Help with Century plant, also Yucca, citrus question - pictures

sonorabluJune 23, 2008


I am new to AZ, originally from the northwest. I'm unfamiliar with care of cactus, citrus etc. that we have now in the yard. I could use some advice.

This century plant has dying leaves along the bottom and lots of suckers around it, I tried to pull one little sucker out but it seemed to have a very long root. When we moved in some of the tips of the big leaves looked shriveled, like it was frost damaged. Now they are turning yellow. I'm unsure what to do and also about the suckers, do I let those grow to replace the dying leaves or are they stressing the plant too much? I had to cut off one leaf when we moved in because it was blocking the sprinkler head. I am watering this about every three days, just enough to wet it. Is that too much? It wasn't being watered at all I noticed so after the yellowing I watered it, it seems not to have made a difference one way or another.

Also, this yucca tree had two 10 foot flowering stalks on it by the time it stopped growing. I cut the stalks off as best I could after the blooms fell, but there's still a five inch or so stub left that I can't get to very well without damaging the plant or myself. Will it still bloom next year even though there's that little bit of stump left? Everyone likes the Yucca and passersby have taken photos of it in bloom. :)

One more question, when is it okay to prune a citrus? I have looked it up online but have conflicting advice. Mine are growing in the neighbors fence and yard and it's hard to get under them. Some branches need cutting back.

Thank you,


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Some basic answers that others can expound upon;
the century is in it's final stage of maturity and likely has bloomed and now is providing pups before it dies. The name implies that it blooms once in a century but in reality about avery 20-50 years depending on water, soil condition
the yucca probably will bloom again but may be anywhere from 1-? years
citrus , prune best in months with an "R" in the name. Small bits of pruning at other times can be done but save the bigger stuff for the least stressful times of the year.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 6:12PM
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petzold6596(8b southern NM)

I support everything solar gh stated. Save your water for something else like your trees. The pup roots can be cut off (the deeper the better) and transplanted. You needn't water them. Remember when locating the transplants, the plant will grow to a diameter of 10-12 feet. There are better choices than century plant. Google Pima County Coop. They have a lot great info.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 7:16PM
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kathleen10(z9b AZ)

Your century plant may not have bloomed. It could be the yellowing is caused by a pack rat tearing up the stems near the crown. From experience :) As for the pups, they do that. I have several, both the blue and the varigated, and none have ever bloomed yet they have put out a lot of pups over the past 15+ years. The pups can be cut out (more root=more chance to propagate) just be sure to harden them off for a week or so before potting them or putting them into damp soil. This just means, cut the root, put the pup in the shade and let it dry out so the cut end heals over with a scab more or less. That will help prevent infection in the cut which can come from planting a non-scabbed cut into damp soil. All succulents and cacti require hardening off.

On the yucca, no advice, no experience. My guess is that leaving the 5" stalk would not stop future blooms...

On the citrus, don't prune it up from the bottom. The sweetest fruit is on the lowest branches. My mom had both grapefruit and navels and the branches went to the ground. and discovered the best fruit always came from the lowest branches. In addition, the citrus grows bushy like that for good reason: to protect it's trunk and itself from the heat and sun. It casts shade on the trunk and also shades the entire surrounding ground bringing the temp down slightly. Anything is a help in the high heat we have here. The commercial trees are pruned up high so they can be more easily commercially harvested with drive through equipment, etc. The trunk will require you paint it white if it is anyway exposed to sun, not a pretty look either.
Make sure your flood basin under the citrus extends all the way out to the edges of the canopy.

All that is not to say you can't trim a small amount on your citrus, I just wouldn't try to make it into a "walk underneath, east coast/NW region lollipop" type of tree. It'll do better if you mostly let it be it's bushy self. Best to trim when it's cooler - fall or very early spring.

Welcome to AZ and good luck with you plants. You'll be astounded at how quickly things grow here.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2008 at 2:34AM
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Hi Sonorablu,

Your agave is the Agave americana, often called the Century Plant and a stunning example of a widely diverse group of succulents. They require deep, infrequent watering (so that the moisture soaks down at least two feet) once every three to four weeks in the summer and not at all in the winter. If you are using a spray head to water this plant, switch to a drip emitter so the water does't fall on the leaves. You may need to run your drip system for several hours to push the moisture down that far into the ground.
Although these plants normally live a long time, in southern Arizona they are very vulnerable to damage from the agave snout weevil. This beetle lays its eggs in the maturing plant, usually 1-2 years before it's due to bloom. The larvae munch on the tissues introducing a bacteria which causes collapse and rotting of the plant. Pups aren't usually affected.

Your yucca (it looks like Yucca elata or Soaptree Yucca) will live to bloom again. The flowers are pollinated by the yucca moth, who hides in the flower during the day, emerging at dusk to pollinate the flowers which bloom at night. The flowers are edible. The roots of this plant were used by native people to make a frothy soap. Be sure to leave the dry lower leaves on the stalk as they protect the plant from heat and cold.

Try and resist the urge to prune your citrus. They are really large shrubs and do best if the canopy is allowed to grow nearly to the ground. Citrus are extremely vulnerable to sunburn. If you must prune, do so carefully, always removing a branch where it intersects with another branch or stem. Do not use sealants on the pruning cut - allow the wound to remain open to the air. Don't prune in the fall as branches left on the tree will protect it from winter cold. The best time to prune is in March.

I've included a link to the U of A website in Maricopa County. They have a wealth of information that should work in La Paz County as well.

I hope this helps.

Certified Arborist
Master Gardener

Here is a link that might be useful: U of A Publications on citrus and more

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 12:25PM
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Thank you so much everyone for your advice! The citrus link is very helpful as well. I might actually become a gardener yet. It really is amazing the plants and trees grow out here and thrive so well, when it's above 110 for weeks. Some of the neighbors stood out and watched the yucca stalks get cut, it was like chopping down the town icon. It'd better bloom again. :P

The plants are pretty hardy, except the lemon tree leaves turned yellow. I was sick recently and didn't realize it dried out in the recent heat wave. Hopefully it'll bounce back. The flood base for the trees are too small as well, since the bushes are wide. The only pruning I'll do is just the citrus branches growing into the neighbors fence, sometime this autumn. They probably don't mind though. The birds like to get in the trees and sprinklers. We have rabbits, but they don't seem to cause damage to the citrus or cactus, oddly enough. I was warned about wild goats that cruise the neighborhood eating the cactus sometimes.

I haven't tackled the century plant yet, it does have new leaves in the middle. It could be it wasn't watered deep enough. Hopefully it's forgiving.

Thanks again :)


    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 6:51AM
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My agave is frost bitten. Do I prune the brown off or do
I cut the whole plant back?

Thank-you Kay

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 10:15AM
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jolmos(9/Sunset 13/AZ)

You can prune off the brown...if you don't like the looks of it. But, I'd not prune anymore than you have to. Some companies prune their agaves and it tends to shorten their lifespans. Personally, I like the "natural" look of it.
Happy Gardening

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 6:25PM
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My condo said plant is dangerous and can poke someone's eye out, can the big tips be cut off without the plant dying?

    Bookmark   January 5, 2012 at 5:39PM
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