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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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Wednesday - April 30, 2014

From: Dripping Springs, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Propagation of an agave from Dripping Springs TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi there, I have a Century Agave in my backyard. It is over 6 feet tall and is now producing the center stalk. I understand that means the plant is going to die. My question is how to harvest the pups/seeds that it is supposed to produce once it flowers at the top of the stalk ( I assume since the base plant is so large, the stalk will reach impressive heights). The plant has not put out any pups on the ground. I have heard that cutting the center stalk will release some very noxious "sap" that can potentially burn your skin, so I don't want to do that. Do I have to wait for the stalk to fall on its own in order to harvest the babies, or will they fall off onto the ground? Thanks!!

ANSWER:

We think you may be a little confused on the subject of agave propagation. There are several members of the Agavaceae family, some of which are referred to as "century plants." This has to do with the belief that they don't bloom until they are 100 years old, but it can be anywhere from 8 to 60 years.There is actually no agave native to Hays County, but many different species of the genus are grown all over Central Texas, including at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, There are 15 members of the Agavaceae family native to North America, 10 of which are native to Texas, mostly in the Big Bend section of souhwest Texas. We have chosen Agave parryi ssp. parryi (Century plant) as our example; follow that plant link to our webpage on that agave for more general information and more references.

We have many, many previous answers on the agave, please read our selections to save us from repeating ourselves. Also be sure to also follow and read any additional links in these previous answers:

Huachuca City, AZ

Fair Oaks Ranch, TX

Rye, TX (this also addresses your concern about the sap from the agave)

 

From the Image Gallery


Century plant
Agave parryi ssp. parryi

Century plant
Agave parryi ssp. parryi

Century plant
Agave parryi ssp. parryi

Century plant
Agave parryi ssp. parryi

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