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
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - April 22, 2009

From: Tonto Basin, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Problem Plants, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Eliminating agave roots in Tonto Basin AZ
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Greetings Mr. Smarty Plants, from Tonto Basin, AZ! We have numerous mature (huge!) Agave Americana plants here, and have, until recently, enjoyed them. However, we are now ready for a drastic landscaping change. We're in the process of cutting them down, and would like to know if there is any way to kill the trunk on these plants. Our experience has been that if there's a minuscule section of root remaining in the ground, countless "pups" will eventually re-appear. As we would like to completely and permanently eliminate the ones that grow right next to our house, we are asking about killing the root. Thank you in advance for any help you can provide! Happy gardening!

ANSWER:

While we hate to recommend herbicides, you are correct that a small piece of root will generate fresh agaves, just what you don't want right now. We know you don't want to hear this, but digging them out with a good sharp shovel is the best way to begin. And disposing of them is going to be tough, too. Please don't put them in the compost pile, those thorns can last forever. A long-handled shovel, long heavy leather gloves and maybe heavy pruners to kind of cut the job down to size are going to be necessary. The best suggestion for cutting them down and keeping them down that we have found so far is to get some glyphosate herbicide and a few disposable sponge brushes. Don't go wild with this, because you want that area to be hospitable to your new landscape, so no spraying or drenching the soil. When you have removed all the root you can by manual (as in labor) techniques, make a clean slice across the remaining root and, within 5 minutes, paint that open wound with the glyphosate, full strength. You have to do it right away, because the agave, like all other survivors, will quickly move in to heal that cut over before the herbicide can get to the rest of the root. You will still get pups popping up over time, and waiting a while before you put in the raised beds is a good idea.

And, lesson for the future: When the pups pop, get them out while they're little. Get it all out with the same sharp shovel if you can, and do the paint job on any root remaining.

 

More Problem Plants Questions

How to get rid of nut grass from San Antonio
March 22, 2011 - We just had a house built on a lot that was mostly rock. The small back yard has a berm on which they brought in soil then mulched it. Now we are getting all sorts of weeds through the mulch, what my...
view the full question and answer

Injury from non-native Canary Palm from Torrance CA
October 18, 2013 - I got stuck in the eye a yr ago by a Phoenix canariensis. It went through my retina and through the integral chamber and put a stamp on my lense. There was no room for any more err without causing bli...
view the full question and answer

Clearing out non-native Himalayan blackberry
January 25, 2009 - Can you recommend a way to clear an area of Himalayan blackberry? We have cut the canes back but wish to eliminate them completely so that we can replant that area with native plants attractive to wil...
view the full question and answer

Prevention of algae scum on standing water
December 16, 2007 - Because your answer to a previous question has resolved an "issue" referent to proper care of our cordgrass plants, I'm back to ask your advice. The pond behind our condominium complex is man-ma...
view the full question and answer

Live Oak Suckers Reprise, Austin TX
July 06, 2014 - Referring to an entry dated March 11, 2011 about Live Oak suckers - what happened to the suckers covered with newspaper and cardboard?
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