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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.

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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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Thursday - May 03, 2012

From: Sacramento, CA
Region: California
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Why has yucca not bloomed from Sacramento CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I looked for an answer to my question on your list but did not find one. We have had a yucca plant that has never bloomed since we planted it about 8 years ago. I has grown tall (6-7 feet) and we have had to remove many side branches, or they broke by themselves but we have not seen it bloom. I am starting to wonder whether it is a yucca plant at all (although when we bought it, the tag identified it that way). Is there anything we can do?

ANSWER:

Sometimes we hunt and do research and never find an answer that satisfies us. And sometimes we stumble quickly on what (we hope!) is the right answer. Please follow this plant link Hesperoyucca whipplei (Chaparral yucca) to read our webpage on this plant. Please note that it is not in the Yucca genus but the Hesperoyucca genus. Both are in the Agave family. The common name is still yucca and, apparently, this renaming of the genus has only happened in the last few years, so it was perfectly okay for it to be sold as a yucca. 

When we begin on a question about a plant, we always try to identify just what the plant is. To do this, in this case, we searched our Native Plant Database on "yucca" and got 28 results. We then sorted on California and got 4 results: Hesperoyucca whipplei (Chaparral yucca) Yucca baccata (Banana yucca), Yucca brevifolia (Joshua tree) and Yucca schidigera (Mojave yucca). These are mostly native to the southern and eastern parts of California, as they are classified as desert plants. The Chapparal yucca grows natively the closest of any of them to Sacramento County. So, we looked at that one on our webpage first. And look what we found:

"When the plant is several years old, it sends up a tall flower stalks which bears hundreds of drooping, waxy, bell-shaped, pale yellow or cream-colored flowers."

"This is the showiest of the yuccas; hundreds in bloom provide a spectacular sight on brushy slopes. The plants die after flowering."

It would appear that this flower is more closely related to the agaves that are called Century Plants, that can take anywhere from 8 to 40 years (not a century) to bloom and then die. All of these plants, including the Hesperoyucca whipplei (Chaparral yucca) will put out pups or offshoots from which new plants can be rooted. If you are interested in perpetuating your yucca, here is a previous Mr. Smarty Plants question on transplanting yucca.

So, as is often the case, Dr. Plants recommends patience. Don't fertilize the yucca, and don't water it from a sprinkler. Desert plants object to both, as they are habituated to the conditions in which they grew up. It still is an attractive garden plant and will be spectacular when it blooms.

From Dave's Garden, here is additional information and pictures Our Lord's Candle by Kelli Kallenborn.

 

From the Image Gallery


Our lord's candle
Hesperoyucca whipplei

Our lord's candle
Hesperoyucca whipplei

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