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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - May 13, 2008

From: Kansas City, MO
Region: Midwest
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Bloom on non-native Agave attenuata
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have an Agave Attenuata that has grown a long and unsightly stem.Is there a way to cut the plant portion off and re-root the plant without killing the petal portion?

ANSWER:

Are you sure you want to? Look at this page of Images of the Agave attenuata. This agave is wonderful for use in small gardens or areas where people are walking close by, because it is "unarmed". It has neither the vicious thorns not the sharp spiked leaves of the other Agaves. What you apparently have is a bloom stalk that is appearing-it can take from 10 to 20 years for the plant to bloom, and they are a stunning feature of the plant. The plant, as it grows, will drop its lower leaves until it stands on a trunk that may be 3 feet high. Then, at some point, the bloom stalk will appear. It will bloom only once, but, unlike other agaves, does not die after it blooms. You can propagate more plants from the "pups" that appear around the base of the stalk. The Agave attenuata is a native of Mexico, and we're a little surprised that you have it growing in Kansas. Even 32 deg can reduce this plant to mush. It likes some shade and it likes warmth, so we're assuming you're growing it in a sheltered spot. If the long and unsightly stem you are referring to is the trunk, the answer is no, you can't take it off the trunk and replant it, because it has no roots. Dig up the pups around the base for more plants. Here is an article from Desert Tropicals with more information.
 

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