? Too much fertilizer in the soil? Thank you so much for your time and any thoughts you may have!


ANSWER: Dear David, You give an excellent plant history.  As I see it, your main problem is the lack of light.  Generally speaking, yucca has very high light requirements.  These plants are used to being in full sunlight, so it would prefer to have at least 4 hours a day of sunlight.  You might see if you can get a grow light with sufficient light to keep the plant happy, and then perhaps when the weather is better, you can put it outside on the patio where it can enjoy the sun as much as possible.  The wind or draft will not bother this particular plant.  Also, when watering, don't just put a little water on the plant.  You should thoroughly drench the plant - this goes for any plant.  This helps remove salt buildups that occur in potted plants.  Then remove all the excess water.  If you have a drip tray underneath the plant, make sure it is completely dry after watering.  This will help prevent fungus gnats and rot.  You may need to do some leaf trimming for a little longer, but it should recover if you can increase the light.  Also, since these plant grow along rhizomes, it's not a terrible thing if you break the root a bit. I hope this information helps you.  Please feel free to ask any plant questions you may have in future.  Good luck, Melissa

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Melissa,

Thank you for your quick reply and for setting aside your time to assist me! I had guessed that the problem was with lack of sunlight and I will continue to do my best to accommodate it. I will also make sure to do better with the watering! I had a few follow up questions:

- What do you think about separating the 3 yuccas and giving each their own pot? I figured it may be easier on the soil and give the leaves more light instead of being so bunched together.

- If I were to do this I assume I would detach the roots from each other the best I can, cutting them if necessary? I've read that you should cut about an inch or so off of the roots while doing a re-potting to encourage growth, do you agree?

- What's your opinion about putting rocks at the bottom of pots? Some people say it's pointless and others say it's necessary.

- Lastly, should I be trimming the dying leaves? Cutting them completely off or just the dying parts?

Thanks again for everything!!!


Dear David, I would absolutely not separate the yuccas.  They actually prefer to be root bound.  In general, when repotting, I only trim bad and broken roots.  You just move a size up in the pot.  If you want, you could add a bit of root stimulator, but I don't think it's necessary.  I certainly wouldn't buy any just for this plant.  The main reason people put rocks at the bottom of pots is to increase the drainage.  It's very important for plants in pots to drain easily, and you don't want all the soil coming out the bottom hole.  You can sometimes put a few broken potsherds in the bottom to block the bottom holes from losing soil, but helping the drainage.  So, really, you don't need it unless you think you'll need it for drainage.  I would trim off the dying leaves.  Some you will need to remove completely, but you can trim others.  It's also a good indicator of when the plant may be turning the corner and starting to improve.  Hopefully, the weather will improve eventually, and you can give it some sunshine.  Until then, just keep the light as bright as possible (but not after dark).  Good luck, Melissa

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Melissa Johnston


Plant diseases, landscaping, tropical plants, roses, herbs, plant care, grafting, horticulture, plant identification, anything about plants I can likely answer.


35 years experience in various plant businesses, 1984 Certified Texas Master Gardener.

Master Gardener Association of Texas charter member

none as of yet, but I have a plant q&a book I am in process of submitting.

Magna cum laude graduate of Texas A&M, 1978

Awards and Honors
Plant growing awards, highest grade for Texas Master Gardener graduates.

Past/Present Clients
Past member of and was very highly rated. Owned landscape company in the past, Almost Paradise, and was very successful despite little equipment, no help, and no advertising. Lived well for two years until 9/11.

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