Growing Agave Americana

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agave americana

If you are looking for a guide to Agave Americana, you have landed on the right page.

Agave Americana is a large, hardy, evergreen succulent that thrives in desert landscapes and tends to make a stunning houseplant.

Known for its fleshy leaves with spiny tips, agave Americana tends to be slow-growers in the Agavaceae family.

Moreover, agave plants are native to the desert areas of South America, Central America, Mexico, and some parts of the Southwest United States.

It is important to note that there are a number of agave plants within the genus, the largest of which can exceed 10 feet in height.

These plants range in color from blue-gray to blue-green and their bell-shaped flowers can either be white or yellow.

The plants can take a number of years to mature and often perish after the flowers produce berry seed pods.

Keep on reading to learn more.

Agave Americana

A larger-than-life succulent, the century plant tends to be a visually stunning agave species.

This plant can grow u to 10 feet wide and 6 feet tall with flashy, arching leaves in grey-green or variegated color.

In order o protect themselves, the leaves are tipped with sharp spines that tend to ward off intruding pets or people.

The sap of this plant is considered mildly toxic.

desert plant

Moreover, this plant is also known as the American Aloe, the name of the plant is a misnomer.

It was once believed that it took about 100 years of this plant to bloom, however, today, it is known to bloom after two or three decades of storing up energy to send up a single stalk, topped with an inflorescence of small yellow blossoms.

In a monocarpic species, the flower display of the final act of the plant before it dies.

Quick Facts about the Agave Americana

Some quick facts about the agave Americana are:

Common Name Century plant, American aloe, maguey
Botanical Name Agave americana
Family Asparagaceae
Plant Type Succulent
Mature Size Three to six feet tall, six to ten feet wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Sandy, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral, alkaline
Bloom Time Summer (rarely blooms)
Flower Color Yellow
Hardiness Zones 8-11, USDA
Native Area Texas and Mexico
Toxicity Toxic to people, toxic to pets

Century Plant Care

Hands-off care and patience are needed in order to grow agave Americana or century plants.

These large agaves must have well-draining soil and will benefit from intermittent watering, depending on climate conditions.

agave americana 1

As you wait for a decade, and likely more for the flower stalk to emerge, you can expect your plant to produce enough offshoots, which you can leave to grow as part of a large colony or transplant them to new locations.

Make sure to be vigilant towards the appearance of agave snot weevils, which can cause damage to your plant beyond recovery.

Light and Soil Requirements

Just like other agave species, century plants tend to thrive best will the full sun, so make sure to plant them in a location that receives about 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day.

However, it is also possible to grow these plants in light shade if your site does not meet the requirements for full sun.

Moreover, these plants will do best in dry, sandy soil.

They can tolerate a range of other soil types, including clay soil, however, well-draining soil is an absolute need for this plant.

These plants in overly moist soil can develop root rot.

Water, Temperature, and other requirements

The long and fleshy leaves of the century plant are designed to store water during times of drought, so make sure to not hover around these plants with a watering can.

However, these plants will appreciate regular watering during the spring and summer growing seasons.

Make sure to water deeply but then allow the soil to dry thoroughly in between watering sessions, as this may be an interval of a week to a month, depending on climate conditions.

The agave Americana plant is native to Mexico and Texas, which provides an insight into the preferred temperature and humidity conditions of the plant.

Moreover, warm temperatures and low humidity levels will make for ideal climate conditions.

Make sure to take note that this plant is hardy to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit, however, is likely to suffer damage from frost.

It is often not important to fertilize agave Americana.

They will do fine in sandy, nutrient-sparse soil.

Also, like other agave species, these plants tend to die after blooming so feeding with a fertilizer and accelerating the process only serves to shorten the lifecycle of the plant.

Types of Agave Americana

Some types of century plants are:

‘Marginata’: This one is also known as a variegated century plant.

This plant tends to have cream-to-yellow margins along each side of the leaves, thus, providing visual interest.

‘Mediopicaa alba’: This one is a slightly smaller cultivar variety, and features grey-green leaf margins with a single central stripe of creamy white.

agave americana 2

Moreover, it often matures to a height of 3 to 4 feet with a 4 to 6-foot spread.

‘Mediopicata aurea’: Just like other mediopicta varieties of Agave Americana, this cultivar tends to mature to a smaller size at 6 feet tall and wide.

It features variegated leaves with a bright yellow central stripe and is often considered to fare better in light shade than some other agave varieties.

Propagating Tips

Like other agave varieties, these plants are easily propagated from offsets.

Also known as pups, you can easily separate these clones of the parent plant and plant them independently.

Moreover, you will not need many tools as you can pull away the pups from the parent plant by hand in most cases.

However, a small trowel can be useful and gloves will help to protect your hands from the spines of the parent plant.

You will need to have a container or garden site ready with well-draining soil.

Follow the steps to propagate this plant:

  • after protecting your hands and arms, you will need to locate a pup at the base of the parent plant
  • in some cases, there can be a few pups growing close together, and make sure to use a trowel to gently loosen and separate the pups
  • then grasp the pup at the base and wiggle it loose from the parent plant and soil
  • if needed, use a trowel to separate the plant from the soil and roots that are attached to the parent plant
  • make sure to leave a portion of the stem that connects to the offset to the parent, along with the root bundle of the pup
  • a bare base on the pup can be a challenging start to generating a root growth
  • you can plant the pups directly in the ground or in a container, in both instances, make sure to use a well-draining soil

Growing from Seeds

Growing a century plant from a seed is fairly uncommon as the plant only flowers once in its lifetime.

It happens only after a number of decades of growth.

The much more common way to propagate a century plant is from offshoots.

It will regularly produce throughout its lifetime.

Potting, Repotting, and Overwintering Tips

You can grow century plants in pots, however, keep in mind that these plants tend to mature to a very large size.

Some gardeners tend to choose to keep them in pots until the size of the plant and its spiky leaves makes it more practical to plant them in a permanent location in the ground.

In case you choose to plant Agave Americana in a container, make sure to choose a large pot and soil that offers excellent drainage.

A combination of soil materials like an even mixture of compost, potting soil, gravel, or sand is a good blend.

Moreover, you can also use a pre-mixed blend of succulent potting soil.

Fortunately, these plants are slow-growing, and you will likely need to repot them every other year or so.

growing in pots

When it is time to replant them, make sure to wear protective gear like gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and pants to protect your skin from its sharp spines.

Make sure to replace the potting soil with a fresh mixture and choose a larger pot that tends to allow for the continued growth of this plant.

It is important to note that the Century plant is not frost tolerant, so you will need to bring it indoors to survive winter outside of its growing zones.

In case you have a cold, but relatively dry winter, you can also overwinter a mature agave plant by providing it with a measure of protection from the elements.

Furthermore, plant it in a location that tends to be well-draining and sheltered from northern exposures.

Another option is to place the plant next to a large rock, which will radiate heat after the sun goes down.

In case the overnight temperature reaches the lower limit of the tolerance of this plant, cover it with a cotton sheet for additional protection.

Getting your Plant to Bloom

The most challenging part of getting the Agave Americana to plant is waiting for it to happen.

In most cases, it tends to take about 20 to 30 years before the plant sends up a single branches stalk with blossoms, reaching 20 feet or more in height.

Moreover, fertilized or rapidly maturing plants may blossom in as little as ten years, but this is the exception rather than a rule.

These plants only bloom once in their lifecycle, after which the plant tends to die.

After this plant blooms, the leaves tend to collapse and the parent plant will die.

However, as these plants are prolific producers of pups, a colony of offshoots will continue to thrive in the location.

Common Problems with Agave Americana

The Agave Americana is a healthy, vigorous plant that tends to grow well when you provide the plant with the right growing conditions.

However, this plant can face certain challenges in overly-moist conditions and gardeners must be vigilant in warding off the primary nemesis of the plant: the agave snout weevil.

Wilting or discolored leaves: In case the leaves of your plant become squishy, wilted, or discolored, this is most likely to be an indicator of the most common problem to affect century plants: root rot.

It is caused by overly-moist soil conditions due to excess rainfall or watering.

If the plant is manageable in size to dig out of the ground, you can examine the root and cut away the black, slimy parts.

Make sure to treat the remaining roots with a copper fungicide.

Then replant it in a drier location or amend the soil to improve drainage, perhaps with pumice, gravel, or sand.

Weak or Foul-smelling plant: In most cases, the large-growing agave Americana is steady and will not easily budge from side to side.

However, in case you notice the plant is tilting or leaning or if a foul smell is coming from the plant, these are indications of an agave snout weevil infestation.

Moreover, these species of weevil will feast on large agave species, like the century plant.

They tend to weaken the plant by burrowing into the leaves to lay eggs.

Once they hatch, the larvae tend to feed on the plant tissue.

Compounding the problem, bacteria will enter the plant through the holes that are left by the weevil and the plant will begin to decay, resulting in a foul smell.

Once the visible signs of an agave snout weevil infestation are there, it is often too late to save the plant.

The best option is to protect the plant from these and other plants through a regular application of neem oil or other insecticide.

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