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IN THE GARDEN: Yucca can handily survive winter, with a little care

by Janet B. Carson | December 5, 2020 at 1:35 a.m.
In-ground yucca is winter hardy in Arkansas, but a yucca in a container could need a bit of protection. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

Q Can this yucca live outside in a large pot this winter?

A Yucca plants are typically very winter hardy. In a container, you will need to water this winter if it gets dry. Pay particular attention to water needs before a hard freeze. If extremely low temperatures are predicted, wrap the container to protect the roots. Otherwise, I think it will do fine.

Q We're hearing a lot about planting native, and I've been doing that with plants. But what would be a good flowering, pollinator native tree. I'm thinking dogwood, but what others?

A There are many great native trees in a variety of sizes that are great for pollinators. For a larger shade tree, consider an American basswood or "Little Leaf" linden. When they are in bloom, they are a bee magnet. Sourwoods are another smaller tree with summer flowers that the bees adore, and the tree has stunning fall foliage. Redbuds, magnolias and serviceberry are all blooming trees and good for pollinators. Another large shade tree is the tulip poplar, but it gets huge, over 100 feet.

Q My question is about a Japanese maple which I raised from a seedling when we moved to a retirement community here in Fayetteville. I grew it in a pot while we were living temporarily in a larger home before we moved to our present cottage. I honestly can't remember whether it ever turned red in the pot, but since I transplanted it to its current location 10 years ago, it has only turned red in the fall (it's beautiful right now). Is that because it grew from rootstock that had been grafted? It's in a location that doesn't get full sun.

A Japanese maples do not breed true from seed. You will get a lot of variability in summer and fall color. They do germinate readily. If you have a desired cultivar that you can get a cutting from, you could graft it on to the root stock of your seedling. Most named Japanese maples are grafted.

Q We have been doing a lot of raking in our yard and have bags of pine needles. Is it OK to use pine needles for flower bed mulch?

A Pine straw mulch is wonderful in flower beds. I avoid it in vegetable gardens because it is slow to break down and can make the soil more acidic over time. Azaleas and other acid-loving plants in particular benefit from pine straw.

Q My neighbor has already murdered their crape myrtle. I am not planning to be so severe, but is now the time to prune them?

A I don't recommend pruning crape myrtles until late February, and I never recommend crape murder! The reason I like to wait before pruning is in case we have a harsh winter, so the plants will not be as exposed. If you cut them back now and we get damaging weather this winter, you will end up having to cut away more dead wood or, potentially, lose the plant back to the soil line.

Retired after 38 years with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Janet Carson ranks among Arkansas' best known horticulture experts. Her blog is at Write to her at P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203 or email


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