En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Wednesday - July 11, 2007

From: Gainesville, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Propagation of Agave americana by seed
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Dear Mr Smarty Pants, My Century Plant is fulfilling its one wish and blooming flowers from its massive stalk. Although I am very sad to see it go, it is certainly a sight to behold. This plant, among other Century Plants, has given me many "pups" and roots to grow my massive Century Garden. However, I have a question, are the flowers that bloom and fall from the stem actually seeds? If they are, then what is the best way to make them seed and grow roots? I would be very excited if these flowers are actually seeds (there are at lest a thousand) I would think). I can continue my Century Plant's legacy by nurturing its offspring :-). Please let em know. I searched everywhere online and I have found several sites that mention the flowering shoot, but none that specify if the flowers are actually seeds. Thank you.

ANSWER:

The Century Plant Agave americana (American century plant) certainly rewards our patience with a spectacular flower show. Although it doesn't take a century for the flowers to appear, it sometimes seems like it. The flowering stalk, resembling a giant asparagus plant, can grow at the rate of several inches a day and produces a panicle-type inflorescence containing several thousand flowers.

Lets review the general structure of flowers: the vegetative (non-reproductive) parts are the sepals and the petals, and the reproductive parts are the stamens and the pistil (carpel). The pistil consists the stigma, style, and ovary which develops into the fruit after fertilization, and this is the part you are interested in.

In Agave americana, the fruit is a capsule containing 8-10 seeds which turns brown at maturity and splits along its sides thereby releasing the seeds. The fruits may remain on the plant until maturity before being released by the parent plant. The "flowers" you see falling from the plant may be just petals; examine their structure closely.

Agaves may be pollinated by hummingbirds, moths, or bats depending on the species. The humming birds tend to work in the daylight hours, while the bats and moths work at night. It could be that the proper pollinator for your century plant may not live in your area, in which case, you are unlikely to get seeds.

In the event that you are able to obtain seeds, the Local Harvest and Plants for a Future web sites offer hints for propagation.

 

From the Image Gallery


American century plant
Agave americana

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

Preserving century plant bloom stalk from Sedona AZ
December 16, 2012 - I have the flower stalk from a century plant which I am using as a Christmas tree. Can you advise me as to what I should do to preserve it for future use? Should it be kept indoors or outdoors. Pro...
view the full question and answer

Native perennial winter plants for Waco, TX
November 03, 2004 - I live in the Waco area, and would like to know winter plants that I could use that would come back each year, flowering or otherwise.
view the full question and answer

Flying insects attacking yucca flacida in Wilmington NC
June 11, 2010 - How do I treat flying insects from eating the flowers on my Yucca Flaccida shrub.
view the full question and answer

Night-Blooming Cereus not Blooming
September 04, 2014 - I have a plant called a night-blooming cereus, which during the warm season, is supposed to have blooms that come out at night and close up but don't fall off when morning approaches. But my cereus h...
view the full question and answer

What to do about cold damage to spineless prickly pear?
March 05, 2010 - In Austin, Texas our 'spineless' prickly pear cactus is about 6' wide by 4' tall. In the last severe freeze, the top half flattened out and has remained that way. Should I cut the flattened pads o...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center