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

Branches of yucca being blown down in Torrance CA
August 19, 2010 - I have a Yucca tree about 30 ft tall. Lately when the wind picks up in Torrance we have had about 3 branches fall out of the tree. Can you help me with this. I don't want to cut all of the branches...
view the full question and answer

Potted crown of thorns cactus cold tolerance in Marble Falls, TX
December 02, 2009 - I have a large potted crown-of-thorns cactus. Can it remain outside this winter in the Texas Hill Country?
view the full question and answer

Ingestion of agave sap from Albuquerque NM
June 11, 2013 - My boyfriend was out in the Arizona desert without water for two days and sought moisture through what he thought was a yucca plant but instead we believe was agave. He sucked the moisture off the ins...
view the full question and answer

Plants for big pots by pool in Austin
August 14, 2012 - Could you please suggest some plants to put in big pots out by my pool? They will get lots of heat and sun. Thanks.
view the full question and answer

Native Plant Suggestions for Dripping Springs
August 02, 2011 - I have a very dry commercial property in Dripping Springs TX where the dry sand/dust isn't a good rain conductor (whenever we get rain). What can we plant there? We have no irrigation and use a rai...
view the full question and answer

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