En Español

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
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - December 21, 2008

From: Roseville, CA
Region: California
Topic: Pruning, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Trimming of dead foliage on trunks of yucca in California
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

There is a Yucca plant in the back yard. I want to know how to get the old foliage that has died off of the trunks, it looks kind of ragged. The foliage is about three feet from the green. Can you advise me on this?

ANSWER:

When we are asked a question like this, we always try to determine which species of the plant we're dealing with, as there might be different conditions. So, we went to our Native Plant Database and searched for yuccas native to California. Of the 28 plants listed, there were three native to California, Yucca baccata (banana yucca), Yucca brevifolia (Joshua tree), and Yucca schidigera (Mojave yucca). This doesn't necessarily mean you have one of those plants, it just gives us a starting place for finding the answer to your question. Unfortunately, we found no specific instructions for trimming any of these yuccas, so we will provide you with a little generic advice from personal experience.

If you have a yucca that has developed a trunk, and that is where the dead foliage is appearing, those dead leaves eventually will peel off the trunk and drop to the ground. You're right, they are pretty unsightly, so you can hurry the process along by cutting the blade as close to the trunk as possible with a sharp knife. Please prepare to protect yourself, first. You will need heavy long sleeves, long gloves, preferably leather, goggles to keep from getting a pointed tip in your eye, and a knife or pruner with as long a handle as possible. The yucca will defend itself, and it is well-equipped to do so. Even the dead foliage is still tough and fibrous, but it can be gotten off. Bag up the detached material in a heavy paper trash bag and clean up the surrounding area to prevent insects or  diseases from harboring there. This is not material for the compost pile; the sharp edges and tips will persist for a long time.


Yucca baccata

 


Yucca schidigera

 


Yucca brevifolia

 

 

 

 

 

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

Native perennial winter plants for Waco, TX
November 03, 2004 - I live in the Waco area, and would like to know winter plants that I could use that would come back each year, flowering or otherwise.
view the full question and answer

Bloom stalks on agave plants
September 26, 2007 - Hi, We have Agave plants in our garden for years. But in the past few weeks, we noticed a giant asparagus looking thing growing out in the middle of the plants. We don't know what it is, but every d...
view the full question and answer

Loss of agaves to freezing weather in Austin
March 04, 2011 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants: I live in Austin and lost all my agaves in the subfreezing weather this winter. Around town, I've noticed some agaves that seemed to tolerate the cold just fine and other tha...
view the full question and answer

Century Plant woes
May 04, 2016 - My century plant was fine two weeks ago. Tonight I seen this. Not sure what is happening. It 9 years old. IMG_4716.JPG
view the full question and answer

Information about prickly pear cactus for school project
October 19, 2012 - Hello my name is Case Danzeiser. I go to a middle school called Clint Small Middle School in Austin, Texas. We are doing a species study on a native Texas plants and animals. I choose to study the pri...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center