Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

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
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
26 ratings

Monday - August 11, 2008

From: Rochelle, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Propagation
Title: Planting time for native yucca seeds
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

When and how do you plant yucca plant seeds and or/pods ? I took them off of the stalks when I cut the stalks today .

ANSWER:

If the pods were still green when you took them off the stalk, they came off too soon. They need to be black or very dark brown and starting to show signs of splitting before they are ready to be removed from the plant.

We have discovered that there is one yucca native to North America that can grow in climates that would not ordinarily be considered yucca country; that is, not desert. Yucca filamentosa (Adam's needle) does, indeed appear naturally in Illinois. We will assume that is the yucca you have, as the propagation instructions should be pretty similar across the genus Yucca. If you follow the above link to our Native Plant Database webpage on that yucca, you will find these propagation instructions:

Description: Yuccas will germinate promptly from fresh seed held over winter. Seeds germinate best in 60-70 degree temperatures. Yuccas may also be grown from rhizomes, stem cuttings, or by digging offsets from the side of established plants.

Seed Collection: Gather capsules as they begin to dry but before they split. Allow to dry, then crush to remove seeds. Overwinter, keep seeds in moist sand in the refrigerator. For longer storage periods, keep in sealed, refrigerated containers.

At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we have collected and prepared yucca seeds for the Millennium Seed Bank. Crushing the pod to remove seeds is not as easy as it sounds. We found that pliers worked about as well as anything, but it was a struggle, either way. Inside the broken pod, you will find channels of seeds. They are flat, black wafers, very thin. As you pull out a stack of them, you may find a neat, round hole drilled up the center. This is the nursery for the larvae of the yucca moth, who have been munching on the seeds. However, the yucca moth is essential for the blooming of the plant. Again, from the webpage:

"Yuccas depend on the Yucca Moth as their agent of pollination, and these moths depend on yuccas for food. At flowering time the female moth gathers a mass of pollen from the anthers of the yucca and then flies to another yucca flower, where she deposits a number of eggs into the ovary among the ovules (immature seeds). Next, she places the pollen mass on the stigma of the flower, thus ensuring pollination and subsequent development of the ovules into seeds. As the seeds enlarge, they become the food source for the moth larvae. Many of the seeds remain uninjured and are eventually dispersed, potentially producing new plants. At maturity, the larvae leave the seed capsule, drop to the ground, and pupate. The adult moth emerges next season as the yuccas begin to flower."

No, the seeds with holes in them are not viable, but the yucca puts out LOTS of seeds, so you'll find some intact seeds, just persevere. This Floral Genome Project on Yucca filamentosa has some more information and pictures of the seed (greatly magnified). Even if you have some other species of the genus Yucca that you have somehow convinced they are living in deserts in Illinois, the propagation instructions will be the same.


Yucca filamentosa

 

 

More Propagation Questions

Propagation of American Bittersweet
December 29, 2004 - Will American Bittersweet grow in Central Texas?
view the full question and answer

Dividing non-native daffodils from Austin
April 15, 2012 - The foliage on my daffodils is lush and healthy, but I have no blooms. Should I divide them?
view the full question and answer

Weak flowering on rosa minutifolia from San Diego CA
July 27, 2013 - Hi, I have a Rosa minutifolia and has been doing great, but when it gives flowers the petals fall too fast, only last a day or two and also the fruit never forms completely and finishes drying so I ca...
view the full question and answer

Grafting edible plums onto Cherry Laurel in Austin
May 18, 2010 - Grafting edible plums onto Cherry Laurel - possible? Insane? What? Could I do that? Could I graft, say, Green Gage Plum, or Mexican Plum, or Saturn Peach, on a Cherry Laurel and have any success? I ha...
view the full question and answer

Scarifying seeds of evergreen sumacs from Lockhart TX
May 19, 2013 - Dear Smarty Plants, We would like to grow our own evergreen sumacs. Consulting Nokes book, How to Grow Native Plants on page 310, it says to scarify fresh uncleaned seeds for 30-45 minutes. On page...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.