En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
7 ratings

Wednesday - September 26, 2007

From: Philadelphia, PA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Bloom stalks on agave plants
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi, We have Agave plants in our garden for years. But in the past few weeks, we noticed a giant asparagus looking thing growing out in the middle of the plants. We don't know what it is, but every day it's growing taller and bigger, and it's really scary. Do you have any idea what this is? And do we need to kill it?

ANSWER:

No, no, no, don't kill it. You are about to be blessed with blooms, and it sounds like a bunch of them, all at once. That's the good news. The bad news is that agaves, often referred to as "Century Plants" only manage to develop the resources to bloom once in their lives, and then they die. If you cut off the budding blooms, we're not sure what will happen, but we'd be willing to bet the agave will still die, as it has put all of its energy into flowering, which leads to seeds, which leads to reproduction, which is why all living organisms exist, to reproduce themselves.

You didn't say which agave you had, but we have picked two, Agave havardiana (Havard's century plant) and Agave parryi (Parry's agave), links on which you will find some basic information about the species. Also, a couple of pictures may help you visualize what is going on. It takes anywhere from 8 to 40 years for an agave to bloom (not really a century), and it's considered quite an event when one does make it. Once it has bloomed, the bloom stalk will dry and the plant itself will begin to shrivel and turn dark. At whatever time it becomes unattractive, you might as well remove it from your garden-carefully, the thorns are the last thing to shrivel. You probably have had some "pups", small agaves, develop around the parent plant. If you wish to continue the agaves, these pups will now become the ones that will produce blooms for the next generation of gardeners.

 

From the Image Gallery


Havard's century plant
Agave havardiana

Parry's agave
Agave parryi

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

Soil for Agave americana
March 20, 2007 - Can you give me some information on soil admendments for growing Agave (Century Plant)? I kept it in a pot during the winter and now I am ready to plant it in my beds
view the full question and answer

Can Joshua Tree yucca be grown in Denham Springs LA
December 31, 2011 - If planted in a patch of raised and well-drained soil and covered during heavy rains, would it be possible to grow a Joshua Tree yucca in eastern Louisiana?
view the full question and answer

Prickly cactus in Williamson County, Texas
September 12, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Can you tell me what species of prickly pear cactus we have here in Williamson County? I see two listed as being here in Texas. One is the Plains variety and the other is ...
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

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

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center