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

Nightflowering plants native to Northern Illinois
October 12, 2010 - Looking for any/all info on night flowering plants that are native to Northern Illinois.
view the full question and answer

Sunny and shady lawns from Austin
April 28, 2012 - My front yard has a large bed surrounded by a mix of St. Augustine and Bermuda grass. Last summers heat killed off about 90% of the St. Augustine, which we would like to replace anyway to conserve re...
view the full question and answer

Tropical-looking landscape in Austin, TX
March 24, 2005 - I'd like to have a tropical-looking landscape in my front yard. What plants would you recommend for Austin, Texas? I would prefer plants that can stay outside year-round, but will take suggestions on...
view the full question and answer

Can a prickly pear cutting from Harker Heights, TX find happiness in Long Island, NY.
November 03, 2012 - Took a cutting of a prickly pear cactus from my daughters garden in Harker Heights, Tx. Her plants are 5'ht.& wt. Set it into a 10" pot with garden mix soil. Early July 2012, brought it home to Long...
view the full question and answer

Saving frozen yuccas from North Carolina
February 23, 2013 - I live in NC and have 2 potted yucca plants on my deck. Every year I have brought them in for the winter. This year, someone told us that we could leave them out all winter. They began to die in the c...
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