Question: I’ve had a Yucca plant in my home for about 5 years. When I bought the plant it had three 3 trunks or canes in a 14-inch pot but now one trunk has rotted away in the past six months. In order to “revive” my houseplant I decided to pull out the rotted cane and repot the plant into a larger pot. The plant is now in a 20-inch pot with new soil. I water the plant every week and use plant food when I water. There are new leaves coming out but the ends or tips are brown. The plant sits about 8-10 feet away from my south window. What can I do to save my plant? – Kathleen, Dallas, Texas.
Answer: First of all thank you for the complete description of the plant problem/situation. Often times the information is spotty at best and tough to reply. What you have described covers what would be two of the most common problems house plant owners “face” or I should say “cause.” The difference in your case is you waited 5 years or so. All too often plant owners assume repotting and adding plant food or fertilizer will help the plant, usually it causes more problems.
Let’s first start with the lighting. Yucca comes from southern Mexico and craves high direct light. The first part of providing better care and maintenance begins with more light.The plant is sitting way to far away from a good light source; this results in weak growth and the plant using very low water needs.
Most indoor house plants DO NOT need to be repotted. The excess soil only puts more moisture around the roots. Watering on a weekly basis, the pot being large in size and the plant not sitting in bright light I do not see any way for the soil to dry out. I would first say the plant is over potted and over watered.
Fertilizer should be used on plants actively growing plants and not as a way to “fertilize and care the plant” back to health. Excess salts in fertilizers just burn the unhealthy roots. The cane of your yucca probably declined slowly over the years from bad lighting and over watering.
The brown tips on the new growth are simple telling you the roots have some problems.
Indoor Yucca Pests – Is It Scale
At times a mature yucca sitting in the same place and pot for years may look like it is infested with scale. A plant owner takes care in spraying the plant with an insecticide to kill the houseplant bugs and then rinses the plant down with water to make sure no harmful chemicals hang around the house. Then panic starts in as you wonder where this ugly “scale” came from and if it will infect the other indoor plants.
Before treating any plant for scale it is important to know if the problem is scale. Scale should scratch of flick off with your fingernail. Scale also will leave behind a sticky substance. However, yucca often times gets a fungus many mistake for scale. If fungus is the problem remove the leaf and lower leaves to control the disease since this removes the source of new infections.
If scale is the true problem I like to go with a natural “pesticide” solution like neem. Neem is safe and should not hurt you, the plant or environment. After applying or spraying the plant, rinsing off any sprayed on material only washes off the “treatment.”
Always keep an eye out for ants on your houseplants. Ants are great farmers and love to farm scale and aphids. Keeping a watchful eye is the best way to fight problems like scale on a yucca plant or house plants on general. Scale is a plant pest that spreads slowly, by monitoring your plants regularly, cleaning and grooming scale not be an issue with your house plants.