Pruning Desert Plants

Pineapples Don't Grow in the Desert 

Pineapples Don't Grow in the Desert | Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden

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Never prune or shear desert-adapted plants into unnatural shapes.
From a plant-care perspective this practice is destructive because:  
  • Cutting live tissue allows easy entry for bacteria and fungi.
  • Removing leaves reduces the ability to photosynthesize and slows growth.
  • It takes years for these plants to return to their natural shape as they do not replace leaves rapidly.

In Your Landscape
  • Site these plants with enough space to grow to maturity without creating sharp hazards.
  • When leaves brown and dry at the base, simply pull them off.
  • Most agaves produce numerous offspring, called "pups" or "bulbils," which are easy to transplant.

Agave pups grow from runners sent out at the base of the parent. These youngsters poke through the soil up to several feet away, eventually growing and multiplying to form a large family. Use a sharp knife or pruning shears to cut through the runner, which might be fairly thick and fleshy. Place the pup on newspaper in shade for several days, allowing the cut to dry and callous before transplanting.

Some agave flower stalks are covered with hundreds of bulbils, which are miniature clones of the parent plant. In nature, bulbils fall to the ground and may take root. Remove bulbils from the stalk as soon as they pull easily without resistance. The bottom of each bulbil must be intact for roots to develop. Transplant a single bulbil to a small pot or dozens of bulbils to a planting flat filled with cactus soil mix.  

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