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

Wednesday - July 24, 2013

From: Mesa, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Transplants, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Soaptree yucca falling over in Mesa AZ
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My soaptree yucca is about 5 ft tall and has fallen over. Does this plant require staking for I thought not, or is something else going on with it?

ANSWER:

This USDA Plant Profile Map shows that Yucca elata (Soaptree yucca) is native to Maricopa County, AZ, so hopefully that rules out the plant being in the wrong environment. By following the link above to our webpage on this plant, you will learn that it can grow from 5 to 25 ft. tall, and there is no mention of it bending over. One of the pictures from our Image Gallery below shows a Soaptree yucca which looks to be about 5 ft. tall. Here are the growing conditions for this succulent:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Well-drained soils. Gypseous, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam.
Conditions Comments: State flower of New Mexico."
Two of those conditions that we would emphasize is that it needs "Sun" which we consider to be 6 hours or more of sun a day and the requirement for well-drained sandy soils. However, we think we may have finally found a possible answer to your question. If this yucca was transplanted into the spot where it is growing now, you should read this article by the USDA Forest Services on Yucca elata (Soaptree yucca):
"Soaptree yucca is difficult to transplant. Campbell and Keller reported that only 25% of soaptree yucca transplants survived due to taproot breakage. Soaptree yucca has been transplanted to revegetate highway rights-of way, but there was great expense in removing entire roots, as is required for successful planting. Successful transplanting of yuccas (an unspecified amount of which were soaptree yucca) has been done; plants were removed with as little root damage as possible and immediately watered when replanted."
Apparently the Soaptree yucca is rooted by rhizomes (like the underground roots of some grasses).
From the same article:
"Like all yucca species with dehiscent fruits, soaptree yucca is rhizomatous. The species is unique in that the rhizome develops downward and later begins lateral root extensions. The "vertical rhizome" as described by Webber commonly grows to 3-5 feet (1-1.5 m) deep, and 3-6 inches (8-15 cm) in diameter. Lateral roots are 6-10 inches (15-20 cm) long and 1-3 inches (2.5-8 cm) in diameter."
We can only assume that some of the rhizomes were damaged or destroyed in transplanting and, like a great tree blown down in a hurricane, the supports simply failed. If our supposition is true, we frankly see no remedy. The plant cannot live long on its side.
 

From the Image Gallery


Soaptree yucca
Yucca elata

Soaptree yucca
Yucca elata

Soaptree yucca
Yucca elata

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Are brown junipers (Juniperus ashei) dead?
November 08, 2011 - If the cedar/junipers in our area are brown, will they ever come back green? Or just clear them out as dead. There are many of them due to the drought. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Powdery Mildew on Monterrey Oak
July 30, 2015 - Monterrey oak developing gray-white patches on some but not all leaves leading to wilting. could this be powdery mildew? Tree not stressed. Thanks. Best treatment?
view the full question and answer

Reason for die-back of native Mahonia repens
April 01, 2008 - I have several mahonia repens plants planted on my property. This is the third spring for them and I have noticed that they look like they might be dying out. The leaves have turned brown and are cu...
view the full question and answer

Brown dead spots on arborvitae in Hillsboro OR
October 12, 2009 - Hello. I live in Hillsboro, OR and have several mature arborvitae as a privacy screen in my backyard. They are on our side of a black chainlink fence separating our yard from a drainage area maintaine...
view the full question and answer

Dying branches on Texas Mountain Laurel from Kempner TX
September 14, 2012 - The branches on my Texas Mountain Laurel are very dry and brittle. The leaves are also starting to die. The tree has been in my yard for six years and prior to that it sat wrapped in burlap for ov...
view the full question and answer

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