Contact Us Host an Event 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

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.

 

More Transplants Questions

Browning leaves on non-native Burford holly
August 22, 2008 - I have several dwarf Burford hollies whose leaves are browning. The individual leaves have colors of green, dark brown to light brown extending from the stem. Any ideas?
view the full question and answer

Pest on leaves of native Texas persimmon in Laredo, TX
February 20, 2009 - I have a transplanted a Texas persimmon tree from the wild. It has some globes in the leaves. It seems like some pest injected something from underside of leaves. Any suggestion? What is happening t...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting Desert willows in El Paso, TX
August 27, 2009 - We have some volunteer Desert Willows growing on an empty lot nearby. Can we dig them up and transplant them in the yard? If so, how? They are about 3-4 feet tall
view the full question and answer

Survival of native yaupon in The Woodlands, TX after hurricane
September 25, 2008 - One of my large native yaupons trees (8ft) fell away from a group during the hurricane. I have uprighted and tied it off for stability. Now the leaves are all brown and falling. Is the tree dead or...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification and advice about moving it
March 10, 2010 - I have a plant (a thick stalk about 4 foot tall with yellow flowers on it) that blooms in the morning and the flowers fall off at night. I have searched for info on this plant and have come up short. ...
view the full question and answer

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