image by Marci Degman
Yuccas are an important architectural plant in garden design. They will grow in areas where it is inconvenient to irrigate and difficult to grow many other types of plants. New plants will sprout up around the base of the yucca, which will eventually result in an attractive clump. They shed their lower fronds each year and slowly develop a trunk. When the foliage withers and turns brown it can look unattractive.
To improve the appearance of the type of yucca known as Adam's Needle (Yucca filamentosa), mechanically remove the brown fronds each year.
Clear debris from around your yucca. You will need a clean work area and a clear view of the trunk. It is also important to see where the young plants are emerging. Do not damage the new plants while pruning the parent. If you do not want a clump of yuccas, dig and transplant the offspring at this time.
Cut brown or damage fronds. Mature plants may also have a bloom stock to cut back. Garden shears work better than pruners for yucca foliage due to the fibrous texture. Fronds that have been brown for awhile may just pull out. Each spring there will be new brown fronds to trim away. Start at ground level and cut all of the brown foliage. Trim them as close to the trunk as possible for aesthetic value. Younger plants will shed just a few fronds the first year. A mature plant may have up to 20 brown fronds to remove each spring. Severe winter conditions may increase the amount of foliage that dies off each year. Later in the season more fronds may turn brown, it is okay to cut them anytime during the growing season.
Avoid pruning yuccas during freezing weather in cold regions. Even though Adam's Needle is a very hardy yucca, new cuts will be more vulnerable to damage during cold weather.
Clear away the cut fronds. Decaying leaves hold moisture and yuccas do not like wet conditions. Moist rotting foliage will encourage fungal and bacterial diseases to develop. Desert plants like yucca need perfect drainage. Nothing should ever be allowed to build up around the base of the yucca.