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?


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

Wednesday - October 02, 2013

From: Hampshire, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Cacti and Succulents, Wildflowers
Title: Overwintering Yucca Seedlings in Illinois
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


I have many yucca seedlings I started this year. My question is what do I need to do with them to overwinter here in Northern Illinois and when do I plant them in the ground for best chances of survival?


Congratulations on starting a good crop of yucca seedlings. I am assuming that you have a hardy yucca (There's a list of some hardy species at the http://www.yuccaagavaceae.com/hardy.html website). The most popular are Yucca filamentosa (Adam's needle) and Yucca glauca (soapweed yucca).

Outdoors, hardy yucca need to go through a gradual progression to winter conditions so that they become acclimatized to the weather.  To do this, slowly reduce the soil moisture so they go dormant - even if they look slightly shriveled. Also, they have to have well-drained soil or else the roots will rot during the winter. Water pooling around the plant will also cause rotting issues so make sure they are not sitting in a low area. Plunge the yucca seedlings with their pots into a garden bed late in the fall before the ground freezes. Put some evergreen boughs over the yucca to help collect the snow during the winter. This will help provide insulation and reduce the chance of wind burn or freezing and thawing damage.  As a backup you can bring a few indoors and overwinter them in a warm and slightly moist environment (or keep them dormant in a cool and dry location like the back of an attached garage).  


From the Image Gallery

Adam's needle
Yucca filamentosa

Soapweed yucca
Yucca glauca

Soapweed yucca
Yucca glauca

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

Growing Native Cactus Indoors in Dallas
December 17, 2015 - I have a Chihuahuan fishhook cactus (Sclerocactus uncinatus), a pincushion cactus (Epithelantha micromeris) and a horse crippler (Echinocactus texensis), which I bring in for the winter, since they te...
view the full question and answer

Cochineal bugs on cactus
November 18, 2008 - Mr. Smarty plants. I have purple prickly pear cactus that are developing small white flake like spots, mostly where the thorns would be. Why is this happening and how can I cure it?
view the full question and answer

Agave with large stem growing
May 01, 2011 - It is a large stem growing from my agave plant in the middle of it. It looks scary and ugly, what is it? Is it poisonous? Is it rare? It gets taller and taller everyday, what to cut it.
view the full question and answer

Native plants for full sun in Austin
April 03, 2009 - I am looking for a tough, native TX plant to put in full sun location between the sidewalk and street. I would love for it to flower all summer. There is some irrigation but not much. I don't want ...
view the full question and answer

Identification of green succulent plant with red tubular flowers
October 08, 2007 - Hi there, i have this plant which is green,leaves are succulent, and these red tubular little flowers about an inch long grow rampantly all summer. i wanna know what it is called as i take cuttings a...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center