Yucca Leaning Over: Why Yucca Is Falling Over And How To Fix
By: Jackie Carroll
When you have a leaning yucca plant, it may appear as though the plant is leaning because it is top heavy, but healthy yucca stems stand up under a heavy growth of leaves without bending. Read on to find out what really causes a yucca to lean over.
Reasons for Yucca Plant Leaning
The three main causes of a yucca leaning over are root rot, drought, and shock.
Root Rot – The number one cause of problems with all houseplants is over watering, and yuccas grown indoors are no exception. Over watering leads to root rot, which prevents the plant from taking up enough water.
Drought – It is ironic that the symptoms of too much water and not enough water are the same: drooping stems, wilting leaves, and yellowing. Drought is more common than root rot when plants are grown outdoors. Although a yucca can tolerate drought, it needs water during prolonged dry spells, especially in hot weather. Look at the growing conditions to differentiate between drought and over watering.
Shock – Shock occurs when the plant sustains physical damage, or there is a sudden change in growing conditions. Yuccas sometimes experience shock when they are repotted or transplanted.
What to Do When a Yucca is Falling Over
Whether a yucca is bending over because of drought, over watering, or shock, the result is that the roots aren’t able to take up enough water to support the plant. Rotting roots and roots that die from shock will not recover, and the entire plant will die. You may be able to save a plant that is suffering from drought, but bent stems between the trunk and the leaves will not straighten out.
You’ll get better results from rooting the top of a yucca plant that is bending over than from trying to save the old plant. It takes some time to grow a new plant, but you’ll have the satisfaction that comes with propagating a yucca plant and watching it grow.
Yucca Plant Leaning: Taking Cuttings
- Cut off each stem about two inches (5 cm.) below the lowest leaves.
- Remove discolored and shriveled leaves.
- Prepare a 6- or 8-inch (15 to 20.5 cm.) pot by filling it with potting soil that drains freely. A mixture of peat moss and sand, or a commercial cactus mix makes a good rooting medium for yucca.
- Stick the cut ends of the stems into the medium. Insert all of the stems in one pot, and pack the soil around them so that they stand up straight.
- Water lightly and keep the medium lightly moist. Roots appear in four to eight weeks.
- Move the pot to a sunny windowsill and keep the cuttings together in the original pot for six months to a year after they root.
How to Prevent a Leaning Yucca Plant
There are four things you should consider in preventing a yucca plant from leaning:
- Transplant potted yuccas in the spring using cactus potting soil. Choose a pot that allows about an inch (2.5 cm.) of space between the roots and the sides of the pot.
- Allow the top few inches (7.5 to 15 cm.) of the potting soil to dry before watering the plant.
- Don’t try to transplant large, established plants that are growing outdoors in the soil.
- Water outdoor yuccas during prolonged drought.
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Yucca Elephantipes (Spineless Yucca / Stick Yucca)
Yucca's are both indoor and outdoor plants. In fact when a lot of people hear the word Yucca they think about one of the many garden varieties which have dramatic clusters of white bell like flowers during Summer. However it's also a popular modern houseplant.
It has only started to become popular as an indoor plant quite recently, in fact if you have any old houseplant books laying around it's quite normal not to find it mentioned at all.
Although all varieties are easy enough to grow, there is generally only one popular variety grown as an indoor plant these days and that is Y. elephantipes, we would strongly advise giving any plant labeled Y. aloifolia a miss.
The nickname given to Y. aloifolia is "Spanish Bayonet" and if that wasn't enough of a clue as to why it doesn't belong indoors, here in plain English is why you don't want it in your home the leaves are razor sharp! Accidentally brushing past without clothes on (it's been known to happen trust us) or leaning into Y. aloifolia can be pretty painful to say the least. Fortunately Y. elephantipes commonly known as the "Stick Yucca" or as it should now make more sense the "Spineless Yucca" doesn't have razor sharp leaves.
A mature Yucca is bold and striking with straight angular edges, it looks very fitting in modern homes. Whereas younger, smaller plants will suit the majority of homes
The leaves of Y. elephantipes while not overly sharp still have a pointed end, so you should still take care. The wide sword shaped leaves are also pretty tough, you won't for example be able to rip them with your fingers and while such hardy greenery might please claw happy cat owners, they may enjoy using the bare "trunk" as a scratching post instead.
If you aren't sure which variety you are looking at, Y. aloifolia has narrow leaves that gradually taper to a sharp point, where as Y. elephantipes has wider sword shaped leaves that arch slightly. Which ever type you have, the care requirements are the same for each.
It's common to buy a Yucca which has been grown from a special "log" or stem, after potting it up, the new green growth emerges out of the top of this stem and the roots grow out of the bottom and into the soil. It can look a lot like a miniature palm tree, or in some cases a Dragon Tree (Dracaena).
The leathery like leaves arch and will eventually yellow and fall off, replaced by the new top growth, this gradually increases the height of the plant. The exposed trunk is certainly attractive by itself but a tall plant can lose its appeal by appearing "leggy", and this is why its normal to find several Yucca's in a pot all of different sizes to negate this future "leggy" effect.
A mature Yucca is bold and striking with straight angular edges, it looks very fitting in modern minimalist homes as a stand alone specimen plant. The smaller, younger Yucca's (which would suit the majority of homes style wise) are relatively cheap, and easily found. However the taller branched or pots containing multiple plants at different heights are considerably more in price and significantly harder to get hold of.
We've learnt a bit about the plant so lets dive into the Care instructions, which if you follow will keep your Yucca in great condition and health.
Reviving a Dying Yucca Plant
A yucca plant is a hardy annual that thrives with little maintenance. It also produces a wonderful spray of white, bell-shaped flowers (even though they don't last long). In many cases of dying yuccas, the problem is too much attention or not enough light.
Tip: Spider mites are a common problem with indoor yuccas as well. If you notice the tiny red mites on your plant, take your potted yucca outdoors or into the shower and spray well, including the underside of the leaves. A spray of dish soap and water will control bugs and mites.
Yuccas grow well indoors and can often extend themselves above the natural light coming through a window. The first sign of a light problem is when the leaves become a richer green as the plant produces more chlorophyll to take advantage of what little light there is. When the leaves are no longer in the direct light, you might not spot this color change, however.
This is followed by a yellowing of the leaves as they fail to produce the level of food necessary for the roots. The yellowing is caused by the plant trying to remove toxins that have developed. The leaves will then droop and die off. While the leaves are still alive, this situation is very quickly resolved by putting the plant in a position where the leaves are in full sunlight again.
The yucca is very susceptible to various kinds of rot and as such, needs to be in well-drained soil. The quality of the soil does not need to be high, as long as it's loose. Overwatering can lead to yellow leaves, a spongy trunk, and root rot. Allowing the plant to dry out will cause a rapid recovery. If your yucca is in a pot without drainage, it must be repotted into one that does drain. Sometimes, having too large a pot can also have a similar effect, because the soil stays moist for too long. Most yucca plants can cope with about an inch of soil around the base of the trunk.
A major problem caused by overwatering is root rot. If the roots have turned a brown color instead of being pale, they have gone too far to recover. Remove the rotted roots by cutting the trunk so that you remove all signs of rot. The part of the trunk that is left, if it has sound roots, can be repotted into dry soil and allowed to recover before being watered again.
The trunk of the yucca can hold a lot of water and will do so, but this is a survival mechanism. If the trunk stays wet it will rot and grow very spongy. A tall yucca will start to lean and may even collapse as the trunk loses strength, so before watering your yucca, always check that the soil is dry.
A yucca tends to do better in a constant temperature when grown indoors. If your yucca is in your garden, it will be able to tolerate a wide range of temperatures, but indoor yuccas like warm, dry air and lots of ventilation.
As long as you water it only when it's dry and keep it in direct sunlight, your indoor yucca should remain healthy.
Yucca - An In-depth Look
Plants have large, stiff, and sword like rosette leaves, are a genus of perennial trees and shrubs from the family Asparagaceae, and are contained within the subfamily Agavoideae.
Plants are native to the dry and hot parts of South, Central and North America, and to the Caribbean.
They are currently one of the main gardening trends in the United Kingdom when it comes to landscaping and home garden plants.
There are nine species and 24 subspecies of Yucca, and their distribution covers a vast area of Central and North America.
Yuccas have adapted to a vast range of ecological and climatic conditions, as is demonstrated by its distributional spread from the Gulf of Mexico to the drier central states such in Alberta in Canada, and through to the inland neighboring states and the Atlantic coastal.
Plants are found in badlands and rocky deserts, in grassland and prairies, in light woodland, in mountainous regions, in semi-temperate and subtropical zones, and even in coastal sands (Yucca filamentosa) though these areas are generally arid to semi-arid.
Yucca Plant Uses
So Just What are Yucca Plants Used For?
- Yuccas are generally known as ornamental plants in gardens.
- There are also several yucca species that bear edible parts, such as their flowers, Young flower stalk, and flowering stem, seeds, fruits and roots.
- The use of yucca roots as food often comes from the confusion with the same spelled, yet unrelated to yucca botanically, Manihot esculenta plant, commonly known as Cassava.
- That said there are many yucca plant uses, for example: the roots of Yucca elata (soaptree yucca), are rich in saponins and are used in Native American rituals as a shampoo.
- Trunk fibers and dried yucca leaves makes the plant perfect for use in fires that are started through fiction, as they have a low ignition temperature.
- Species such as Yucca filamentosa, in rural Appalachian areas, are coined as “meat hangers”, as its sharp spiny tips and tough fibrous leaves are used in puncturing meat, as well as knotted in order to form a loop wherein meat can be hung in smoking houses, or for salt curing.
Common Varieties of Yucca Plants
The banana yucca, or Yucca baccata, is native to the American Southwest and requires very little water. It’s well adapted to dry conditions and also can handle neglect with ease. This low-maintenance yucca has spiky leaves with the ability to reach two to three feet (sometimes even a bit more!).
However, this is not the yucca plant to grow if you have an impatient green thumb. It can take several years for the banana yucca to bloom, and when it does, it often dies shortly after.
Found in zones 7 through 11, Yucca Gloriosa ‘Bright Star’ only grows to about one or two feet tall. It has yellow and green striped leaves, along with flower stalks that produce pink buds.
It’s one of the best types of yucca plants for northern gardeners, as it is hardy down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spineless yucca is a yucca of many names, including giant yucca and, more formally, Yucca elephantipes. This yucca is native to zones 9 to 11 and can grow up to 25 feet tall when grown outdoors.
When grown inside, it will maintain a more moderate growth of just 10 feet tall. It has luxurious, verdant green foliage with white flowers, and its soft leaves make it ideal for indoor gardeners.
Beaked Yucca Plant
Also referred to as big bend yucca or Yucca rostrata, beaked yucca has one trunk and a highly recognizable pom-pom that’s topped with sharp blue leaves.
When it’s fully blossomed, the beaked yucca plant has orange or yellow flowers. It’s often used in gravel and Mediterranean gardens, where it’s regarded as one of the most attractive types of yucca.
Thompson’s Yucca Plant
Yucca thompsoniana or Thompson’s yucca has a single trunk, so it’s often confused for a beaked yucca plant. However, the main difference between the two is that Thompson’s yucca plant can have two trunks instead of just one.
It also has pom-pom shaped foliage, but its overall growth will be much slower and smaller than that of the beaked yucca. In fact, Thompson’s yucca will only grow to about six feet tall.
The red yucca plant (Hesperaloe parviflora) is native to Central America and is the perfect choice for an outdoor ornamental garden. With striking colors, it can create a vivid aesthetic in your garden.
It produces pink flowers atop tall, skinny spikes. It grows like a weed and is remarkably drought-tolerant, blooming year-round as long as you provide it with plenty of sunlight.
The yellow yucca plant is closely related to the red yucca plant. Also native to southwestern America, it can actually be planted side by side the red yucca for a showstopping, bi-colored appearance.
It produces large, trumpet-like yellow flowers that can each produce growth up to five feet long. This yucca plant is also prized for its ability to attract hummingbirds, and it blooms well into the fall.
Yucca brevifolia is commonly known as the Joshua tree. Growing up to 40 feet tall, it is one of the fastest- and tallest-growing yucca species. It is found in zones 6 through 10 and blooms in the spring (but unfortunately, it does not bloom every year).
It’s the iconic symbol of the Mojave Desert and perhaps the most famous type of yucca plants – after all, there is a national park named after it!
Soapweed yucca, or Yucca glauca, is another Southwestern type of yucca plant. It has flower spikes that are three- to four- feet long, each completely packed with enormous white flowers.
It is another cultivar that thrives on neglect, doing well as long as it has ample amounts of sunlight.
Yucca smalliana, the beargrass yucca, is native to the southeastern portion of the United States. Its major allure has to do with the fact that its leaves are much softer (and less prickly) than what you may have experienced in other yucca plants.
As a result, these plants are more than safe to plant around small children or other visitors. They also produce luxurious flowers that smell delightful when in bloom.
Spanish bayonet, also known as Spanish dagger, by contrast to Beargrass Yucca, needs to be kept far away from walkways and other high-traffic areas.
Though beautiful to look at, the Spanish bayonet yucca, or Yucca aloifolia, produces sharply-pointed spikes that are densely packed and of varying heights. You’ll enjoy dense, aromatic flower clusters, but the spikes can be so hazardous you’ll want to think carefully about where you grow this yucca.
Adam’s needle, or Yucca filamentosa, produces long, pointed leaves that are about two and a half feet long. They are unique, however, because they rise directly from the ground. When the plant is mature, it will send up a towering six-foot flower stalk that holds countless bell-shaped flowers.
These flowers aren’t just beautiful to look at – they are also heavily scented and will attract hordes of pollinators to your yard. Unfortunately, like Spanish bayonet, Adam’s needle also needs to be planted well out of the way of high-traffic areas.
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Name: Lin Vosbury
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
I'm an old gal who still loves playing in the dirt!
Playing in the dirt is my therapy . and I'm in therapy a lot!
For future reference, when removing a dead cane (Yucca or Corn Plant) rotate the cane in place until all the roots have been disconnected from the surrounding soil. Then, you can easily lift the cane straight up and out without disturbing the roots of the remaining cane.
Keep your Yucca right in front of your sunniest window and allow the top quarter of the soil to dry before watering it.