En Español

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
1 rating

Thursday - April 06, 2006

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Century plant dying after bloom
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Help!! I want to save my Century Plant from dying. I have already lost one and I don't want to lose this one. Can cutting the stalk before it gets too big save this beautiful plant? Please, please answer soon! Thank you!!

ANSWER:

It sounds as if your century plant has just flowered. If so, I am afraid I have some bad news for you. It is one of a group of plants that dies after it blooms. Plants with this reproductive strategy are known as monocarpic, i.e., they flower and produce fruit only once in their lifetime and then die. All annuals and biennials are monocarpic, but there are also many perennial plants that are moncarpic. Some of these may live for 90 years before flowering and dying. The Century Plant happens to be one of these monocarpic plants. You can see a photographic record of this process of flowering and dying.

Here are some other plants that have the same reproductive strategy:
1. Haleakala Silversword (Argyroxiphium sandwicense)
2. Monument Plant (Frasera speciosa)
3. Many of the bamboo species are also monocarpic.

I can't really tell you whether cutting the flower stalk before it actually blooms would save the plant or not. My feeling is that it wouldn't. I am pretty certain that cutting the stalk after it has flowered and fruited is not going to keep it from dying.

 

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

Trimming freeze-damaged Agave Americana in Alvarado TX
April 08, 2010 - What is the best way to trim Agave Americana cactus? The freeze this winter when it snowed has caused the leaves to die towards the bottom of the plant.
view the full question and answer

Starting yucca from seed from Austin
December 24, 2012 - I would like to start a soft leaf yucca recurvifolia from seed. Is that possible? Also, I've looked for seed on dried flower stalks, and I'm not sure that what I'm finding is the seed, and I ...
view the full question and answer

Can non-native Epiphyllum (Orchid Cactus) be grown in Round Rock, Texas?
July 01, 2014 - Can the Epiphyllum (Orchid Cactus) be grown in the Round Rock Texas area or is this area too hot for it?
view the full question and answer

Native perennial winter plants for Waco, TX
November 03, 2004 - I live in the Waco area, and would like to know winter plants that I could use that would come back each year, flowering or otherwise.
view the full question and answer

Film growing on prickly pear from Austin
September 28, 2012 - We've just xeriscaped our front & back yards. Two of the spineless prickly pear cacti have a beige film growing on the paddles. The film is now moving further up the cactus, and one of the upper pad...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center