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
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - August 20, 2009

From: Tauranga, NZ, Other
Region: Other
Topic: Planting, Seasonal Tasks, Transplants
Title: Yucca elata flowering in Tauranga, NZ.
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have two huuuuuuge Yucca elatas in my garden. One of them flowered spectacularly last year - a 15ft stalk that grew so quickly you could hear it, and then burst into a cloud of waxy cream flowers. My question is this - NOW WHAT? A year later that plant is looking ugly and bedraggled - is it dying? I wouldn't be surprised after that effort. The other plant is just starting now - the crown has split and a green tufted stalk has grown 2ft in the last 2 days! Will I lose them both in the end? How long to replace them from their bulbils? How often do these things flower? Help!

ANSWER:

Yucca elata (soaptree yucca), a native of the US desert southwest can grow to 20 feet in height in ideal conditions.  Unlike their cousins the agaves, which flower only once then die, yuccas can and often do flower each year from the same plant.  Under normal circumstanced then, you would not expect your yucca to die now.  However, everything dies sometime and this may be the time for your specimen plant.  In fact, many plants produce flowers and fruit when under stress, or when sick and dying.  Think of it as their last-gasp effort to reproduce before departing this mortal coil.

Another possibility, is that your plant is, as you suggest, simply bedraggled from its flowering efforts.  It is normal for old Yucca elata leaves to die and persist on the plant massing beneath fresh growth.   Flowers generally last a few weeks.  Unless you hand-pollinate the flowers, you're unlikely to see any fruit since yuccas are all naturally pollinated only by certain species of coexisting moths.

As a rule, transplanting suckers or side shoots of Yucca elata is unsuccessful.  They don't actually form bulbils.  Propagation of this species is usually accomplished only by seed.  Since the species is very slow-growing, expect to wait years from sowing seeds or transplanting young seedlings to again enjoy a specimen plant in garden.  There is a good chance, though, that one or both of your existing plants will survive.

 

More Planting Questions

When to plant wildflowers in California
December 10, 2013 - When is the best time to plant wildflowers in California?
view the full question and answer

How close can house be built to live oak from Austin
May 30, 2012 - We have a healthy 21" live oak tree on our lot and are planning to build a home in Circle C subdivision in southwest austin. The home foundation will be within 15' of the large live oak. Need your h...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting a redbud in August from St. Louis MO
August 09, 2011 - I have a 4' tall redbud that needs to be transplanted before the end of August because of construction on our house. Can this be done without killing the tree? Can I take a cutting from the tree and ...
view the full question and answer

Taking bluebonnets to Anchorage AK from Sealy TX
June 10, 2010 - Moving to Anchorage Alaska from Texas and I am bringing bluebonnet seeds to plant there. Will the moose eat these plants/flowers?
view the full question and answer

Native Desert Willow and bunchgrass for Lubbock TX
July 29, 2013 - We live in Lubbock and have decided to try to make our front yard as native as possible. It has been a very difficult process finding native species locally (even the local Aggie nursery sells a lot ...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center