Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

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!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - April 28, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Can I save my century plant by cutting the flowering stalk in Austin, TX? Probably not.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Our century plant is starting to sprout it's flower (four feet). If we cut it down can we save the plant? Thank you.

ANSWER:

The Century Plant Agave americana (American century plant) is a spectacular plant, and part of that spectacle occurs when it flowers. Now it doesn't take it one hundred years to flower, but to some folks it seems that way. The plant has a monocarpic or semelparous life cycle which means that it will flower only one time and then die.

From the reading that I have done, removing the flowering stalk will not keep the plant from dying. Flowering is controlled by changes in hormonal levels that affect the allocation of resources inside the plant that eventually lead to its demise.  A lot of energy and resources are expended by the plant in producing the flowering stalk and the flowers.

If you wish, you can remove the stalk and see what happens. I think it would be more fun to watch the flowering proceed; maybe make a photo log.

The plant should be producing pups which can be used to propagate new plants .

We get questions similar to yours from time to time, so I have created links to several previously answered questions below:

#1587

#1427

#4082

 

 

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

Cat eating yucca stalks in England
May 07, 2013 - Is it safe for my cat to eat yucca as she is being sick and its hard to stop her
view the full question and answer

Why are the leaves of my century plants yellowing?
June 22, 2009 - I am taking care of the Agaves (century plants) for my condo community here in Austin. They are planted in 18" or 20" pots. A couple of the plants have leaves that are yellowing around the bottom....
view the full question and answer

Prickly cactus in Williamson County, Texas
September 12, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Can you tell me what species of prickly pear cactus we have here in Williamson County? I see two listed as being here in Texas. One is the Plains variety and the other is ...
view the full question and answer

Need help with yucca palm in New York City, NY.
November 10, 2011 - I have had my yucca palm plant for almost 10 years. The bark has started to peel off although leaves seem fine. The second smaller separate yucca plant has half its bark and trunk gone. I can't see a...
view the full question and answer

Plant ID of succulent from Flagler Beach FL
July 08, 2012 - file:///C:/Users/CircuitCity/Downloads/All%20sizes%20%20%20baby%20plants%20growing%20on%20succulent%20leaves%20%20%20Flickr%20-%20Photo%20Sharing!_files/3901143728_dcf227ea85.jpg I have a succulent t...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.