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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - November 01, 2010

From: St Pete Beach, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Reasons to leave a century plant in place in Florida
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Can you please list ALL the reasons to leave a century plant (as opposed to cutting it way back or removing it) in the wilds of the sand dunes on the coast of Florida, other than its prominent beauty?

ANSWER:

This Mr. Smarty Plants thinks she doesn't know the entire story that goes with this century plant.  It sounds like there might be a difference of opinion between/among family members or neighbors about what to do about this century plant. Here are some things I don't know about the century plant that would affect my advice to leave it or cut it down: 

  • 1.  Which century plant is it?  There is one that the USDA Plants Database shows occurring in Florida, Agave americana (American century plant), but it is possible it could be one of the others that are native to North America or even a non-native.  
  • 2.  Is it in good shape?   Has it recently bloomed?  If so, it is going to die.  It will put out 'pups' for the next generation but the main plant is a goner.  You can read more about the life cycle of the century plant in the answer to a previous question. 
  • 3.  Who wants to cut it down or trim it back—and why?  Is it encroaching on someone's property, blocking someone's view or posing a hazard with its spine-tipped leaves? 

It seems to me that if the century plant is:

  • 1. a North American native and/or doesn't seem to be spreading agressively; 
  • 2. it appears to be in good shape (i.e., isn't dying after having bloomed or isn't diseased);
  • 3. it isn't blocking someone's view, isn't posing a hazard to man or beast, or otherwise interfering with someone's personal or property rights—then, it is fine where it is and doesn't need to be trimmed back or removed.
 

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