Yucca Plant Problems: Why A Yucca Plant Has Brown Tips Or Foliage

Brown Foliage On The Bottom Of A Yucca Plant
yucca brown
(Image credit: Gardening Know How, via Nikki Tilley)

Who could forget the timeless beauty of the yuccas that grew in grandma’s garden, with their dramatic flower spikes and pointed foliage? Gardeners across the country love the yucca for its hardiness and sense of style. Yucca plants are typically easy care landscaping plants, but they can have occasional problems. One of the most common symptoms of a sick yucca is browning leaves. Read on to find out why this happens and get tips on caring for a browning yucca plant.

Caring for a Browning Yucca Plant

When yucca plant problems do strike, they’re usually easy to resolve, so don’t panic if you’ve got a yucca plant with brown leaves. Several minor problems can cause the browning of yuccas. The first step in caring for a sick one is to determine what, exactly, is causing the problem. While you’re doing your investigation, check for these items:

  • Normal aging. Yucca plant leaves turning brown can be a normal part of their lifecycle, provided the browning leaves are the oldest and closest to the ground. If leaves higher in the plant are also browning, you’ve got a different problem.
  • Lighting. You need bright light for your yucca to really thrive. Yuccas will warn you of low lighting conditions by becoming a brighter green, then yellowing and browning if insufficient light persists. Although they need bright light, never place indoor yucca plants in a window with direct sunlight, or else you’ll have the opposite problem and cook your yuccas to death.
  • Watering. Since yuccas are desert residents, watering can be fraught with problems. It’s hard to water them too little if you’re watering at all, but watering too much is easy and quickly leads to root rot in all varieties. If your plant is small enough to dig, check the roots. They should be firm and white or cream colored, but absolutely not black or squishy. If that’s what you find, cut away the damaged roots, repot your plant in a container or garden spot with good drainage, and water only when the top two inches (5 cm.) of soil are dry.
  • Fluoride toxicity. When your yucca plant has brown tips, it’s likely due to fluoride toxicity. This issue generally starts as small brown spots on leaf margins but soon encompasses the entire leaf tip. It’s especially bad on older leaves. There’s no serious risk with fluoride toxicity, but it does make a yucca look unsightly. Switch to watering with distilled water and the problem will clear up over time.
  • Salt toxicity. Although fluoride isn’t a huge threat to your plant’s health, salt is a serious problem. If you live where the soil has a high salinity level or your water is from a water softener, your plant may respond with stunted growth, browning tips, and leaf margins, or another leaf-related issue. In very salty conditions, a white crust may form at the surface of the soil. You can attempt to flush the soil with salt-free water, but unless you act quickly, your yucca may be beyond saving.
  • Fungal leaf spots. Once in a while the conditions are just right for fungal leaf spots to take hold in yucca. The fungal pathogens involved will cause spotting, often with a yellow halo, but rarely damage whole leaves. Remove damaged leaves and spray the plant with a copper fungicide as long as the weather is moist to prevent the spread of fungal spores to non-infected leaves.
Kristi Waterworth

Kristi Waterworth was a regular contributor to Gardening Know How for many years, answering countless queries on plant pests and diseases.