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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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Friday - May 07, 2010

From: Yuma, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation
Title: Should a bloom stalk be cut down in Yuma AZ?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a plant in my front yard that looks like an aloe vera. It doesn't have any thorns or needles but does have a tall stalk like stem coming from the middle of it. The "stalk" is now approx. 5' tall and growing. My neighbors have told me that I need to cut it off or it will die but I have no idea what kind of plant it is or how to care for it. Please help.

ANSWER:

Sounds like you have either a yucca or an agave, and that is a  bloom stalk emerging. Either way, don't cut it off, you'll miss a show. If your neighbors think it will die if you don't cut it off, and it's an agave, they are half right. An agave, also known as "century plants," can take up to 60 years to gather enough energy to bloom. The bloom is spectacular, and then the agave dies, because of all the energy it has used to reproduce itself. If you cut the  bloom stalk off before it blooms, you will miss the  blooms and the agave will die anyway. If it's a yucca, leave it until it has bloomed, cut off the dead stalk because it's unsightly, and it will probably bloom next year, and every year for some time. An exception to this is the Hesperoyucca whipplei (chaparral yucca), which does die after blooming.

Yuccas that bloom but do not die native to Arizona:

Yucca angustissima (narrowleaf yucca)

Yucca baccata (banana yucca)

Yucca baileyi var. navajoa (Navajo yucca)

Yucca elata (soaptree yucca)

Yucca schidigera (Mojave yucca)

Agaves that bloom once and die native to Arizona:

Agave americana (American century plant)

Agave parryi (Parry's agave)

Agave parryi ssp. parryi (Parry's agave)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Hesperoyucca whipplei

Yucca angustissima

Yucca baccata

Yucca baileyi var. navajoa

Yucca elata

Yucca schidigera

Agave americana

Agave parryi

Agave parryi

Agave parryi ssp. parryi

Agave parryi ssp. parryi

 

 

 

 

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