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

Young huisache trees dying
October 02, 2015 - We have had several young huisache trees suddenly die. These trees are only three or four years old and were apparently healthy when they just died. They are growing by the curb on a city street and w...
view the full question and answer

Invasive native blackeyed susans from Warren OH
August 07, 2013 - In our demo garden we master gardeners in NE Ohio have been unable to get rid of black-eyed susans which have, like the other person, prevented or "killed" the other perennial plants. They are spre...
view the full question and answer

How to control Yellow Woodsorrel in Habiturf?
March 19, 2013 - Last year we planted Habiturf in our front lawn and prepared the ground as directed with organic compost. This year we have an infestation of low growing yellow oxalis which we believe came in with t...
view the full question and answer

Eradicating Cucurbita foetidissima (wild gourd) in California
August 23, 2013 - I live in San Diego County where the wild gourd/stink gourd roams freely and quickly. Any suggestions on how to eradicate. It is extremely invasive and nothing has worked! Thank you,
view the full question and answer

Skin Reaction form Cochineal on Prickly Pear
February 16, 2015 - I have severe burning and peeling skin on pads of fingers after touching "white stuff" on a prickly pear. White stuff tuned purple then burned skin even after washing hands. Skin has been cracking a...
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 | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center