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Agave americana (Century Plant)

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Scientific Name

Agave americana L.

Common Names

American Agave, American Aloe, American Century Plant, Century Plant, Maguey, Mexican Soap Plant

Synonyms

Agave americana subsp. americana, Agave rasconensis, Agave spectabilis, Agave variegata, Aloe americana

Scientific Classification

Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Agavoideae
Genus: Agave

Origin

Native to Mexico and the southern United States.

Description

Agave americana is a popular succulent that forms large, attractive rosettes of grey-green to blue-green leaves. Each rosette grows up to 6 feet (1.8 m) tall and up to 10 feet (3 m) in diameter. Leaves are up to 5 feet (1.5 m) long and have a waxy bloom, pointed tip, and sharp marginal spines. Despite its common name, "Century Plant," it typically lives between 10 and 30 years. Near the end of its life, the rosette sends up a stout flowering stalk, branched near the top and up to 30 feet (9 m) tall. Flowers are yellow or greenish-yellow, up to 4 inches (10 cm) long, and occur in panicles at the branch ends. The rosette dies after flowering, but produces offsets around the base, often forming a colony of new plants. The fruits are oblong capsules with a pointed tip, up to 3.2 inches (8 cm) long, and turn from green to brown as they mature.

The specific epithet "americana," means "of America" and refers to the place where the plant was first discovered.

How to Grow and Care for Agave americana

Light: These plants require full sun to part shade. If you are growing Agaves indoors, choose a bright, sunny window with as much sun possible. Agave plants love going outside from spring to fall.

Soil: Agaves will tolerate most soils as long as they have good drainage, but their preference is sandy or rocky soil.

Hardiness: Agave americana can withstand temperatures as low as 10 to 50 °F (-12.2 to 10 °C), USDA hardiness zones 8a to 11b.

Watering: Mature plants are very drought tolerant. From spring to fall, water thoroughly your Agave when the soil mix becomes dry. In winter, water sparingly about once a month. Plants in containers require more frequent watering than those in the ground.

Fertilizing: Give your Agaves a small amount of fertilizer in the spring during the first two years.

Repotting: When the pot becomes full of roots, it has become pot-bound. If you notice you Agave becoming pot-bound, repot it with new soil in a new pot that is just slightly larger than the old one.

Propagation: Since it can take years to produce seeds, Agaves are usually propagated by offsets.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Agave.

Toxicity of Agave americana

Agave americana is not toxic to humans, but it may be mildly poisonous to children and pets.

Uses of Agave americana

The juice of the plant has antiseptic, wound-healing, and anti-inflammatory properties. It has long been used in Central America to treat burns, bruises, minor cuts, injuries, and skin irritation caused by insect bites. The flower stalks and the base leaves can be roasted and consumed. Agave americana is also a source of food. The flower stalks and the leaves can be cooked and consumed. A sweet juice tapped from the flower stalks can be drunk or used to make an alcoholic beverage such as pulque.

Learn more at Century Plant: Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects.

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