Explore Plants

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - October 18, 2010

From: Georgetown, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Dead leaves on yucca in Georgetown TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have 2 6ft and 3 smaller soft leaf yuccas out back in a kidney shaped area with a wax myrtle and a mountain laurel. The yuccas have done great but now two of them have a large number of dead leaves - both about 50%. They are really tough to prune without getting stabbed. Are these goners?? I don't water that area that much or they'd have drowned long ago.

ANSWER:

Are these dead leaves on the lower part of the yucca? That is normal die-back; as they brown and dry up, they can be pulled out, or cut off at the base with a knife. Think heavy leather gloves and a looong knife.

Beyond that, we are having a little trouble identifying your yucca. We found a variety of yuccas called Yucca recurvifolia, which had the common names of Soft Leaf Yucca or Pendulous Yucca. However, nothing under this scientific name occurs in our Native Plant Database, which means it hasn't made it there yet. According to this USDA Plant Profile map, the Yucca recurvifolia occurs naturally in the southeastern states. We then found a source which said it is believed that the Yucca recurvifolia is a natural hybrid betweenYucca flaccida (Weak-leaf yucca) (native to Mississippi) and Yucca aloifolia (Aloe yucca) (native to the southeastern states). This would explain why it is not in our plant database as we deal only with native, non-hybridized plants. It also makes it very difficult for us to diagnose or analyze a problem with it, since it has divergent parents.

So, one possibility is that it is not happy with the soils and climate of Central Texas, and that could be causing the browning leaves. Yuccas ordinarily do not need watering more than once or twice a month, and should be protected from overhead sprinklers. From the Master Gardeners of University of Arizona Pima County, here is an article on Yucca recurvifolia, Pendulous Yucca.

We can't say these plants are goners; the yucca is a very tough plant, used to surviving in difficult environments. We would suggest removing any browning leaves, looking for insects in the plant, cutting down on the amount of water it receives, and patience.

Pictures of Yucca recurvifolia from Google.

 

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

Agave americana/Century Plant care and life cycle.
June 10, 2009 - How often do century plants bloom? Do you have info on how to care for them?
view the full question and answer

Smog-eating plants from Ft. Worth TX
September 30, 2012 - Looking for a list (40 >) of Native Texas Plants for Fort Worth Urban (Condo) that are Drought tolerant or (drip irr) and Fragrant and long blooming and eat up the city smog. Fort Worth is in a non-at...
view the full question and answer

Leaves turning black on Agave americana
June 06, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants- We have a ~5-year-old agave americana that began to have leaves turn yellow (to black in some areas) just this past spring (2008). A neighbor's tree had started to overhang t...
view the full question and answer

Life span of the century plant (Agave spp.)
June 17, 2009 - I have a beautiful century plant that is blooming. what will happen once the bloom is done? What is the life span of the plant?
view the full question and answer

Century plant dying after bloom
August 12, 2007 - My century plant is so tall that it is up to the top of the telephone pole top lines that carry our streets electric. I was wanting to know if you knew if I cut the stock off would it save the plant ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.