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
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - August 12, 2007

From: Comfort, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: General Botany, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Century plant dying after bloom
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

My century plant is so tall that it is up to the top of the telephone pole top lines that carry our streets electric. I was wanting to know if you knew if I cut the stock off would it save the plant from dying Seems like the sap dripping from top onto the leaves might be what kill's it. Leaves are turning black and wilting. Thank you. Please help.

ANSWER:

It sounds as if your century plant has just flowered. If so, I am afraid I have some bad news for you. It is one of a group of plants that dies after it blooms. Plants with this reproductive strategy are known as monocarpic, i.e., they flower and produce fruit only once in their lifetime and then die. All annuals and biennials are monocarpic, but there are also many perennial plants that are moncarpic. Some of these may live for 90 years before flowering and dying. The Century Plant happens to be one of these monocarpic plants. You can see a photographic record of the process of flowering.

Here are some other plants that have the same reproductive strategy:
1. Haleakala Silversword (Argyroxiphium sandwicense)
2. Monument Plant (Frasera speciosa)
3. Many of the bamboo species are also monocarpic.

If you century plant hasn't flowered yet but is about to do so, I can't really tell you whether cutting the flower stalk before it actually blooms would save the plant or not. My feeling is that it wouldn't. I am pretty certain that cutting the stalk after it has flowered and fruited is not going to keep it from dying.

Hopefully, you have some "pups" from your plant that you will see blooming in about 10 years.

 

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

Debugging and Preserving Dried Cholla Cactus
January 04, 2014 - Hi. Recently found an intact skeleton of a cholla cactus. I want to Bring it in our house. Are there any dangers associated with this, like bugs inside the "branches?" how would you suggest I prese...
view the full question and answer

Sun loving plants for flower bed by the pool in Weatherford Texas
October 03, 2011 - We have a 40' long x 2 1/2' wide flowerbed along our pool. It is in full sun with the pool deck across the front and a 6' privacy fence across back. Also, the level of the bed is 18" below the l...
view the full question and answer

Removing grassy weeds from cactus garden in Corpus Christi TX
May 07, 2013 - How do you get grassy weeds out of a cactus garden? I don't want to use roundup around the cacti? Can you recommend a herbicide that won't harm the cactus?
view the full question and answer

Identification of green succulent plant with red tubular flowers
October 08, 2007 - Hi there, i have this plant which is green,leaves are succulent, and these red tubular little flowers about an inch long grow rampantly all summer. i wanna know what it is called as i take cuttings a...
view the full question and answer

Information about ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis)
May 06, 2008 - I recently planted some Carpobrotus edulis, Ice plant, and wanted to know if I can mulch or put stones around the entire garden and plants. They are a ground cover plant.
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