The Century plant, scientific name Agave Americana, originated from Mexico and now grows in many parts of the world. Its name is very misleading as the plant doesn’t really take a century to bloom. When growing in a greenhouse it usually blooms every fifteen years or less. However, after a few years the plant can look as if its been growing for a century due to its immense size at maturity. It grows in a rosette design with long smooth green leaves and a cyme pointing straight up in the middle where yellow flowers will bloom eventually. Some varieties of the Agave are much smaller with variegated leaves. Whatever variety you choose is sure to be a hardy plant that can withstand most northern winter months.
The century plant has no stem just its long leaves and cyme. And after blooming it dies, a condition called monocarpic, leaving its offspring to takeover. Throughout the century plant’s life these tiny offshoots develop in the soil surrounding the parent plant. Its best to dig up these offshoots as soon as you see one and transplant them into their own pot so they’ll stay safe. Century plants grow best in sandy soil with full sunlight in late Spring. They can tolerate clay and loamy soils but will not need to be watered nearly as much due to these soil types water retention. If your growing the plant indoors make sure their near the south window as the most direct sunlight comes through there. These hardy plants can be grown outside as long as the temperature doesn’t drop below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. There is a period of a few weeks comprised of sped-up growth (usually in June) each passing year. Little by little you’ll watch your Agave grow to be quite large.
When the baby Century plants are first transplanted they should be watered frequently but you can eventually ween them off after about two weeks. And the young plants may not be as tolerate of cold so keep them inside until mature. When winter hits only water the mature plants about twice, anymore and root rot may occur. To help speed up the growth process, especially in the winter months when it may start to lag, apply an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion. In northern climates its best to plant the Agave in a container. And the container should be in a good location away from walkways because some day it will grow very large and the razor-sharp hooks along its leaves will snag on anyone walking by. The bottom of the container should have drainage holes with a mesh or rocks covering the holes so it doesn’t lose too much water.
The century plant isn’t susceptible to many problems, but leaf spots and scale insects can present a problem sometimes. Its best to take off any infected leaves. Agave Americana is a popular ornamental plant the world over that takes little maintenance. It had many uses in the history of the southwest such as rope material, clothes-making, matting, liquor-making, and the agave nectar is a natural sweetener. Agave nectar has picked up immense popularity throughout the natural food market. Whatever you use and grow your century plant for its sure to be an enjoyable experience.