En EspaŅol

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
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
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 dogwood in TX
February 02, 2011 - I have a roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii) sapling that I would like to keep at shrub height (~6 ft) rather than let it form a tree. Can I encourage this by cutting the main trunk, and if so, by ...
view the full question and answer

Sprouts from stems of plants from Happy Yard IN
September 28, 2013 - Is it normal for a plant to start a sprout from its own root system next to the stock/stem? Is it trying to regrow?
view the full question and answer

Bumelia sending up shoots in Austin
November 28, 2010 - I have a bumelia that is sending up shooters everywhere in my yard. Everywhere!! I started to dig them up, but many come from deep roots and my digging seems to have encouraged the tree to send up m...
view the full question and answer

When and how to prune lavender (Lavandula sp.)
March 20, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants I have a Goodwin Creek Lavender plant that I planted last year. It did very well but my question is about pruining. It seems that there is some growth coming up now that it...
view the full question and answer

Improving blooming on mock orange
March 03, 2008 - I have a now 6 yr. old mock orange shrub in the garden which has never bloomed, darn it. I have fed, not fed, mulched, not mulched, sheared, not sheared. What gives? Will it ever bloom, or shall I ...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center