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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.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Wednesday - June 24, 2009

From: Orlando, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Pruning, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Will the blooming stalk of my century plant eventually tip over? Yes
Answered by: Jimmy Mills and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have a century plant in bloom. Will the stalk eventually tip over? Would appreciate any Internet references on the subject.

ANSWER:

There are eight Agave species in our NPIN Database that  have century plant as part of their common name. I'm going to assume that you are referring to the American Century Plant Agave americana (American century plant) because of its spectacular flowering stalk. It is one of a group of plants that dies after it blooms. Plants with this reproductive strategy are known as monocarpic, i.e., they flower and produce fruit only once in their lifetime and then die.

Will it tip over? That depends on what you mean my "tip over."  If you're asking if it will someday fall over if not cut down first, the answer is yes.  Dead Agave flower stalks can sometimes stand for up to a year after flowering, but there is no guarantee that one won't come down much more quickly in a strong wind.  The inflorescences (flower stalks) of some agaves can top out at 40 feet.  When they fall, they can do some damage to whatever they fall on, so its a good idea to enjoy them for awhile and then remove the dead stalk in a safe manner. 

So after your plant has completed blooming, it will die. However, there should be "pups" around the  base of the plant that can be planted and will grow into a mature plants.

For more information, go to the Ask Mr. Smarty Plants page and type "century plant" in the Keyword Search slot. This will bring up numerous previous questions about century plants.


Agave americana

 

 


 

 

 

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