Sometimes mistaken for a colossal aloe (as I first did), Agave Americana is instead a gargantuan century plant. Everything from its leaves to its flowering spire to its sheer size are spectacular. I first stumbled upon two of these when I went on a vacation to Florida with a very good friend of mine, Brian. We were fortunate enough to have a nice pair of these less than a hundred meters away from the hotel near the coast. Meeting these, and the many other tropical plants I saw while there (including several Araucaria columnaris, a Blue Mediterranean Palm, tons of palm trees and cacti, among many other interesting flora) sparked my interest in botany much more and made me realize that there’s much more to this world than just what I see on a regular basis.
Agave Americana (American Agave, Century Plant, American Aloe)
Hardiness Zones: 8-10
Height: Leaves can grow 3-7 feet tall; the flowering spire can reach 30 feet tall.
Diameter: spreads 6-12 feet
Growth Rate: slow (very slow indoors), although the flowering spire grows extraordinarily quickly
Age: perennial, typically 10-25 years (once it flowers, it either dies or survives by sending up an offset)
Root System: shallow, fibrous, but vast and dense
Subspecies: var. ‘protoamericana’ Gentry (is much smaller (4 feet x 4 feet, zones 7-10)), ssp. ‘americana’, ssp. ‘expansa’ (Jacobi) Gentry, ‘americana’ var. ‘americana ‘, americana’ var. ‘picta’, ssp. ‘Medio-picta Alba’
Tolerates: drought and dry soil
Problems (major): root rot (too much moisture), agave weevil, slugs and snails harm foliage
Problems (minor): Small, black “teeth” curved near the base of the rosette can puncture skin; contact with the sap may cause dermatitis in some.
Poisonous: presumably no
Soil requirements: sandy, gritty, light soils, excellent drainage required (no pH preference)
Air Requirements: dry, low in humidity (both are preferred, not essentially necessary)
Watering requirement: dry or medium
Sun requirement: full sun
Primary photosynthetic organ: Leaves
Leaf/stem color: Leaves are gray-blue to blue-green, lacks petioles (leaf stems)
Leaf shape: lanceolate
Produces a rosette: yes
Asexual reproduction by: producing offshoots/suckers/”pups”
Monoecious or dioecious: monoecious
Monocot or dicot: monocot
Monocarpic (flowers once and then dies): yes
Flowering structure: an enormous stalk up to 30 feet tall, appears tree-like, has several branches with tons of greenish-yellow flowers
Flowering frequency: usually between 10-25 years if grown outdoors (almost never flowers indoors)
This century plant is one of the largest currently known, often growing too large to be a houseplant. The flowering stalks can grow up to three (ten foot each) stories tall in their native habitat of Central America.
Commonly used as an ornamental or specimen plant in proper hardiness zones. It can be grown indoors, but its large size can be problematic for space constraints.
- http://swbiodiversity.org/seinet/taxa/index.php?taxon=3055 (images)
- http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?where-taxon=Agave+americana (images)
The images posted here were taken by me in July of 2013. They may be used for educational and informational purposes only, as long as is this article or online journal is referenced.