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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.

 

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