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?


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
Not Yet Rated

Friday - August 09, 2013

From: Fair Oaks Ranch, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Taking down a Century Plant blooming stalk from Fair Oaks Branch TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Our century cactus looks like it's in the final stages of blooming and I read on your site that the original plant dies. Can we go ahead and cut down the tall blooms?


We assume you mean "Century plant" as we don't know anything about a "century cactus."

There are 10 plants with the common name "Century" plant native to North America, of which 7 are native to Texas. None are native, nor even very close to Bexar County, in Central Texas. All are members of the Agave genus and, since your plant may not only be not native to your area, it may even be a hybrid or native to Mexico, which means it is not in our Native Plant Database at all.

We can, however, answer your question without determining which one it is. You are correct, the "mother" plant will die after it has finished blooming, but once the blooms are well past, it is a good idea to take out the bloom stalk, as it can be quite heavy and might fall over on something or someone after it died. The main plant will linger on for a while, but there are probably numerous "pups" that are offshoots of the plant that will grow, mature and eventually will themselves send up blooms. So, if you don't want Century Plants there any more, we suggest you get those "pups" out now, while they are still small enough to be semi-manageable. And you might want to read this previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on killing a Century Plant.


From the Image Gallery

Century plant
Agave parryi ssp. parryi

Century plant
Agave parryi ssp. parryi

Century plant
Agave parryi ssp. parryi

More Pruning Questions

Pruning a Wafer Ash to make it upright
February 11, 2005 - How do I trim a Wafer Ash? It lays on the ground. Is that normal? Does it need to be upright?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on Fan Scarlet-Cardinal
September 02, 2005 - I have a lobelia x speciosa (Fan Scarlet-Cardinal) plant and was wondering if I should dead head it after blossoming so that the plant continues to flower. Can you help? Thanks!
view the full question and answer

pruning Chinkapin oak, Loquat and Monterrey oak trees
December 07, 2012 - What is the best time to plant a 45-65 gal. Chinkapin oak tree in Pflugerville. Also, when can i prune fig trees, Loquat trees and a Monterrey oak. Thanks for the information.
view the full question and answer

Decreasing the Height of Smooth Sumac
December 09, 2015 - I have a 9-10 ft. Smooth Sumac that I purchased from an LJWC plant sale several years ago. It has a main trunk and one branch about halfway up. I have read that these sumacs can be pruned down to almo...
view the full question and answer

Can I save my century plant by cutting the flowering stalk in Austin, TX? Probably not.
April 28, 2010 - Our century plant is starting to sprout it's flower (four feet). If we cut it down can we save the plant? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center