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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - June 10, 2009

From: Mountain Home, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Agave americana/Century Plant care and life cycle.
Answered by: Jackie OKeefe

QUESTION:

How often do century plants bloom? Do you have info on how to care for them?

ANSWER:

Agave americana (American century plant) – also known as Maguey – and many other agaves only bloom after years of maturing, and die after the bloom is spent. The plant life span is variable; its bloom triggering process is not yet understood. Ten years is reported to be a typical age for the bloom to occur, but it can be many more. While the original plant dies, it has usually left a number of offshoots, "pups", at the base which repeat the growth cycle and mature into next generation plants. Left untended, the plant can multiply and spread vigorously.

Since Agave americana(American century plant) is a native of the desert Southwest, it thrives in sunny, dry conditions. It needs little water (or fertilizer) and doesn't tolerate poor drainage. Exposure to winter temperatures down in the teens can permanently damage the leaves.

Agave leaves are spine-tipped and potentially hazardous. In picking a site, be aware of their proximity to walkways, and leave room for growth, since the rosette becomes quite wide.

Other agave species are sometimes referred to and sold as "Century Plant", since the name gets used rather generically.

 

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American century plant
Agave americana

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