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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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Saturday - February 23, 2013

From: Waxhaw, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Propagation, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Saving frozen yuccas from North Carolina
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in NC and have 2 potted yucca plants on my deck. Every year I have brought them in for the winter. This year, someone told us that we could leave them out all winter. They began to die in the cold temps. We brought them inside and now all of the leaves are turning yellow and dying. These are my babies! How can I save them before they are gone? BTW, we did put them in garage for 2 days before bringing them in the house so we would not shock them from cold to warm. Please advise ASAP! Thank you!

ANSWER:

Now, see, this is why we recommend only plants native to an area. There are 28 yuccas in our Native Plant Database, and we have no way of knowing which you have. However, there are 3 native to North Carolina: Yucca aloifolia (Aloe yucca), Yucca filamentosa (Adam's needle), and Yucca gloriosa (Moundlily yucca). Yucca filamentosa (Adam's needle), for instance, grows all over the United States, including some very cold areas.

However, all hope is not lost. Yuccas may also be grown from rhizomes, cuttings, or by digging offsets from the side of established plants. Here is an article on Propagation of Yuccas. Whatever part of the yucca you choose to use for propagation, it should be one that has been in or near the soil, which acts as an insulator. Probably, now that we reread your question, the mistake you made was leaving the plant outside in the pot. Plants that survive winter outdoors do so because of the insulation of the earth around the roots. A pot provides almost no protection from the cold, so the roots freeze, the plant can get no moisture and it dies. Hopefully there is enough life left in your plants to start new ones. This time, if you want to leave the yuccas outside, plant them in the ground.

 

From the Image Gallery


Spanish dagger
Yucca aloifolia

Adam's needle
Yucca filamentosa

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