It’s a giant succulent and not a cactus, the Agave americana plant is also known as the Century Plant because it was thought, that it took a 100 years to flower. In reality the Agave americana can take 10 to 30 years to flower.
When it flowers it sends up a huge flower stalk almost like a flagpole which can reach 5m (16ft) high with yellow flowers branching off, this process can take 30 weeks. Sadly once your Agave americana has flowered it will die. But don’t worry by this point the Century Plant would have dozens of offsets to carry on. Originally from Mexico and Southern USA Agave americana is also a source of agave nectar which is used by the food industry as a sweetener.
Agave americana with its odd shapes and bold textures makes for an excellent focal point or centre piece in any garden or indoors. One could say that they are living sculptures.
Agave americana also known as ‘century plant’ growing in Cornwall.
You can grow the Agave americana both outdoors or in containers indoors, it will tolerate temperatures as cold as -9°C or 15°F and colder and the plant will be damaged by the cold.
Well lets just say that if a Century Plant was able to , it would spend all it’s time sunbathing catching those rays. This plant originated from Mexico and Southern USA. Therefore they require a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight
An Agave in a container.
The Century plant is a succulent at the end of the day, just a very large one, and thus should be treated like any other succulent. They are extremely drought tolerant and over the winter months should only be given enough water to stop there leaves from shrivelling up. It’s important to note that excessive watering can lead to root rot and the death of your plant.
So how often should you water your plant ? They will need the occasional watering to aid with establishment. Otherwise they should be able to thrive on rainfall alone.
When in doubt, it’s always best to lean on the side of under watering your beloved plant. During the spring and summer, they require a bit more watering than in autumn and winter. In winter, you can usually get by with only watering your jade plant once a month. Just remember to always check the moisture of the soil before watering.
Another tell tell sign that your plant requires watering is that the leaves will wrinkle up and start to wither. Just like when your hands look prune like after sitting in a bath for ages.
Do not mist your plant, they don’t like being over watered and secondly they just don’t need misting and will be totally fine without it.
Due to fact that it’s a succulent you should use a well-draining soil which is porous as well. Normal soil tends to retain too much moisture. You can buy succulent soil from most garden centres or just make your own by mixing normal potting soil, sand and perlite together.
1 ½ bucket of soil
1 bucket of sand
½ bucket of perlite
This is the mixture I use to make my own succulent soil; it stops the soil from losing all the moisture whilst still allowing it to compact, keeping the roots in place.
Growing Agave americana in containers also allows you move them outside during spring and summer and back indoors over autumn and winter, you also have the benefit of restricting its growth, the Agave americana will still produce offsets when grown in a container, it’s overall size just won’t be as big.
When growing Agave americana outdoors you need to have well draining soil, if not the roots will become water logged and rot. If you have poor draining soil then you must find a way to improve drainage or you can plant them in a raised bed or mound.
Your Agave americana doesn’t need fertilising, however if you want to try and encourage faster growth then you can try fertilising every month during spring and summer, this is the plants growing season. In the winter months you don’t need to fertilise it as the plant goes dormant during this period.
When fertilising you should be using a well-balanced liquid fertiliser diluted with water.
Well if your going to try and get your Agave americana to flower, well let me just say “don’t bother” there is nothing that you can do to speed up the flowering process. They are known as the Century plant because people believed it took 100 years for it to flower. In reality it can take 10 – 30 years for the Agave americana to flower.
Agave americana flowering in the wild. Source Yes they really are that tall.
Close up of the Agave americana flower. Source
When you go to prune your Agave americana / Century plant just remember it’s form, that it has spiky tips, so you would want to try and keep this look. So when your going to cut a leaf which has browned try and do an upside down “V” cut. Or if you want you can cut the leaf all the way back to the centre.
When cutting this plant please wear eye protection, the sap from the leaves is like liquid fibre glass and can cause skin irritation.
Are you wondering how to propagate an Agave americana / Century plant ? Well there’s 2 ways:
Growing the Agave americana indoors and outdoors is usually pest free however saying that, it’s still susceptible to some pests:
Watch out for scale insects
Agave snout weevil this little beetle will go for all Agave plants. They will eat there way through to the centre of the plant and lay there eggs. Although none reported in the UK so far, they have now been found in Greece, Spain and Portugal after spreading from Mexico.