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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - May 19, 2009

From: Courtenay, BC
Region: Canada
Topic: Pruning, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Cleaning up Adams Needle yucca in Vancouver Island BC
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have Adam's needle yucca's in our the flower bed of our newly purchased home here on Vancouver Island BC. They thrive and produce impressive flowers. How do I clean them up in the spring time when the dead and dying leaves become very evident? I started out by cutting the dead matter off which is very time consuming. I accidentally discovered I could break off the tuber from the previous season and leave behind the new growth. It looks pretty good on completion but I'm wondering if the new tubers will produce a blossom this year

ANSWER:

The new tubers will probably not produce a blossom this year, but they will likely survive and do so in a year or so. The yucca is an incredibly tough plant, and we have had questions from people despairing of getting rid of them, because they will grow anew from a small scrap of root left in the ground. The reason we don't think they will bloom this year is that it takes a great deal of the plant's energy to bloom. It is necessary that they bloom, of course, as this is essential to the continuation of the species, but they will be putting more energy into growing roots and leaves for a while.

This is not the first time we have been asked this question, so to save time, we will print an excerpt from the previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer.

Yucca filamentosa (Adam's needle) doesn't need pruning per se. You should always cut back the woody blooms stalk as soon as blooming is over unless you are planning to harvest seeds. If you are trying to harvest seeds, the chartreuse-green seed pods should remain on the plant until they turn brown or black and begin to split. This article from Ohio State University on Yucca filamentosa  will give you some information on trimming the basal foliage. If some of your yuccas are beginning to outgrow the area in which you want them to grow, you might do some trimming on the blades that are protruding where you don't want them.  Please be very careful, protecting yourself or whoever is doing the trimming. Heavy clothing covering and protecting the arms and legs, leather gloves and even goggles are all necessary. As you bend over to trim the trunk, those sharp points are going to be trying to get you wherever they can. You especially don't want one of those in your eye. To quote from that article:

"Dead basal foliage needs to be carefully removed with a sharp knife in early Spring (wear gloves; the tough foliage can be sharp on its edges, in addition to the knife), and immature fruiting stalks are best pruned away just after flowering has finished in mid-Summer."

Pictures of Yucca filamentosa

 

 

 

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