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
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

Bringing upright a leaning cholla cactus
August 29, 2013 - I have a 3 ft. tall Cylindropuntia bigelovii that fell over after recent rains. I righted it and supported it with garden stakes for about a month. I was afraid to pull too hard on the low...
view the full question and answer

Are century plants (Agave spp.) poisonous?
September 24, 2008 - About 2 weeks ago, I was poked in the arm by a Century Plant, which caused a pretty big bruise to form. I didn't think much of it at first, but now, 2 weeks later, the bruise hasn't healed at all. S...
view the full question and answer

Mulching Spring Bulbs in Upstate NY
October 25, 2010 - Just planted tulip bulbs for Spring. The Parks Department then put 4 inches of mulch on top. Will the tulips be able to get through and bloom come Spring? Is mulch a good winterizer for them? Indoor c...
view the full question and answer

Preserving the agave bloom for decoration from Sedona AZ
April 28, 2012 - I have an agave century plant which is starting to bloom. Is there some way I can preserve the flower as a decoration piece?
view the full question and answer

Agave in a vase of water in Tacoma WA
July 19, 2009 - I have a agave plant that is in a vase of water only. It was given to me about 3 years ago, still growing but rotting inside of the water. Is it suppose to be in dirt? How to I transfer into a pot ...
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