In its dying years, a beautiful century plant is putting on a show; it is blooming for the first and last time in 27 years. Just before it dies, the succulent sends forth a tall stalk of flowers.
Agave ocahui, which blooms just once every 100 years, is known as the century plant in the Arid Greenhouse at the Chicago Botanic Garden. It blooms just once after 25 to 30 years of growth, according to a more precise estimate. The century plant was donated to the Garden in 1993 by The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino.
Agave ocahui, a plant native to the Sonoran Desert, can reach heights of 8 to 15 feet, although we anticipate that ours will only reach the lower end of this range. Bats and birds that consume the plant’s nectar in the wild fertilize it.
In order to direct water to the plant’s base, the leaves near the bottom of the stalk form a rosette, and their waxy coating enhances water storage. The leaves droop as a result of the effort needed to push up the flower spike.
At the base of the plant, the dead plant leaves offsets or “pups” that start a new life cycle. Due to the plant cover, the pups may not be visible right now. The century plant can be multiplied by removing the well-rooted pups from the base and transplanting them, by plantlets that form on the flower spike, or by germination of the generated seeds.
What is the name of a century plant?
any of the several Agave species in the family of asparagus, or century plant (Asparagaceae). A. americana, which is grown as an ornamental in many locations and a source of the fiber magey and “agave nectar used as a sweetener,” is usually referred to by this name. The majority of century plants, despite their common name, do not live more than 30 years; each rosette of leaves normally disappears after flowering, however clonal pups at the base may endure.
What is the true lifespan of a century plant?
The towering Agave americanacentury plant transforms any landscape into a showpiece.
The central stem of this plant matures to a height of 20 feet, with blue-green or gray-green rosette leaves that can reach up to 6 feet long and 10 inches wide. The leaves feature needle-like spines on the tip and sharp, serrated edges.
Although it was formerly thought that century plants might live for 100 years, hence the term “century,” they actually only have a 30-year lifespan on average.
The century plant is monocarpic, meaning it only produces one flower in its lifetime, which is followed by its quick demise.
When the plant reaches maturity, it harnesses the energy it has accumulated over the years to create beautiful yellow flowers that are perched on the main stem.
You can propagate offsets—also known as pups for a more common name—to continue the agave plant’s history.
Although its popular name is century plant, the native to Mexico agave americana is also known as the maguey plant, Mexican soap plant, or American aloe.
The century plant is well-liked by garden enthusiasts since it is drought-resistant, low-maintenance, and highly attractive. Many gardeners still have trouble growing this succulent, though.
Continue reading to discover how to properly develop and care for your Agave americana century plant.
What distinguishes a century plant from an agave?
Agave plants are succulents, which means that their thick, fleshy leaves retain water. A long spine at the tip of each leaf and (often) rows of equally sharp spines around its borders protect the leaves as they radiate forth from a short central stalk. Although little over 20 species, out of a total of over 200, are present in the south and southwest of the United States, plants prefer desert habitats, particularly in Mexico. Because they only flower once as they age, agaves are frequently referred to as century plants. The flowers of some agave species are carried along the upper part of a tall stalk that can grow up to 30 feet tall.
How much time does a century plant need to bloom?
The common name of the plant is a little misleading because, contrary to what many people believe, it matures considerably more quickly. Typically, it takes century plants 8 to 30 years to flower.
A central stem on the mature plant can reach a height of 20 feet. This branching flower spire blooms with pale yellow or white blossoms in the summer. The spineless century plant (Agave attenuata), however, blooms several times a year and survives after most century plants do not.
The century plant is particularly remarkable, with huge succulent leaves that are strongly textured and have a greenish-blue tint. The leaves can grow up to 6 feet long and 10 inches wide, making them incredibly big. Up to 12 feet, the mature plant’s spread makes for a stunning appearance in any setting.
These plants must be placed far from where people may brush up against them due to the sharp spines that are located at the end of each serrated leaf. Planting the century plant at least 6 feet away from where humans and animals are strolling or playing is recommended.
The stunning twisted green leaves of the variegated century plant (A. americana ‘Marginata’) have vivid yellow marginal stripes. The striped leaves resemble ribbons that have been folded and coiled over one another. The leaves of the century plant can reach a maximum length of 6 feet and 10 inches and a maximum width of 10 inches.
Even while century plant can give a striking element to your landscape, every yard may not be a good fit for its size at maturity and its angular leaf. Check out the spineless century plant if you want similar aesthetics but with a scaled-down and less-pointy design (A. attenuata).
The spineless century plant, which grows to be between 2 and 3 feet tall and 3 to 6 feet across, is ideal for smaller settings because it doesn’t get as big. Individual evergreen leaves are between 1.5 and 3 feet long and have a pale blueish green color. It is a less dangerous option for yards where children and/or pets are present because these leaves don’t have the same sharp edge as those of A. americana. Around ten years after planting, pale yellow to white flowers begin to bloom seasonally throughout the year.
Why is the century plant also known as the Parry’s Agave?
There is only one bloom on agave parryi plants over their lifetime. Because of this “once in a century” bloom event, the plant is also known as a “century plant.” Actually, a plant’s lifespan is 20 to 25 years on average.
Is an aloe plant a century plant?
Aloe plants can be cultivated in either full or partial sunlight, though in Mediterranean climes, protection from the sweltering afternoon sun is preferred. They demand swiftly draining soil. Drought, salty soil, and saltwater sprays don’t harm aloe plants. Century plants need full sun exposure and fast-draining, nutrient-poor soil. They can tolerate saline soil, dryness, and saltwater sprays.
A century plant: yucca or not?
Aguave and yucca plants bloom every June, and as a result, phone and email messages flood in as these succulents bloom all over the country.
A lot of people are unsure of which is which and what is in bloom when it comes to agave and yucca. Both of these are clumping desert plants that occasionally blossom, which frequently surprises the plant owner, especially if they have owned their plants for a very long time.
One type has blooms so infrequently that it is known as the century plant, despite the fact that this is a misnomer considering its usual lifespan is 25 years. By the way, it’s an agave, not a yucca.
Agaves are large, succulent plants with broad leaves that frequently have teeth on the margins and nearly always have a spiky tip.
Agaves typically spew “pupsrunners” at the base of the mother plant as they grow in clusters.
Agaves can bloom at any age between 4 and 40 years old, depending on the species (there are about 250 of them). Typically, blooming happens between 10 and 20 years. Each plant typically only flowers once before dying back to the ground, but the pups soon fill the spaces.
The agave plant is more beneficial to humans than the other one. Sisal fiber comes from the agave sisalana plant. Mescal and tequila are made from blue agave, or tequilana. Agave fructose is a low-glycemic option for other sweeteners that has recently been found by the health food sector, making it an excellent choice for diabetics.
Agave is typically found higher up in the slopes of the desert as opposed to on the desert floor. There are several outliers, but most are indigenous to Mexico.
The yuccas, in contrast, have needle-like, thinner, straighter leaves that occasionally have trunks or branches. Think of the Spanish bayonet and the Joshua tree.
Yucca leaves typically resemble a tough blade of grass because they are slender and leathery. For the gardener’s safety, some include prickly tips that may be readily removed using little scissors.
Although certain species can be found as far north as Canada and others as far south as Mexico, yuccas are primarily found in the Southwest.
Many yuccas have many blooms. Our neighborhood yucca whipplei is one exception. It behaves like an agave and only flowers once before dying back to let sunlight and rain to penetrate the dead leaves and germinate the seeds.
Native Americans made baskets from stringy yucca leaves, and orioles still rely on the resilient filaments to build their cup-shaped nests today.
The symbiotic relationship that yuccas have with moths is perhaps what makes them so special. As a secondary effect of laying their eggs in the stigma of yucca flowers, moths pollinate the blossoms. One stigma will be dropped by the plant if there are too many eggs placed in it.
The yucca moth visits several yucca blooms in the spring by being careful to lay only a few eggs in each flower.
Is the century plant toxic?
When grown as a potted specimen or as part of the landscape, agave plants are stunning additions. Have you ever wondered if agave plants are harmful or toxic?
Agave americana, popularly known as the desert agave or century plant, is an ubiquitous landscaping plant despite being infamously toxic and poisonous.
The intimidating, enormous Agave americana naturally grows in the arid regions of Arizona and New Mexico.
It has been incredibly practical throughout history in addition to being a very beautiful desert plant.
When roasted, the heart of the agave americana provides a valuable food source.
The sap can be properly processed to make a variety of drinks, including tequila and pulque.
And if you feel so inclined, poison your arrows with the sap in its purest form.
After the century plant blooms, what should you do?
Your agave plant’s lifespan is determined by its species. Some plants have a lifespan of up to 80 years, while others only have an 8-year lifespan. By carefully caring for and maintaining your agave plant, you can also increase its lifespan.
The agave plant will probably live for a few more months once the flower stalk grows. The seeds will then be able to produce fresh clones of the original plant.
Some agave plants can grow as tall as 35 feet. The average height of an agave plant is between 6 and 10 feet.
Despite not taking a century to bloom, the Agave Americana is frequently referred to as the century plant. Before it begins to bloom, it could take anywhere between 40 and 50 years.
Will the century plant last the winter?
These succulents are fairly hardy and can resist harsh weather, including high winds, heat, and drought. Although agave can withstand cold temperatures, they do not fare well in subfreezing conditions.
Blue agave is a century plant, right?
My half-acre garden’s largest succulent ever was an Agave americana that we called “Large Blue. It appeared capable of eating visitors who took selfies with it because of its six-foot leaves, which were laced with razor teeth. Agave americana is frequently known as “Big Blue’s lifespan was only 20 years, despite the fact that it appears to take an eternity for it to flower and die.
I didn’t always get along with Big Blue. It occasionally snagged my skin and drew blood, and it was armed and dangerous. Usually, I was to blame for this. I like getting close to it to snap pictures of the bud impressions and scalloped lines left by the pressed-together leaves before they spread out.
Additionally, it attempted to monopolize the garden by growing pups (clones) from its roots. These suddenly appeared in all directions, even uphill. My neighbors’ decision to put it out in the trash in the first place was presumably because to century plants’ propensity to spread like strays dogs. However, when I saw the 2-foot pup, I knew it would look excellent in a pot because of the way the terra-cotta orange of its leaves contrasted with it.
That was seven years ago, and I still had a lot to learn about agaves before my first book about succulents was published. The pup had been severed at ground level, so I didn’t believe it would survive. However, after a few months, it grew and flourished. I left it in the pot where it stayed little and planted it in the garden a few years later.
As other ornamentals came and went, Big Blue became bigger and bigger. In 2007, a Bailey’s acacia that was planted close by grew to be a 20-foot tree. I used to marvel at how the agave’s gutted leaves directed water to the roots every spring as I washed away acacia blooms that had fallen to the plant’s center.
Although it doesn’t require it, agave americana enjoys watering, so early on I capped neighboring risers. Peevishly, Big Blue damaged a pipe that could not be fixed since it was hidden beneath thorny leaves. (I should have anticipated that.) I cut off the line and then spent countless summer afternoons watering with a hose.
Friend who is a landscape architect said, “Debra, you are aware that the route will eventually be overgrown with Americana. It was only five feet away, so that seemed implausible. I answered, “I’ll merely move the pathway after that. And I did so six years later.
When digging up puppies, we wore safety glasses. I gave everyone who would take my tiny century plants. However, because they arrived with warnings, the majority remained in 1-gallon nursery pots without adoption. During the winter rains, the leaves first shrank and then grew. Some of the naughty little ones poked their roots through the perforations in their pots.
I produced a YouTube video with Big Blue: “You MUST know these things about Century Plants. There I explain “the pupping issue and the oversight of not estimating the size of an agave before planting it.
Big Blue finally reached the sugar content required for flowering in February 2018, which was a major accomplishment that resulted in an abundance of flowers followed by seed pods. Pollinators buzzed around the 30-foot bloom spike of the agave that summer.
Big Blue’s sailboat-mast spike was tilting at a 45-degree angle toward the street, so keeping what was left of it wasn’t an option. That October, I recorded the removal of the agave.
A few years ago, when I was aware that Big Blue would eventually die, I made the decision to maintain a favorable offset. Its current size is only about one-fourth of what it will eventually be. Although Big Blue Two has started puking, I am still happy to have it even if I don’t get romantic over succulents (sigh).
Spring 2019: All that’s left of Big Blue is a stump. Left is its clonal equivalent.