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?


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

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


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.


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

Dry, brown leaves on non-native weeping willow
August 03, 2008 - Hello! I live in Pennsylvania I have 5 weeping willows I planted 3 years ago. All seemed well until last week I noticed suddenly one looks like it might be dying!? All the leaves are dry & brown. T...
view the full question and answer

Late blooming Esperanza in St. Augustine FL
April 21, 2011 - I bought an Esperanza at a plant expo- I was told it was a Florida native Allamanda. It took me two years to figure out what I had. Mine grows 8 ft. tall and is huge! But it doesn't bloom until alm...
view the full question and answer

Care for non-native Plumeria from Concord NC
August 01, 2012 - I have had my plumeria plant for the past 5 to 7 years. It is a pot plant and I live in North Carolina, I take the pot inside in he winter time. The leaves fall off, in the spring after the last fro...
view the full question and answer

Propagation on bamboo in Washington State
August 30, 2008 - I have been trying for some time to grow bamboo in my garden. They rooted very well in the house but as soon as I put them in a large planter under the fir trees they turned yellow.They have a large h...
view the full question and answer

Freeze damage to non-native Sago Palms in Austin
May 03, 2010 - Due to the unusually cold winter in Austin my sago palms fronds froze. I have not removed the dead fronds should I? If only the fronds froze when will new fronds start to grow?
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center