Explore Plants

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
    
 

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

Need advice about an agave that didn't survive the winter in Myrtle Beach, NC.
March 09, 2011 - I live in Myrtle Beach, S.C. bought an agave big last summer and it died in the winter. Some green is showing on the bottom should I cut it all down because the whole top is dead. Thank you
view the full question and answer

How to prune Opuntia ellisiana in Decatur, GA.
August 20, 2009 - Hi Mr SP--How do I go about pruning an Opuntia ellisiana? I have saws, newspaper, heavy leather gloves, goggles, etc. But my question is more about what section of the plant to cut. The base has de...
view the full question and answer

Agave with large stem growing
May 01, 2011 - It is a large stem growing from my agave plant in the middle of it. It looks scary and ugly, what is it? Is it poisonous? Is it rare? It gets taller and taller everyday, what to cut it.
view the full question and answer

Cactus failing to thrive in New York City
November 21, 2008 - My cactus seems to be either weak or dying. Its long stems are bending and softer than the rest. What is happening to it?
view the full question and answer

New agave plants, offshoots of parent plant, transplanting
September 16, 2007 - I have different varieties of Agaves that are sending off new plants from the mother. Some have 1-2 and some have 6-7 plants. Is there a proper method for removing (cutting them a certain way) for t...
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.