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?

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
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
5 ratings

Thursday - June 05, 2008

From: Granada Hills, CA
Region: California
Topic: Pruning, Transplants, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Trimming back Agave havardiana
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi.. thanks for all the great information on Agaves. We have a number of Agave Havardiana (blue) that love where we planted them. Several have gotten HUGE. So much so that they are starting to get near a walkway. Is there any way to properly trim them, i.e., trim the lower leaves, which stick out the furthest, to keep the plant more contained? Can we just cut off as many leaves as needed? We hate to ruin the shape of the plant , but we need to do something to make the plant(s) a bit more compact. They are in a large area but they are taking over everything.. thanks.

ANSWER:

We looked and looked for a website that would give you specific information on trimming an Agave havardiana (Havard's century plant) and while we picked up snippets of information, nothing that gave step by step instructions. So, we are going to try to make some up, more or less. First, tools. Go to this Rainbow Gardens Bookshop website Cactus and Succulents Pruning Tools. We are not necessarily advising you to order these, just look at the pictures and get some idea of what you can use. We saw one forum post from a guy who had been using a chain saw. We don't recommend that, either, just saying that the Agave is tough, it lives in very wild places, with all sorts of animals eating on it, etc. and it can take a little (or a lot) of trimming without keeling over. You do need some sort of cutting instrument, lopping shears, a long sharp knife or a curved pruning saw would be possibilities. You will want heavy leather gloves, a long rod or rolled-up newspaper to push other leaves out of the way and, finally, a suit of armor.

This is almost too obvious, but you want to start with the leaves that are getting out into the traffic lanes in your garden. You can make your own choice depending on the aesthetic effect different styles of cutting creates. You want to get rid of that long spine that's ready to get you in the knee or eye first. Then, decide if you want to cut farther down on that leaf or leave it to callus over. When you have trimmed back all the leaves that are sticking out too far, you will probably want to keep the shape of the plant by trimming equally all the way around. Work up from the soil level, row by row, as needed. As you get higher on the plant, the leaves will be more erect, and will not need to be trimmed. Remember, as formidable as they are, these plants are succulents and can take quite a bit of abuse and still heal.

You may also notice that some of the plant material that is creeping out actually are new plants, or "pups" of the Agave. Taking these out will help to keep you from having a jungle of Agave, not a pretty picture. Agaves can be propagated from seed but this is not the easiest way to do it and is not highly successful. The best way to propagate agave is to take shoots from an adult cactus, using your knife to cut off the roots from the mother plant, if necessary, and dry out for some time. Then they can be transplanted into some potting mix and grown on from there. Getting rid of them by offering them to others who have admired your garden is one way to get them out of your way.

Now, you have to dispose of the waste from this cutting ordeal. Heavy-duty paper trash bags are about the best way to get them to the dump. Forget the compost pile, you'd never be able to use it again, and plastic trash bags would be ripped to ribbons before you got the second leaf into it.

 

From the Image Gallery


Havard's century plant
Agave havardiana

Havard's century plant
Agave havardiana

Havard's century plant
Agave havardiana

Havard's century plant
Agave havardiana

More Transplants Questions

Transplant shock in pecan tree in Garner NC
July 19, 2012 - I transplanted a pecan tree about 3 weeks ago & been watering it 3 times a day. The leaves are turning brown & crumbly before I water it. After I water it, the leaves are brown but I can scratch the t...
view the full question and answer

Yucca elata flowering in Tauranga, NZ.
August 20, 2009 - I have two huuuuuuge Yucca elatas in my garden. One of them flowered spectacularly last year - a 15ft stalk that grew so quickly you could hear it, and then burst into a cloud of waxy cream flowers. M...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting Agave havardiana in Stella NC
July 10, 2009 - We have a havard century plant in a large pot outside that has a couple of "baby" plants starting to emerge on the outer perimeter of the plant. Can we sucessfully transplant these babies elsewhere ...
view the full question and answer

Living fence of native plants for Ojai, CA
September 20, 2008 - I would like to build a "green fence" about 10-15 feet tall. I live in Ojai, CA where we have VERY hot summers and it goes below freezing every winter. The soil does not seem to drain well..it is e...
view the full question and answer

Tree transplants having problems in Manchaca TX
April 03, 2010 - I have recently transplanted a Mexican Buckeye, Chinquapin oak, and Sandpaper tree that I have been raising inside since they were seedlings. They have now developed a browning of the tips of their l...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center