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
3 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

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

Landscaping on South Padre Island
June 07, 2008 - I'm in charge of landscaping at my beachfront condo in South Padre Island and find the wind, salt air, and heat challenging for growing almost anything. We would like to incorporate native plants, b...
view the full question and answer

Wholesale dry yucca trunks and branches from California
January 29, 2012 - Where can I buy wholesale dry yucca trunks and branches? I have spent the last hour looking for them and can only find nurseries and decorative branches.
view the full question and answer

Removing grassy weeds from cactus garden in Corpus Christi TX
May 07, 2013 - How do you get grassy weeds out of a cactus garden? I don't want to use roundup around the cacti? Can you recommend a herbicide that won't harm the cactus?
view the full question and answer

Landscaping with native plants in Austin
October 06, 2005 - I'm expanding a flower bed in front of my house and would like to keep it all natives. 1) How do I find out what type of soil I should add? (I live near Hyde Park, Austin and haven't had a soil te...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center