Yucca Elephantipes, Leaves Curling Downward

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I’ve had my yucca plant for 12 years now. It started out with 3 trunks in one pot and now I only have 1 left.

PROBLEM: leaves are curling downward in on itself, like i rolled them to make a cigar. About 1/5 of remaining leaves are curling. Looks like this may continue to other leaves.

The plant stands 3 1/2 feet tall has about 7 branches from the top portion of the main trunk. The branches had lots of healthy leaves before this issue started. New growth is appearing where the branches come out of the trunk, so all branches have new growth coming in.The pot is 17 inches in diameter, has drainage holes and is in a sphagnum moss medium with perlite and  vermiculite.

About 3 month ago I moved houses, the plant would spends the summer outside and winters in the house. The new house has more light, indirect sun light all day. About 1 month ago i noticed that the leaves were turning yellow then brown (starting at the tip) one after another, checked the plant over and noticed that it had become extremely root bound.

I removed it and transplanted it from a 14 inch pot to the 17. It was really root bound, no dirt left, all roots. The roots appeared healthy. I gave it some miracle grow when i transplanted it, but only water the plant when the top of the soil dries out.

1. It is extremely unlikely that your Yucca with only one cane remaining and only 3.5 feet tall was ever root bound enough to warrant a 17″ pot. That may have aggravated the problem.

2. Fertilizer is intended only for healthy plants that are growing vigorously. It is not medicine for ailing plants like yours.

3. Light and water are the most critical factors. Inside, a Yucca needs to be right in front of a very sunny window. I suspect that the brown tips and the drooping may have been caused by inadequate light. The effects of poor light take several months or more to manifest themselves.

4. You didn’t mention watering at all. The symptoms you described could be caused by either under or over watering. When properly potted and in good light, a Yucca needs a thorough watering whenever the top quarter of the soil feels dry.

Regardless of the source of the problem, there are no quick fixes or shortcuts. All you can do is provide maximum direct sunlight and water as I described. It is also unlikely that the drooping leaves will ever recover, so it may be best best to remove them now. If the roots remain healthy, then you may see a slow recovery of healthy new growth at the tip ends of the stems. I do NOT commend repotting, changing the soil or adding any food or supplements to the soil.

Follow-up Question:

  1. The plant is just over 4 feet tall when measured.The plant was so root bound that t started growing root threw a crack in the container, their was no growing medium left in the pot, the roots were growing in circles at the bottom of the pot and growing out the top of the container. To me the plant was root bound probably for some time now. Their was no choice but to repot. Maybe i should of only went up 2 inches but that was the only pot i hd on hand.2. I didn’t intend it for medicine, the dirt i repotted into had no plant food in it, so i gave it a general liquid miracle grow plant food, Should i not give any nutrients when it is ailing? The plant food was mainly due to the new medium the plant was put in.

    3. It may be a light problem, as it does spend its time out side in the summer, i can not duplicate this as the house does not get direct sun light threw the main window, the plant is 1 1/2 feet from the window. I agree the the browning and drooping of leaves is due to the light problem.

    4. I mentioned that I water the plant when the top 2 inches of soil are dry, i try and remember to let my water sit out for a few days before watering my plants.

    I just found it strange that the leaves are curling the way they are, I am including a picture, you can see the leaves curling and the new growth and can see that one stem/branch lost all of its leaves :(.

Thank you for the photo. Your plant is definitely suffering from inadequate light. That is why the upper stems and new leaves are thin, weak and drooping. Yuccas have to be right in front of a sunny indoor window at all times. Moving it outside in sun in the warmer months will not properly make up for inadequate light the rest of the time.

New soil has more than enough nutrients to last for a year or more. Adding plant fertilizer is overkill and I do not recommend it. In fact, it tends to force growth when there is not enough light and the result is the weak growth you are seeing. Stop fertilizing and improve the light. Never fertilize an ailing plant.

It is not necessary to let water sit in the open before using it. That is out-of-date information. If your local tap water is hard, then switch to filtered, distilled or rain water.

Your Yucca would also benefit from pruning back a few of the very long, bare stems. As long as the pruned stems are healthy and if you improve the light, then you will get healthy new leaf growth starting just below here you make the pruning cuts.