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
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

Source for DNA sequencing of Opuntia species
March 04, 2014 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, I am trying to do a Opuntia speciation study, and rather just identifying the species by morphological comparison, I would also like to go a little deeper by comparing the DNA...
view the full question and answer

Sun loving plants for flower bed by the pool in Weatherford Texas
October 03, 2011 - We have a 40' long x 2 1/2' wide flowerbed along our pool. It is in full sun with the pool deck across the front and a 6' privacy fence across back. Also, the level of the bed is 18" below the l...
view the full question and answer

Need plants to replace cedars on a 40 degree slope in Boerne, TX.
August 28, 2012 - My backyard is a roughly 40 degree slope that is covered with cedars. The slope is basically all rock, what can I grow here to replace the cedar which drink too much water. I would still like the area...
view the full question and answer

Can a prickly pear cutting from Harker Heights, TX find happiness in Long Island, NY.
November 03, 2012 - Took a cutting of a prickly pear cactus from my daughters garden in Harker Heights, Tx. Her plants are 5'ht.& wt. Set it into a 10" pot with garden mix soil. Early July 2012, brought it home to Long...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for a New York, NY apartment?
August 14, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, What are some native Mid-Atlantic/New England plants that can be grown well indoors? I live in an apartment in New York City and have recently realised that the plants I'v...
view the full question and answer

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