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

Friday - June 06, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Leaves turning black on Agave americana
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Dear Mr. Smarty Plants- We have a ~5-year-old agave americana that began to have leaves turn yellow (to black in some areas) just this past spring (2008). A neighbor's tree had started to overhang the plot it was in, putting it in substantial shade, so I cut away several large branches from the tree, thinking that lack of sun could be part of the problem. Is there anything else I can do?


We really hate it when someone asks us about an obvious problem with a plant, and when we do research we are told this plant has "no serious pests and diseases," which is pretty much what we got on your Agave americana (American century plant) spots. One thing we did find out, from our own webpage (link above) is that the Agave can tolerate light shade, but really needs sun. But, we did find two websites that admitted there could be anthracnose, a fungal disease, in agaves that could cause those spots.

Michigan State University Extension Agave Disease Problems

Arizona Cooperative Extension Problems and Pests of Agave - This is a PDF document, and you will have to page down to Page 6, lower right hand column, for "Fungal Lesions." Anthracnose of agaves is discussed as a problem during moist conditions or occasionally when the garden is overhead irrigated, as in a sprinkler system or too much rain (hardly a problem right now in Austin). Unfortunately, a plant in too much shade will be more prone to fungal diseases because the sun would ordinarily retard the fungal production, drying out the moisture on the plant. The advice given for treatment is to remove the diseased leaves. And let us warn you, we have discovered that there can be severe and uncomfortable skin blistering from contact with the juices in the leaves when they are cut. Go prepared in long pants, long sleeves, heavy leather gloves, closed-toe shoes and maybe even protective goggles. Once a leaf has gone black, you can be pretty sure it is dead and needs to be removed and disposed in such a way as to prevent further spreading of the fungus to other succulents. This site did suggest one possible chemical treatment, but stated that its actual efficacy is not substantiated. We tried to find pictures of agaves with the anthracnose spots, so you could compare them to your plant, but were unsuccessful. In summary, more sun, less water, and cut out the affected leaves - VERY CAREFULLY!


More Cacti and Succulents Questions

Possibility of growing Buckleys yucca in South Carolina
February 03, 2008 - I live in Lexington, SC. I am wondering if I can grow Buckley's yucca (yucca constricta) here and if so, where can I purchase the seeds or plants? I am from Texas and we are trying to create a "we...
view the full question and answer

Life span of the century plant (Agave spp.)
June 17, 2009 - I have a beautiful century plant that is blooming. what will happen once the bloom is done? What is the life span of the plant?
view the full question and answer

Trimming back Agave havardiana
June 05, 2008 - 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 ge...
view the full question and answer

Central Texas plant to grow in cavity in cedar (Juniperus ashei)
February 27, 2010 - Is there a CenTX native that would be happy in a one-gallon cavity in a Cedar tree? I'd like to disguise an amputated limb. I'd consider a Bromeliad or Staghorn fern, but would prefer a native.
view the full question and answer

Century plant dying after bloom
August 12, 2007 - My century plant is so tall that it is up to the top of the telephone pole top lines that carry our streets electric. I was wanting to know if you knew if I cut the stock off would it save the plant ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center