Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - December 17, 2007

From: South Bend, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Diseases and Disorders
Title: Care of Ecuadorian penco century plant
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I was recently given a Penco, Century plant from Ecuador. It doesn't seem to be doing well. Two of the leaves have turned dark, then yellow, and died completely. Five remain, one seems to be dying as well, from the tip, as if drying, sick. The plant is dear to me, help me save it. It gets indirect light, I was told not to water too much, I do once a week.

ANSWER:

First, Mr. Smarty Plants would like to state this caveat—our focus and expertise here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is with plants native to North America so we can't give you specific details about care of an Ecuadorian century plant. However, we can give you some general advice about caring for Agaves. First of all, you need to be sure that the potting medium the plant is in gives sufficient drainage. There are cactus/succulent mixes available (with a higher ratio of sand and/or pearlite to potting soil) that keep the mixture from being soggy. You can read a discussion of various formulas and kinds of mixes from the YouGrowGirl.com forum. Next, infrequent water and low fertilizer are keys. Chances are once a week is still too often to water. The plant should be kept on the dry side in well-drained soil. A great soil-moisture tester is a freshly sharpened pencil. Trim a wooden pencil to reveal fresh wood, plunge the pencil into the soil about six inches, hold for a second and remove. If the trimmed wood is still light-colored upon removal of the pencil, the soil is dry enough to water. If it comes out darkened, wait a few days and try again.

There is another possibility. If your century plant has just bloomed, then I'm afraid I have some bad news for you. It is going to die no matter what you do. Please see the answer to a previous question about a dying century plant. Also, if you enter "century plant" in the Keyword Search slot on the Ask Mr. Smarty Plants page, you will find some other "answers" about century plant care.

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Information about non-native Canaga odorata, ylang-ylang
July 10, 2008 - can you tell me the composition of canaga odarata or ylang-ylang flower? also, beneficial effects? it's for my science project..
view the full question and answer

Promoting bloom in Chocolate Summer Mimosa
January 11, 2008 - Please help! I purchased a Chocolate Summer Mimosa from one of our local nurseries. It was a brand new plant to them and they don't really know much about them. I planted it just 3 years ago as an...
view the full question and answer

Pruning of non-native Senna bicapsularis from Ocean Springs MS
April 04, 2013 - I have 4 Senna plants (cassia bicapsularis) that I planted late last spring. They about 3-4 feet tall but are very gangly with leaves at or near the tips only. How should I prune them to encourage g...
view the full question and answer

Pruning and deadheading rosa rugosa while blooming
August 01, 2008 - Can you prune the dead flowers and branches of rosa rogosa while it is still blooming?
view the full question and answer

Watering newly-planted Afghan Pines
May 11, 2015 - I just planted some Afghan pines in Amarillo, tx (avg. rainfall about 2O in. Per year) What would be the appropriate amount of water and how often would I need to water during this time.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.