Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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 Pruning Questions

Runaway growth on mountain laurel in Coolidge AZ
July 01, 2010 - I have 2 mountain laurels. They are thriving well. In fact one is growing way too fast. I am growing it as a tree, but the branches are in excess of 6 feet, while the trunk is only 18 or so inches. I ...
view the full question and answer

How to prune Opuntia ellisiana in Decatur, GA.
August 20, 2009 - Hi Mr SP--How do I go about pruning an Opuntia ellisiana? I have saws, newspaper, heavy leather gloves, goggles, etc. But my question is more about what section of the plant to cut. The base has de...
view the full question and answer

Survival of yucca plant mowed down in Oklahoma
April 15, 2009 - I have a yucca plant that came from a very old plant of my late father, and had transplanted it 6 years ago and it came back every year and bloomed. This morning I went outside and noticed my husband...
view the full question and answer

Planting and care of Desert Willow in Golden Valley, AZ.
May 17, 2013 - I got a desert willow to plant in yard. Some of the leaves dried out before I could plant. Will that stop the tree from growing into a decent size tree or stay as a shrub?
view the full question and answer

Need advice for pruning a young Bur Oak tree in Austin, TX.
November 02, 2010 - I grew a beautiful bur oak from seed, and three years later it is now taller than I am. I hate to cut anything off this tree and hurt it, but there are two branches that are rubbing together and growi...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.