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

Pruning of Bauhinia lunarioides
May 29, 2008 - I have a Bauhinia variegata..when is the best time to prune it? it tends to grow horizontally..where do you clip off the limbs?
view the full question and answer

Will catalpa roots damage a nearby swimming pool?
July 13, 2013 - Will a catalpa tree cause problems to my swimming pool? It is 8 feet away and I cut all the branches off every fall. It then grows back to about 6 feet in diameter an makes a great garden feature but ...
view the full question and answer

Cutting back achillea in New York
March 18, 2009 - Last summer I planted three gorgeous hearty achillea with flat, yellow tops, about 3 feet high or more each, in my sunny garden. But after they were done flowering, I left those very pretty brown stem...
view the full question and answer

Tidying up Copper Canyon Daisies in San Antonio
March 30, 2010 - We have a small bed with 4 copper canyon daisies. We cut them back in the fall but have not pruned them during growing season; as a result they become a big tangle by September. Should they be pruned ...
view the full question and answer

Pruning of Burning Bush in Missouri
October 15, 2008 - I live in MO and am pretty sure I have burning bushes on either side of my deck. My question is that they are huge and overgrown but I feel if I cut them lower and shape the sides up I will be left w...
view the full question and answer

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