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?


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


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!


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 Transplants Questions

Transplanting a Texas redbud sapling
July 27, 2008 - I've just discovered a Texas red bud sapling (baby tree)that decided to grow next to our fire pit. Although there's no reason for us to sit around the campfire in 100 degree weather, I would like to...
view the full question and answer

Dying blackeyed Susans in new garden in Pennsylvania
August 26, 2008 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants! I have recently planted black eyed susans in a newly dug garden along with some cone flowers. The other flowers are doing fine but the black eyed susans have all dried up and are...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting a Dutchman's pipe in Beaverton MI
June 10, 2010 - When can I transplant a full grown dutchmans pipe plant? It is growing along side of the house and it needs a bigger place to grow. This is June and the plant is in full bloom full of pipes, but need...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting crabapples in NJ
October 25, 2010 - I purchased a mature Red Baron crabapple in march of this year from a reputable nursery here in southern NJ. The tree was in the ground when I first viewed it, and since it was march and hadn't bloom...
view the full question and answer

Blackened leaves on purple sage in Utopia TX
December 08, 2010 - I live in Utopia Texas and have a 5-ft. Texas Purple Sage that has developed a black appearance on the leaves. What is this and what can I do about it?
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center