This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Reading about propagating Yuccas by a lady of Charleston, S. C, in the Gardener's Monthly of February, I remembered the way some Yuccas are treated in Europe, which may perhaps be of interest to some of your readers. Some time ago, when employed in a nursery in Holland, we received some Yucca gloriosa, very strong plants, but the roots were so thick and wide apart that there was not a pot to be found to put them in. An old gardener gave me the following advice : Cut the roots, with a part of the stem, entirely away, leaving only three or four inches of stem under the crown; close the fresh cut by burning it with a hot iron, and put the plant in coarse sand, under glass, taking care to keep the sand always in a wet state, and allow as much sunshine as possible. I followed his advice and found the Yuccas rooted in three weeks, and could pot them up in six-inch pots. A few of the old leaves turned yellow, but young green ones soon took their place. I afterwards tried the same with dracamas, also with the beat results.
Recent references, in the Gardener's Monthly, to the propagation of Yuccas by cuttings recall some of my own experience. I have found the leaves of the Y. gloriosa very valuable in the vineyard for binding the young shoots to the trellis. I like them for this purpose because they give way just about the right time and thus save trouble of removal, to say nothing of their convenience and cheapness. We also use the leaves at the packing house in making up packages of trees, plants, etc. Therefore an increase of a convenient supply became an object.
It frequently came in our way to bring an entire shoot, or even a whole tree of yucca to the packing ground at once. After using all the leaves we have been in the habit of cutting each shoot to about two or three feet in length, leaving the terminal bud at the top. These shoots were then set as cuttings, leaving the tops just above ground. We never gave any after care, and none ever failed to grow well.
About fifteen years ago I carried a branch, about two feet long, to the vineyard. I used the leaves and left the wood lying on the ground fully exposed to the sun. This was in May. During the last part of the following August (and it was one of our dry, hot summers), I noticed that the terminal bud was putting out new leaves. Turning the yucca over, I saw that on the under side two or three small roots had started. I dug a hole about eighteen inches deep and planted it. It had no subsequent care, not even the slightest stirring of the soil. Moreover, it was in a neglected fence corner where the weeds held a continual mass meeting around it. Although it grew slowly during the first year, yet it became vigorous the year following. It is now a fine specimen, and supplies a fine yearly crop of leaves for our uses at the packing house.
In a former number I read of yuccas not seeding well. Every variety that has bloomed in my grounds has produced seed, and the wild gloriosa usually seeds very well. About fifty miles west of us, on the Nueces River, there exists in wonderful profusion a yucca which I had always thought was the Y. filamentosa. But the leaves are narrower and perhaps longer than the Y. filamentosa here from northern nurseries. This variety seeds abundantly. It is scattered, more or less, all over Western Texas, and I presume over Che whole State.
Yuccas, or as we in South Carolina call them, "Spanish Bayonets," grow wild with us. At a pic-nic in the woods I had left our party and was hunting wild flowers at the edge of a tide swamp when I came upon a quantity of large Yuccas lying across my path. Evidently they had been cut off the land to clear a path for some wood cutters, and there they lay in the hot sun in a heap.
I had the handsomest brought to Charleston, and used them on my house for Christmas decoration, where certainly they remained for several days. They were afterwards thrown into a corner of the yard. Sometime afterwards I perceived my trees were throwing out roots, and I finally planted them about the garden. They all grew but one, and are now fine specimens. As I put in the ground the great stems entirely without roots, I thought it might interest florists to know they can be propagated in that way. Planted in the shifting sand of a bluff by the sea, they prove excellent aids to preserve the bluff from being blown away by the wind, and when in bloom in large heaps, as we see them, they are very imposing, the heads of blossom so exquisitely white against the stiff dark leaves. There is a large-flowered evening primrose, OEnothera, (originally the seed was brought from Germany, it is said,) which covers the sands 'every summer on the coast near Charleston, which has lately attracted much notice from its beauty and profusion. The flowers bloom close to the ground, and are so numerous that the sands are golden in the evening. The plant has thick reddish stems, which throw out deep stiff roots, holding firmly to the sand.
The leaves are insignificant and greyish in color.