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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - November 18, 2013

From: Cayucos, CA
Region: California
Topic: Propagation, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Both large and small Century plants putting up stems from Cayucos CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a Century Plant that is sending up a stem. I am excited to see it bloom. I noticed that one of the small pups, about 4 inches tall, is also sending up a stem. I have not found a mention of pups having a stem in my internet searching. Do you have any idea why a pup has a stem? It is very curious and cool.

ANSWER:

There are ten members of the Agave genus with the common name "Century Plant" native to North America, but only three, Agave americana (American century plant), Agave deserti (Desert agave) and Agave shawii (Coastal agave), are native to California. This probably doesn't matter to you, but it is one way we have to attempt narrowing down what plant we are talking about. In this case, it still doesn't matter, because none of them are native to San Luis Obispo County, CA. All three are native to Riverside County and/or San Diego County, down in the desert southwest of California, which is where we would expect a desert plant to grow. If we may be excused for being facetious, that little plant may be so surprised at growing in a lush seaside area like San Luis Obisbo county that it is throwing up a bloom stalk just to show it can.

From our webpage on Agave deserti (Desert agave), please read this paragraph:

"The Century Plant is a member of the agave family (family Agavaceae). Agaves are stout plants with woody stems or stem-bases, often tall, even tree-like, the long and narrow leaves crowded in rosettes at ends of stems or branches, a stout rapidly growing flower stalk arising from the rosette. Century Plants do not take a century to flower, but it may take them several decades to store enough food reserves to supply the rapidly growing stalk and mature the seeds. Then the rosette, often representing the entire plant, dies."

We (strictly guessing here) are thinking that if the baby plant is a true offshoot of the "mama," the growth hormones in the mama may have influenced the stalk in the baby. However, the baby has not had the many years of maturity needed to make a bloom and the stalk on it will likely wilt and drop off. And, if it is that closely linked to the mama, it will probably die when the mama does, after producing her bloom.

 

From the Image Gallery


American century plant
Agave americana

Coastal agave
Agave shawii

More Propagation Questions

Bulbils on Turks cap lily
July 21, 2005 - My Turks cap lily has dark pea size growths at the bass of each leaf. Are these the seeds? How and when do I harvest seeds from this plant?
view the full question and answer

Source of dollarweed for shady lawn in Hillsboro TX
December 19, 2011 - I live in Hillsboro,Tx - Where can I get Dollar Weed for my shady lawn?
view the full question and answer

Bermuda, not the only option in Memphis
November 04, 2014 - I'm building an energy efficient home in Memphis and want to extend that strategy to the landscaping. I'd like to plant native grasses, but this lot is surrounded by lots sodded with Bermuda grass....
view the full question and answer

Propagating redbud (Cercis canadensis) seeds
October 24, 2007 - Our Red Bud tree is full of bean shaped seed pods. Can those be planted and if so how? I enjoy puttering in the yard.
view the full question and answer

Transplanting bluebonnets in late Fall from Georgetown TX
November 08, 2013 - Transplanting bluebonnets in October? Neighbor wants to share abundance of rosettes and good size plants- any suggestions or warnings? Will freeze/frost protection be needed if we get December freeze...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center