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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - April 10, 2013

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pests, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Century plant leaves falling over from San Antonio
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Have a large century plant about % feet tall. The leaves are falling over. Can you tell me what to do to avoid this.

ANSWER:

Since we don't know what "% feet"means, we hope you accidentally hit the shift key and meant to say "5 feet." There are 10 plants in our Native Plant Database with the common name "Century Plant;" of these, all are members of the Agavaceae (Agave) genus. Of those, 7 are native to Texas, but none are as tall as 5 ft., so maybe you really meant "% ft." You may, of course, have an agave which is non-native to North America that is taller, but since the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is committed to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which that plant is being grown; in your case, Bexar County, the natives are all we have information on.

Anyway, since we don't know specifically which agave you have, we will choose Agave parryi ssp. parryi (Century plant) for an example. Now to figure out what is making the leaves droopy. First. we must ask you a rhetorical question. ("Rhetorical" means you don't have to answer it) Has your Century Plant recently bloomed? If so, the agave is dying. The agave takes about 8 to 40 years (not a century) to bloom and then, having done so, has exhausted all its energy blooming and begins dying. The plant will nearly always have "pups" which can be transplanted before the mother plant completely passes away.

Beyond that, we are at something of a loss, but we found several websites which should be able to help you. Often problems with desert plants like this involve too much water, not enough sun or poor drainage, causing the roots to stand in water and rot. Read these sites and see if you can find a cure for your plant.

Arizona Cooperative Extension: Problems and Pests of Agave, Aloe, Cactus and Yucca

Growing on the Edge Droopy Agave Leaves

eHow: How to save a dying Agave plant

 

From the Image Gallery


Century plant
Agave parryi ssp. parryi

Century plant
Agave parryi ssp. parryi

Century plant
Agave parryi ssp. parryi

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