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
1 rating

Thursday - August 06, 2009

From: Mesa, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Why is my Agave suffering in Mesa, Arizona?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

I live in Mesa AZ, and have an agave that we planted 7 years ago. It grew like crazy with hardly any care whatsoever, until I cut off some of the bottom leaves and 'pups' about a month ago. Recently I noticed some of the leaves are turning yellow from the crown outwards and a few have begun to twist over so the bottom of the leaf is now on top. We have had a real hot and dry 'monsoon' over the last several weeks. I haven't watered the agave, but have been watering a lemon tree which is about 15 feet away. Any ideas??

ANSWER:

There are over 200 species of Agave that range throughout the desert southwest and into Mexico, and they are adapted for arid environments. They grow in sandy desert soil without rainfall for months at a time. Too much water is probably more deleterious than too little water because the water fills up the air spaces in the soil and the roots can't breathe.

You have been successfully growing the plant for seven years so lets look for things that might have changed this spring; does it still have well drained soil? has the watering changed? is the sun exposure different? What about the lemon tree? Does watering it provide any water for the Agave? Are you using overhead watering (sprinklers)? 

The removal of the leaves earlier may have provided an avenue for infection from insect pests or fungal dsease. This publication of the Arizona Cooperative Extension, Problems and Pests of Agave, provides information about both insects and fungi that can infect Agaves. A shorter description can be found in Agave Disease Problems from Michigan State University Extension.

If your Agave isn't receiving extra water fron the lemon tree, and you find no evidence of insect or fungal damage, you may decide that the plant is stressed due to lack of water (you've only had 3.97 " of rainfall this year). To alleviate these stress symptoms, let a water hose run very slowly at the base of the plant for one morning (2 -3 hours), and then repeat the process two weeks later. If things improve, reduce the watering to once a month. When the night time temperature gets below 61° F, discontinue watering.

It is always good to get advice from someone who can look at the plant, so  I would also suggest that you contact the folks at the Maricopa County Office of University of Arizona Cooperative Extension for some help closer to home.

 

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

How to prune Opuntia ellisiana in Decatur, GA.
August 20, 2009 - Hi Mr SP--How do I go about pruning an Opuntia ellisiana? I have saws, newspaper, heavy leather gloves, goggles, etc. But my question is more about what section of the plant to cut. The base has de...
view the full question and answer

Both large and small Century plants putting up stems from Cayucos CA
November 18, 2013 - I have a Century Plant that is sending up a stem. I am excited to see it bloom. I noticed that one of the small pups, about 4 inches tall, is also sending up a stem. I have not found a mention of pups...
view the full question and answer

Landscaping on South Padre Island
June 07, 2008 - I'm in charge of landscaping at my beachfront condo in South Padre Island and find the wind, salt air, and heat challenging for growing almost anything. We would like to incorporate native plants, b...
view the full question and answer

Growing Variegated Century Plants in Portugal
February 09, 2011 - Hello Mr. Smarty Plants, I am contacting you from Portugal, because of century plant(Agave americana). I had one of that plants and I collected the seeds, which I planted, but I am quite disappointed ...
view the full question and answer

No blooms on Spineless Prickly Pear in Austin
June 07, 2012 - I've had a spineless prickly pear planted in the shade for about 3 years. It has done just fine there, but has never bloomed. I recently moved it to a full sun location(I'm in north Austin) and cove...
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