En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Moving Century plants in Norwalk CA

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

Tuesday - September 15, 2009

From: Norwalk, CA
Region: California
Topic: Planting, Transplants, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Moving Century plants in Norwalk CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have two large Century plants that are each 10 1/2 years old. One is 4'x5' tall and wide with about 8-10 small shoots. The smaller in about 3 1/2'x 5' with about 6 shoots. They've grown too large for their current location and I'd like to uproot and move them. Can this be done without killing them or putting them in shock? I moved them once 5 years ago while I was adding on to my home. Sad to say, that time the plants where not in soil for about 7 months, yet the didn't die and are thriving in their current location. I was about to pull them out today and discard them. I went to Lowe's (home improvement chain) this morning to look for replacement plants (didn't know what kind of plant it was until this morning). When I saw some there, noticed how expensive they are at this size, and did further research online, I had to reconsider and can't wait for them to bloom. Any advice?

ANSWER:

There are nine members of the genus Agave native to North America, of which three are native to Southern California, but not specifically to Los Angeles County. The three native to Southern California are: Agave americana (American century plant), Agave deserti (desert agave), and Agave shawii (coastal agave), which is endemic to California. We will use the American century plant as our example, because all members of the genus will function similarly.

You are facing an interesting dilemma. Moving those plants is a terrible job. Not only are they well-armed with hooks on the end of their leaves, and vicious spines everwhere else, but when the leaves are cut, they squirt out a noxious sap that can severely burn the skin, usually requiring medical attention. According to our information, in a warm climate they should bloom at about 15 years in age, but it can take up to 60 years. We have no way of knowing if the 7 months they spent out of the soil might have retarded the time of bloom, but it's a possibility. We do think, however, that if you really want to see the blooms, the plants need to be left where they are, allowed to bloom and die and then be removed. Even taking out a dead plant is a real chore, as the spines don't soften up just because the plant is dead, and some of the sap can even linger. You can, of course, transplant the offshoots, or "pups" to a better location, but then you have another long wait for the blooms. 

For specific instructions on transplanting agaves, go to this previous answer and appropriate cautions. And if you transplant the pups, select the new site with care, remembering that they grow big and can threaten people and pets. Don't put them somewhere that they will grow close to sidewalks or in play areas. We didn't have any very good closeup pictures of the spines on Agave americana (American century plant) so we are going to include a couple from the very similar Agave havardiana (Havard's century plant) Remember, you were warned.

 

From the Image Gallery


Havard's century plant
Agave havardiana

Havard's century plant
Agave havardiana

American century plant
Agave americana

American century plant
Agave americana

More Transplants Questions

My newly planted Mountain Laurel isn\'t doing well.
March 13, 2009 - My mountain laurel was planted from a container in Dec. It is in part sun, clay soil, and its leaves are turning yellow. should I move it or will that kill it?
view the full question and answer

Dying branches on Texas Mountain Laurel from Kempner TX
September 14, 2012 - The branches on my Texas Mountain Laurel are very dry and brittle. The leaves are also starting to die. The tree has been in my yard for six years and prior to that it sat wrapped in burlap for ov...
view the full question and answer

Replacing Drought-Stricken Cedars
January 16, 2012 - Hello, I live in Williamson County on a couple acres. We have several dead cedars as a result of drought; we're reluctant to cut them down because many of them provide a friendly barrier between us...
view the full question and answer

Recovery from transplant shock for bougainvillea
July 12, 2007 - I live outside of Phoenix. I just bought a bougainvillea in a large pot. It was doing nicely until I brought it home. I placed it in a sunny spot in my front yard inside of a large volcanic rock that ...
view the full question and answer

Southern Woodferns in TX
May 06, 2010 - I have recently bought some 3 gallon southern woodferns, and have planted them in the shade in a low spot with clay soil. It seems to be a good location for the ferns, but a week or two after transpla...
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