Sunday, June 3, 2018

Century Plant - Formidable Native of the Americas

Agave americana

American Century Plant is one of those that catches the eyes of passers-by, especially when in bloom. After what seems like a life-time, it shoots up one massive flower spike up to 30' high. As buds unfold, the century plant attracts attention, sometimes even of local news reporters. Eventually the flower dies, as does the mother plant. In the meantime, though, it has produced dozens of basal shoots that can be separated and planted elsewhere.

American Century Plant is believed by many to only bloom once per hundred years, thus the name. But that simply isn't the case. The span may only be ten or twenty years.

Not only does the century plant catch the eye, it also can catch your britches or flesh. Nasty teeth line the leaf margins. This feature is what makes it so useful as a privacy barrier, providing real "homeland security."

People have used it for other purposes such as drink and fiber. I haven't tried any of them. I like it best as a bold specimen plant. For those whose water use is restricted by choice or necessity, the American Century Plant is an excellent addition to the garden.

Name(s): American Century Plant, American Aloe, Maguey, Agave americana, Agave altissima, A. communis, A. complicata, A cordillerensis, A. felina.

Flower Color: Yellow

Bloom Time: Whenever it gets around to it.

Foliage: Blue-gray/green

Height/Spread: 4' to 6'; 25' to 30' in bloom.

Climate Zones: 8, 9, 10, 11

Sun Exposure: Full sun.

Soil Condition: Average to dry, pH 6.1 - 7.8

Features: Bold, spiny, fire-retardant foliage. Tall, impressive flower stalks. Blooms once during its life-span, but produces multiple adventitious sprouts at the base to propagate. Drought-tolerant.

Uses: Landscape specimens. Xeriscaping. Formidable borders. Leaves used for fiber, and juice distilled for alcoholic beverage by native peoples.

Have you seen one of these in bloom? Where? Do you have one of these in your yard? If so, why did you plant it?  Let me know in the comment section. If you have any other thoughts on the subject, share those, too.

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