What Do I do if My Yucca Plant has Root Rot

Root rot is a common problem for yuccas. Naturally found in dry climates, yuccas and wet soil are not a great match, and sometimes root rot is the result.

When a yucca plant has root rot, remove the rot immediately using a sharp pruning device. Root rot is caused by overwatering, allowing fungi to grow in the roots and spread to the rest of the plant. If not cared for, the roots will become too rotten to take in resources, killing the plant.

Knowing the signs of root rot is the best way of preventing root rot. But, once root rot has occurred, it is essential to understand how to remove it. This article provides more information about root rot and what needs to be done to help a yucca that has it.

What Causes Root Rot in a Yucca

Root rot occurs when a yucca’s soil becomes waterlogged, keeping needed oxygen from the roots of the yucca. This can be caused by:

  • Overwatering
  • Heavy rainfall
  • Inefficient drainage

Despite the water, root rot in yucca is caused when a lack of oxygen suffocates the yucca plant’s roots due to overwatering. As a result, the roots are too rotten to take in the needed moisture and nutrients. The rotting root allows fungi to grow, leading to the yucca rotting and dying when left untreated.

Hey, read this one too: How Often Should You Water a Yucca

Identify and Remove Yucca Root Rot

Checking the roots is the easiest way to know if a yucca has root rot. The Yucca plant’s roots are white and firm, but root rot will make the roots brown and soft. The yucca plant will also begin to wilt, stop growing, and have discolored leaves.

If a yucca plant with root rot continues to be untreated, the trunk will become soft, turning black, the leaves will begin falling off the unsupported branches, and the yucca plant will die. The rotten roots need to be removed with sterilized tools.  

Sterilize Tools to Remove Root Rot

When removing root rot, using the right tools is as important as sterilizing the equipment. Using an unsterilized pruning device leaves the yucca with a chance of fungus entering the plant, stressing the yucca plant and killing cells. This can kill it.

Sterilizing pruning materials is done by wiping them down in ethanol or isopropyl alcohol. Rubbing alcohol also works because it usually contains 70% of isopropyl alcohol.

A pruning device can be a sharp pair of shears or a sharp knife. In addition, scissors can be used but may crush the parts of the roots that move water and nutrients to the yucca plant, unlike a sharp knife or shears.

Remove the Yucca from the Pot

When removing the yucca plant from the pot, be mindful of the leaves, avoid crushing them or removing the leaves as they will not grow back.

  • When in a pot, gently place one hand at the base, by the soil, of the plant.
  • Flip the plant upside down to allow gravity to ease the yucca plant out of the pot.
  • If the yucca can’t be lifted, place the pot on its side and gently pull the plant by the base. At the same time, use your other hand to push the yucca roots out. Keep your hand close to the side of the pot.
  • Once the yucca plant is removed from the pot, gently shake the remaining dirt from the roots.
  • Rinsing the roots under running water may make this process easier. Also, the less dirt on the roots, the easier the next steps will be.

If you have other plants in the same pot as the yucca, you must remove the yucca from the pot. Keep in mind root rot can spread.

Cut Rotted Yucca Roots Away

Once the roots have been exposed and are no longer covered in dirt, use a sharp sanitized pruning device to cut above any rotten areas of the roots. These roots will be mushy and brown instead of white and firm.

Small parts of the plant that are rotten should be cut away as well.

If the root system is completely rotten, the yucca cannot be saved. Likewise, when the plant has begun to rot completely, noticeable by soft dark trunks, sagging branches, and discolored leaves, the plant is also not salvageable. But, if the root rot has not affected the top of a yucca, propagation may be a solution.  

Sanitize the Yucca’s Pot

If you are reusing the same pot, you must clean the pot before replanting by soaking it in a one-part bleach to a nine-part water solution for 10 minutes. This will kill any disease or fungi. Scrubbing the pots after they have been soaked removes debris and minerals that negatively affect the plant.

Prevent Sitting water with Drain holes

When choosing a pot, a drain hole is a must to prevent waterlogging the roots, which causes root rot. Yuccas should never be sitting in water. This is why yucca pots may need to be lifted off the ground to allow water to drain from the hole in the bottom of the pot. This also allows air circulation.

If the pot doesn’t have a draining hole, you can drill a few in the bottom. If the pot can not be drilled into, use a new pot with drain holes.

Replant the Yucca in Treated, Well-Draining Soil

With the root rot removed, the next step is replanting the yucca plant. When replanting the yucca plant, using the correct soil is essential. The soil needs to be well-draining soil in a pot that allows drainage.

  • Start with a few pebbles in the bottom of the pot to help with drainage.
  • Partly fill the pot with well-draining soil mixed with perlite and horticultural sand.
  • Place the yucca root ball in the soil, filling the soil to the same level as the previous container or enough soil to cover the root ball.
  • Pat the soil gently to remove any air bubbles. Add more soil if needed.
  • Treat the soil with a fungicide to kill any remaining fungi. 

Treating the soil with a fungicide containing Thiophanate-methyl will kill any fungal infections. Then, every two to three years, the yucca should be replanted.

Hey, read this one too: What Soil is Best for Yuccas

Preventing Root Rot in the Future

The best way to prevent root rot again is to avoid over-watering. Consider looking into the soil when a yucca has signs of root rot, such as less growth, wilting, and yellow leaves. The soil needs to be dry before watering again. If the soil is moist for days, look for solutions to why the water is not draining. The yucca may need to be replanted in a different pot.

Do Yucca Roots Grow Back

Cut yucca roots will grow back, even when the plant has been removed. However, yucca roots are very persistent and take a lot of effort to remove, especially yuccas in the ground.

When the roots have been cut due to an infection, such as root rot, the root will still grow back unless the root rot has killed the whole root system.

How to Fix Overwatered Yucca

When a yucca has been overwatered, taking action is important. In a mild case of overwatering, letting the soil completely dry is all that needs to be done. Here are some signs of overwatering:

  • Yellow Leaves
  • Soft Trunks
  • Wilting Leaves

A yucca’s soil should dry thoroughly before watering. Having drain holes is also crucial for excessive water to drain naturally. A pot that is the right size ensures that water remains in the pot only as long as needed.


Root rot, caused by too much water in the soil, should be treated before too much damage is done. Removing the rot from the roots and then replanting allows the yucca to regrow its roots and flourish. Noticing the signs of root rot and preventing overwatering is the best chance a yucca must avoid dying.

Recent Posts