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
2 ratings

Wednesday - February 09, 2011

From: Taipadas - Canha - Portugal, Other
Region: Other
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Growing Variegated Century Plants in Portugal
Answered by: Mike Tomme

QUESTION:

Hello Mr. Smarty Plants, I am contacting you from Portugal, because of century plant(Agave americana). I had one of that plants and I collected the seeds, which I planted, but I am quite disappointed because the seedlings are all green leaves, and the first plant(the mom) was variegated. I would like to know what I did wrong. With bests regards.

ANSWER:

Agave americana (American century plant). What is it about that name that makes Mr. Smarty Plants wonder if that plant is native to Portugal?

In most plants, variegation is a genetic weakness. The less green in a plant leaf, the less chlorophyll and the less energy produced by that leaf. In nature, these plants can not compete with their non-variegated neighbors and are usually rapidly eliminated. It is only through cultivation that variegated varieties have been made to thrive. I don't know where your variegated Agave came from, but I'll bet it was cultivated and not natural.

Generally, plants that are cultivated for a particular trait will tend to revert to their natural state as they reproduce. This is particularly true when grown from seed.

You may have better luck propagating your variegated Agave from pups. These are offshoots from the roots of main plant. That way you can select only the pups that have the trait you are looking for.

Here is previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer regarding variegation in another species that explains this phenomenon at the cellular level and explains more about the competitive disadvantage of a variegated plant.

Mr. Smarty Plants doesn't have a picture of a variegated century plant, but here's a picture of the conventional variety:

 

From the Image Gallery


American century plant
Agave americana

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

Debugging and Preserving Dried Cholla Cactus
January 04, 2014 - Hi. Recently found an intact skeleton of a cholla cactus. I want to Bring it in our house. Are there any dangers associated with this, like bugs inside the "branches?" how would you suggest I prese...
view the full question and answer

Century plant leaves yellowing from Magnolia TX
July 04, 2013 - The leaves on my large Agave/Century plant are turning yellow. The bottom leaves, touching the ground are dying. Plant is 5.5" tall, 6" across & approx 10 yrs old. Recently we put red mulch around t...
view the full question and answer

Freeze damage on Barrel Cactus in Llano TX
March 04, 2011 - I believe my barrel cactus has freeze damage. The flesh turned yellow and is now turning dark. The base is still green. If I cut off the damaged top portion, leaving the green base, should it survive?...
view the full question and answer

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

Tropical-looking landscape in Austin, TX
March 24, 2005 - I'd like to have a tropical-looking landscape in my front yard. What plants would you recommend for Austin, Texas? I would prefer plants that can stay outside year-round, but will take suggestions on...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center