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

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 Pruning Questions

Red oaks that didn't drop leaves in Austin
April 04, 2012 - I have a number of Red Oaks on land that did not drop leaves this past fall. Now these same trees seem to be dead? It seems there's some type of mold/fungus on the trees. Some trees have small patche...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting large Silverado Sage bushes from Mesa AZ
August 19, 2013 - We just bought a condo with three Silverado Sage, each one is 6-8 ft tall, trained to grow as "trees" with bare branches for the bottom 4 feet or so, and beautiful flowering branches on top. They ar...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on Fan Scarlet-Cardinal
September 02, 2005 - I have a lobelia x speciosa (Fan Scarlet-Cardinal) plant and was wondering if I should dead head it after blossoming so that the plant continues to flower. Can you help? Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Sprouts at base of holly in Surprise AZ
November 15, 2010 - Friends have recently planted a holly tree in their front yard. They live in AZ and there is no grass (only rock) around their tree. It was planted as a fairly large tree (about 18 feet).My question i...
view the full question and answer

Best time of year to trim oak trees from Beloit WI
July 23, 2010 - What is the best time of year to trim oak trees?
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