En Español

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

Thursday - January 01, 2009

From: Denver, CO
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Propagation, Transplants
Title: Century plant offshoots in Denver
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Each year I get a small "baby" Century Plants in the early winter..December - January, But it dies off before summer. We live in Denver, CO My main plant is doing fine. Also, should I cut the lower "dead" leaves? Thank you

ANSWER:

There are nine different agaves with the common name "Century Plant" in our Native Plant Database; however, none of them is shown to be native to Colorado. Just to have a reference point, we chose Agave americana (American century plant) and did some research on it. We are curious-is this plant outside or indoors or in a greenhouse? The reason we ask is that agaves cannot tolerate temperatures in the teens without damage, as they are hardy in Zones 9 to 11. Looking at the USDA Hardiness Zone Map, it looks like the area around Denver ranges from Zone 4b (average minimum temperatures -30 to -25 deg. F.) to Zone 5b (-15 to -10 deg. F.). If your agave is outside in that kind of temperatures, it must be a wonder plant. So, we're assuming you have your agave in a large pot, in a sheltered location. Under those circumstances, and just guessing, really, we would think that the "mother" plant, although putting out a sucker or adventitious shoot for propagation, really doesn't want to share the nutrients in the pot with her offspring, and thus it dies. We understand that these suckers are very easily removed by just pulling them out, and can then be planted in another pot and allowed to live and grow. Use a standard cactus potting mix, and give it a little moisture-not too much, this is a desert plant-and see how it does. Since you say this usually happens in December to January, now would be the time to watch for a shoot's appearance, and prepare to transplant.  

In answer to your question about cutting off the lower dead leaves, see this University of Colorado Cooperative Extension Service Agave americana website. Note the drawing of an agave, with lower branches or spines or whatever clipped off close to the trunk. Be prepared to protect yourself when you do so, and be advised that the sap can be allergenic, and cause severe allergic problems if it gets on the skin. Long sharp clippers, tough gloves and disposal in a heavy paper sack that the spines won't rip apart are the order of the day.

Pictures of Agave americana

 

More Propagation Questions

Eliminating black locust volunteers in Rockville MD
September 27, 2011 - I am a landscape designer whose client has a very large, mature black locust in her front yard. Not surprisingly, she also has multitudes of black locust volunteers popping up all over her yard. The...
view the full question and answer

What to do with 200 yucca seedlings in Sandusky, OH?
August 31, 2013 - I have over two hundred 3 month old yucca seedlings from my last yr. Yucca plants. I soaked the the seeds for 24 hrs. planted them in trays and now they are abt. 2 inch tall. My question is, should I ...
view the full question and answer

Source for seeds of New Mexico locust from Abilene TX
October 23, 2012 - Is there a place to buy Robinia neomexicana native to Texas or order seed from Texas grown plants?
view the full question and answer

Information about Lady Lupine (Lupinus villosus)
April 20, 2008 - Dear Mr.Smarty Plants, Lady Lupine grows in our yard in northeast Florida, and I would like to learn more about it, especially the stages it goes through, like now the purple petals themselves are c...
view the full question and answer

Propagation of Texas bluebells from seed
July 29, 2008 - I have a few Texas Bluebell seeds. I would like to grow these in my yard. What would be the best place..pot or flower bed? When should I plant? How to maintain?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center