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

Tuesday - September 22, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Transplants, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Transplanting agave in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have an 8 foot tall agave (americana?) planted in my front yard. It has been there quite happily for over 20 years. How would I go about transplanting this to another location? Thanks!

ANSWER:

How do you transplant an Agave? Like kissing a porcupine-very carefully!

First, and no kidding this time, approach this task with care. The agaves have survived in very hostile environments by being pretty hostile themselves to grazing by livestock or digging up to clear land for farming. The agave itself  has no particular problems with being moved. You just get the root out of the ground, and even if it is broken, it will still survive on the root that is left. You're talking about a pretty big plant to move, and getting close enough to it to get a shovel into that root is a challenge.

First, protect yourself with heavy leather gloves. Long sleeves, long pants and protective goggles are also important. The "sap" or juices within the leaves can be toxic and cause severe allergic reactions. With clippers, remove some of the fierce spines before you approach with a shovel. If there is a clump of several new plants, or "pups", gently break them up by hand or with a knife. One standing alone can probably be popped out of the ground with a trowel or small shovel. Again, careful, you are close to a very forbidding plant that won't hesitate to get you in the eye or the arm or the back with those long, sharp-tipped leaves. Once you have the main root out of the ground, get rid of loose roots and then, as if it was an onion, peel away leaves until you get to the best-quality leaves in the center of the rosette. Carefully discard all the removed spines and leaves where someone won't come along and step on them. And the compost pile is out, you don't want to stick your hand into that! If it was necessary to cut the transplant, you need a clean cut on the base of the wound. You can dab the wound with sulphur before putting the plant back in the ground.

Is it absolutely necessary to move that agave? These plants may bloom at any point from 8 to 60 years of age. The blooming is spectacular, but then the entire plant dies. Whether or not a transplanted agave would bloom as soon as it would have undisturbed, we don't know. It seems, however, that the plant should be blooming soon, and then it can be removed and discarded much more easily. 

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

Should I plant a potted Texas Star Hibiscus in August in Austin, TX?
August 12, 2010 - I bought a red Texas Star Hibiscus, in March, in a 6" pot and 2 ft tall. I repotted it to a 12" clay pot, put it under deck roof near edge, where it gets a bit of morning sun and filtered light res...
view the full question and answer

Yucca elata flowering in Tauranga, NZ.
August 20, 2009 - I have two huuuuuuge Yucca elatas in my garden. One of them flowered spectacularly last year - a 15ft stalk that grew so quickly you could hear it, and then burst into a cloud of waxy cream flowers. M...
view the full question and answer

Leaves falling off recently transplanted mature Mountain Laurel
July 05, 2006 - I have recently purchased a Mountain Laurel for my backyard landscaping. It is a fully matured ML standing over 9 feet tall by 6 feet wide. Since it was planted (about 6 weeks ago) it has been losin...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on daylilies
July 29, 2003 - I have a number of Daylilies that are rapidly multiplying in my flower bed. If I relocate some of them to the field behind my house, will they crowd out the native wildflowers?
view the full question and answer

Problems with transplanting cenizo in Weatherford TX
September 29, 2009 - I tried to transplant a Silverado Sage into a large pot but within 1 day it started wilting. Could it be the soil? I used potting soil not soil from the ground which is a sandy soil.
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