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
4 ratings

Monday - November 10, 2008

From: Waterford, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Pruning, Seasonal Tasks
Title: Winter pruning for yucca in Michigan
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in SE Michigan and have an outdoor yucca plant that has grown quite large. My father tells me that I can literally cut it down to the ground in the fall and that it will grow back the following season. I have small kids and little time to garden and prune. So to me, this idea of just cutting it down to the ground vs. pruning is appealing. Please tell me if I will kill the plant by doing this.

ANSWER:

The only yucca that has naturalized into areas as far north as Michigan is Yucca filamentosa (Adam's needle). It is actually a native of the southeast and eastern parts of the U.S., but has moved into Michigan. Living as we do in near-desert Central Texas, with yuccas all around, we still find it hard to believe that there is a yucca that perseveres in snow and cold. Yucca does not ordinarily need any pruning, except perhaps to take out any dead or broken blades. You need to have this plant where you want it to be, because trying to dig out the root will (a)  not work, they are HUGE and (b) cause a whole lot of new little plants (commonly called "pups") to begin to grow around the area. The same thing will happen if you cut the plant off at the base-it will just guarantee its survival by sending out more little plants. And cutting it off at the base would be a real challenge, requiring something along the lines of a chainsaw and a suit of armor. The only pruning that is needed is of the bloom stalk, which should be cut down as close to the bottom as possible, in order to keep the plant tidy, as soon as it finishes blooming in late summer. 

Unless you have a whole lot of room to be filled up in your garden, don't try to cut off or dig up anything on your yucca except the bloom stalk. When you were told that the yucca would come back if you cut it off at the base, you probably didn't realize that several would come back at the cut-off base, and then, next year, when you cut those off at the base... and so on and so on.  How do you feel about a yucca forest in your garden?

Pictures of Yucca filamentosa (Adam's needle)

 

More Pruning Questions

Will suckering of coralberry be a problem in Homewood AL?
November 11, 2010 - I am considering planting Symphoricarpos orbiculatus in the yard of the home I just purchased. I am interested in attracting wildlife to my yard and covering over a stump with a 3' diameter. My onl...
view the full question and answer

pruning crape myrtle (ugh, non-native)
March 05, 2012 - We would like to plant a Dynamite Crape myrtle in front of our front window. They grow 20' to 30'. Can I trim it each year to about 15' to 20'? Should we plant it approximately 5 feet from the ...
view the full question and answer

Trimming of turkscap
November 16, 2009 - I have a Mexican Turk's cap, it is in its second year of growth and is doing well. However, I feel a need to prune it? do I need to?
view the full question and answer

Decreasing the Height of Smooth Sumac
December 09, 2015 - I have a 9-10 ft. Smooth Sumac that I purchased from an LJWC plant sale several years ago. It has a main trunk and one branch about halfway up. I have read that these sumacs can be pruned down to almo...
view the full question and answer

Cutting back a Rhododendron in Maryland
June 17, 2015 - I have a planting of six shrubs across the front of my house (alternating azalea & rhododendron). All have died except for one huge rhody & a small azalea next to it. Can I cut the huge rhody back to ...
view the full question and answer

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