Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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
4 ratings

Thursday - February 05, 2009

From: Palm Springs, CA
Region: California
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Trimming damaged leaves on agaves
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Some of the leaves on my agaves are damaged. Can I cut them off? If yes, how can I prevent the wound from becoming infected? Thanks.

ANSWER:

We previously answered a question on trimming agaves, and want to extract some of that answer for you here.

We looked and looked for a website that would give you specific information on trimming an agave 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. You should know that the sap of the agave can be caustic and cause skin and eye irritation; we would suggest wearing goggles when you cut. 

A wise move is to first get rid of that long spine that's ready to get you in the knee or eye. 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 damaged, 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.  Remember, as formidable as they are, these plants are succulents and can take quite a bit of abuse and still heal.

The best site we have found on general care of agaves is this one from the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service on Agave americana.  There is a very good drawing of a trimmed agave right at the top of that article. The article also claims that pests and diseases are not a large threat to agaves. However, we are also aware that bacterial infection can enter the plant through wounds. Ordinarily, the plant will take care of that itself by callusing over the cut when the agave is trimmed. 

 

 

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

Leaves turning black on Agave americana
June 06, 2008 - 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 t...
view the full question and answer

Non-blooming of an apparent yucca in Ohio
March 09, 2009 - I have what looks like a yucca plant in my flower bed. but in the 3 years we have lived here it has never bloomed. It did get a little bigger and has always been green. If it is a yucca, is there any ...
view the full question and answer

How to prune Opuntia ellisiana in Decatur, GA.
August 20, 2009 - Hi Mr SP--How do I go about pruning an Opuntia ellisiana? I have saws, newspaper, heavy leather gloves, goggles, etc. But my question is more about what section of the plant to cut. The base has de...
view the full question and answer

Yucca Blossoming in Minneapolis MN
July 07, 2015 - I have 4 yr old yucca that sent out a five foot spike with flowers! I live in Minneapolis; is this unusual ?
view the full question and answer

Smog-eating plants from Ft. Worth TX
September 30, 2012 - Looking for a list (40 >) of Native Texas Plants for Fort Worth Urban (Condo) that are Drought tolerant or (drip irr) and Fragrant and long blooming and eat up the city smog. Fort Worth is in a non-at...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.