American Agave


Agave americana (Century Plant)

Agave americana (Century Plant) is a popular succulent that forms large, attractive rosettes of grey-green to blue-green leaves. Each…


  • 1 Description
  • 2 Taxonomy and naming
  • 3 Cultivation
    • 3.1 Subspecies and varieties
  • 4 Uses
    • 4.1 Culinary
    • 4.2 Heraldry
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 Further reading
  • 8 External links

Although it is called the century plant, it typically lives only 10 to 30 years. It has a spread around 1.8–3.0 m (6–10 ft) with gray-green leaves of 0.9–1.5 m (3–5 ft) long, each with a prickly margin and a heavy spike at the tip that can pierce deeply. Near the end of its life, the plant sends up a tall, branched stalk, laden with yellow blossoms, that may reach a total height up to 8–9 m (25–30 ft) tall. [ citation needed ]

Its common name derives from its semelparous nature of flowering only once at the end of its long life. The plant dies after flowering, but produces suckers or adventitious shoots from the base, which continue its growth. [8]

A. americana was one of the many species described by Carl Linnaeus in the 1753 edition of Species Plantarum, with the binomial name that is still used today. [2]

A. americana is cultivated as an ornamental plant for the large dramatic form of mature plants—for modernist, drought tolerant, and desert-style cactus gardens—among many planted settings. It is often used in hot climates and where drought conditions occur. [9] The plants can be evocative of 18th-19th-century Spanish colonial and Mexican provincial areas in the Southwestern United States, California, and xeric Mexico. It is also a popular landscape plant in dry beach gardens in Florida and coastal areas of the Southeastern United States. [ citation needed ]

Subspecies and varieties Edit

Two subspecies and two varieties of Agave americana are recognized by the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families: [10]

  • A. americana subsp. americana
  • A. americana subsp. protamericanaGentry
  • A. americana var. expansa(Jacobi) Gentry
  • A. americana var. oaxacensisGentry
  • A. americana var. marginataTrel. in L.H.Bailey, Stand. Cycl. Hort. 1: 235 (1914).
  • A. americana var. picta(Salm-Dyck) A.Terracc., Prim. Contr. Monogr. Agave (1885).

  • 'Marginata' agm [13] with yellow stripes along the margins of each leaf
  • 'Mediopicta'
  • agm [14] with a broad cream central stripe
  • 'Mediopicta Alba'
  • agm [15] with a central white band
  • 'Mediopicta Aurea' with a central yellow band
  • 'Striata' with multiple yellow to white stripes along the leaves
  • 'Variegata'
  • agm [16] with white edges on the leaves.

(those marked agm , as well as the parent species, [17] have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit).

Culinary Edit

If the flower stem is cut before flowering, a sweet liquid called aguamiel ("honey water") gathers in the hollowed heart of the plant. This can be fermented to produce the alcoholic drink called pulque. The leaves also yield fibers, known as pita, which are suitable for making rope, matting, or coarse cloth. They are also used for embroidery of leather in a technique known as piteado. Both pulque and maguey fiber were important to the economy of pre-Columbian Mexico, where the fermented drink was known as octli. [18]

In the tequila-producing regions of Mexico, agaves are called mezcales. The high-alcohol product of fermented agave distillation is called mezcal A. americana is one of several agaves used for distillation. A mezcal called tequila is produced from Agave tequilana, commonly called "blue agave". The many different types of mezcal include some which may be flavored with the very pungent mezcal worm. [19] Mezcal and tequila, although also produced from agave plants, are different from pulque in their technique for extracting the sugars from the heart of the plant, and in that they are distilled spirits. In mezcal and tequila production, the sugars are extracted from the piñas (or hearts) by heating them in ovens, rather than by collecting aguamiel from the plant's cut stalk. Thus, if one were to distill pulque, it would not be a form of mezcal, but rather a different drink. [20]

Agave nectar is marketed as a natural form of sugar with a low glycemic index that is due to its high fructose content. [21]

Heraldry Edit

The plant figures in the coat of arms of Don Diego de Mendoza, a Native American governor of the village of Ajacuba, Hidalgo. [22]

Agave, American Agave, American Century Plant, Maguey 'Marginata'

Family: Asparagaceae
Genus: Agave (a-GAH-vee) (Info)
Cultivar: Marginata
Additional cultivar information:(aka Agave americana ‘Variegata’)
Synonym:Agave americana var. marginata


Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant suitable for xeriscaping

Sun Exposure:


Foliage Color:




USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:


Plant has spines or sharp edges use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Allow cut surface to callous over before planting

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Casa de Oro-Mount Helix, California

Manhattan Beach, California

San Diego, California(2 reports)

Hawaiian Paradise Park, Hawaii

Orchidlands Estates, Hawaii

Kure Beach, North Carolina

Gardeners' Notes:

On Mar 31, 2018, DMichael from Fort Lauderdale, FL wrote:

Agave americana var ‘marginata’ is one of only a dozen or so Agave species that will grow well in Ft Lauderdale’s subtropical / tropical 10b climate.

On Jul 22, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

I love their formal, symmetrical structure. We grow them in pots and place them around the garden in the summer, lending an exotic touch. We overwinter them in an unheated garage, giving them just a little water once a month, just enough to slow their shriveling, though they can get by without.

When they get potbound, rather than repot them into a larger pot, I'll sometimes cut back the rootball in the spring and add soil. They can get by with a surprisingly small rootball.

They do make a lot of pups, which we remove and pot up separately in the spring. I understand that in the landscape where they're hardy, they can be aggressive spreaders.

On Jul 21, 2014, DaylilySLP from Dearborn Heights, MI (Zone 6a) wrote:

The Great American Agave Bloom 2014
Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

An 80-year-old American agave (Agave americana) is beginning the slow process of blooming for the first---and last---time in the conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. The agave flower stalk is now over 26 feet high and bristling with hundreds of flower buds. This agave follows its own rules but should bloom in late June-early July and continue for several weeks. After that, the parent plant will die but not before leaving behind some genetically identical "pups."

On Oct 7, 2013, DracoVolans from Crestline, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

I acquired my two as pups from a MUCH larger parent about three years ago. My gosh, that thing was huge! I'm 5' 3" and it stood over me by an easy two feet and it had to be at least eight feet across at the base with those long leaves. Anyway, my pups are doing well, haven't needed re-potting, yet (though I suspect they're due) and there is a pup from one of them already. I'm chuffed to find out that they're hardy for my area, so I'm leaving my pointy little friend outside close to the house. I've never seen the temps get down to 15 F here, but there's always a first time, so protecting it against the building is a precaution.

I water it maybe once a week or less, a little more in the hottest part of summer, since it's in an earthenware pot. Oh, and beware the little '. read more sweet ants' (the wee black ants that are everywhere)--they like to hang out in your soil. And scale--I had to remove some just the other day. Didn't seem to be hurting the plant, but you never know. A toothbrush soaked in diluted Safer's Soap did the trick.

On Mar 31, 2013, St8kout from Las Vegas, NV wrote:

Bought a house in Vegas July 2012 with this plant thriving in the middle of the front yard. All the limbs were vibrant and healthy.

Several months later some limbs started drooping with the ends shriveling up and turning black. Now more are folding over and dying off on the ends. Not sure what is happening but the plant seems to be on a downward death spiral. There is a watering system already in place by the previous owners and I have not changed a thing. All the other plants (yucca, cactus, olive tree, mesquite tree, rose bush) are doing great and growing like crazy.

I read it dies after flowering but I have not seen this yet. I don't have a clue as to how old it is but it's pretty big. Now I have about a dozen 'baby' versions popping up all around it thro. read more ugh the edges of the grass mat under the gravel.

On Jun 16, 2012, RPhillips from Shiloh, GA wrote:

When I type "Century Plant" into the computer, I invariably get a picture of an upright spiny plant which has a stem-12 or 15 feet tall with a bar across the top with stringy little yellow flowers.

Years ago, when my family and I went to Florida, we saw huge plants with big leaves which sometimes snaked out from the center and were mostly on the ground. Sometimes they had large pale pink blooms in various stages of blooming. They were called "century plants", but were nothing like these now called that name. Does anyone know what these old style century plants are called nowadays and where I can get some? I last saw one in south Georgia at a house in the mid 90s.

On Apr 12, 2012, gkok from Bonita Springs, FL wrote:

I planted one about 3 months ago in southwest Florida. It is in full sun and It is about 3 feet tall. It was doing well until a couple of days ago when I noticed some blotches in the center of a couple of leaves. Today it looks like the area where the blotches are, the blotches are turning yellow and drying out. Has anybody else seen this. Is it due to over watering?

On Jun 23, 2011, ogon from Paradise, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

About 15 years ago, my grandfather gave me a small Agave americana "Marginata" pup he saved from a friend who was taking out their overgrown agave bed. It's been in a pot and followed me everywhere I'ved lived since. I've repotted it once, and plant on repotting it one more time soon to a large whiskey barrel so it has room to spread.

They are very spiney and I've been poked pretty badly more than once. The best method that I have found for repotting very spiney and large cacti is to sacrifice the old pot. Make sure the necessary soil is in the bottom of the new pot to make the plant sit at the same height, and then lay the plant in the old pot on it's side, and hit the ceramic pot with a sledgehammer or similar instrument until it breaks. Then, wearing thick clothing, wrap. read more something as impermeable as possible around the plant (thick tarp, piece of thick plastic, or several towels if nothing else) and gently lift it into the new pot. Hopefully someone else can help you place dirt around the edges while you hold it in place. Not fun, but not something that needs to be done often :).

Though the flowers are beautiful, I don't look forward to the day it blooms because I will miss my old friend. Some people don't realize that agaves only flower once. The flowers last a long time, but when the flowering is over the plant disappears. The pups remain and will grow into new plants, but keep that in mind when placing them in your garden.

On Sep 12, 2010, jskyieeyes3 from Saint Cloud, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

love the striking beauty of the variegated agave! aquired a small one from a local nursery, that already had a pup in the pot with it. have separated the two, and both are doing well. you do have to be careful when handling the plant, or are in the general vicinity of it the sharp spines can cut/impale you. ouch! have seen many large agave's around central florida, and when they bloom it is truly a beautiful sight!

On Apr 2, 2009, Plant_Man_28 from Saint Augustine, FL wrote:

Nice looking center piece to a garden. Grows well in St. Augustine FL. Take torrential summer rains and stands up to the dryest droughts and heat. Freezes don't bother this agave either, Nice plant

On Jan 9, 2009, Kell from (Zone 9b) wrote:

Beware sends out runners many feet from original plant so you must constantly dig them up or have your yard totally taken over by them. Also grows fairly fast and becomes so huge it gets incredibly difficult and expensive to remove.

On Aug 28, 2006, princesscarol from Lake Worth, FL wrote:

3. mo. ago we purchased 2 blue,3 americana marginata's,2 carribean agave's from a local nursery. they were in 7 gal. containers.we transplanted them into 15 gal. containers and all are doing well.we treat them like cactus and only water them every 3-4 weeks. we are in south florida and they seem to love our sun and heat. they are beautiful and get lots of attention from onlookers. we put them in pots so they wont grow so massive.

On Jun 5, 2006, Rainbowman18 from Weston, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

I didn't know the true name (Americana) of this plant until this morning, but it is one of my favorite agaves. I have not seen the bloom spike yet, but I believe it also propagates by runners. I am definitely looking forward to multiplying this plant, if and when the time comes.

Bloom spike update: 12-26-06 I had had a 10-12 foot bloom spike on the plant now for a good few months. At first the spike throws out clumps of whispy yellow strands, first blooming at the bottom of the spike and traveling up.
Then the whisps are gone, only to later reveal tender little pups growing on the bloom spike, about an eigth of an inch large now. These are expected to mature a bit on the spike and then I will replant them in chosen spots.

All in all, having thi. read more s plant in my landscape has been a really positive situation. I am definitely looking fowrd to having more of these plants in my self-propagating south Florida garden.

On Sep 22, 2005, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

What was over planted in the 50's and 60's is not so commonly planted anymore. So they now really stand out as front yard plants. And if you remove suckers and worn or laying flat leaves with a pruning saw (makes a easy, clean cut) they actually look elegant with a vase shape. Plus, that helps them to fit in the urban garden.

EDIT 2013: Funny,as you can see another 8 years and its a real question mark of remove or prune.

On Jul 11, 2005, ladyannne from Merced, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

We had this agave in the back of the yard, a rather useless area until we turned that area into a nursery. Now, I would rather have that space for my roses, but I am in awe of this magnificent plant, despite it's horrible thorns. I have tried to find it a home, but no one wants to tackle this baby. I would hate to see something like this become hacked up (it must be against my religion to intentionally kill a plant) so it might just stay. I was watering the plant for the first time to six years as we thought we had found a taker and I wanted to soil easy to dig. What a mistake. It's growing at twice it's normal speed. Those center spikes developed within a week. Those are now lying with all the rest and there is already an entirely new set in the center. OMG, What have I done??

On Jul 10, 2004, allatti2d from Littlerock, CA wrote:

Excellent/hardy grower (I live in the dry CA desert, where there are temperature extremes). CAUTION: DO NOT GROW AROUND small children play areas or pets!! Leaves are spiny and sharp, and tips of leaves have a sharp point that like to regrow after being clipped. I have read they will live a minimum of 30 years and grow to about 10' tall by 6' wide. They propegate VERY WELL and need almost NO WATERING. To propegate, use suckers from the base and plant in well-drained pot. Do not overwater.

They make nice potted plants, not a huge root system to worry about when they're young (first 3 years or so), please investigate yourself about mature plants. My neighbor has done an amazing thing with a couple of his plants -- he has removed the lower leaves of his 4' tall Agave . read more to give the plant a tree-like appearance. I will try to put up pictures of his in the near future.

CAUTION: I have read that the sap or drippings are poisonous, so use utmost caution when you're around them! Above all, WEAR GLOVES whenever working with or around the leaves or they will poke you badly (good to have outside of windows to discourage robbers. )

The variegata form of Agave is a beautiful deep green succulent with yellow edging around each of its leaves. Drought-tolerant and cold-hardy, it can be damaged by overwatering. I had an extra plant lay out on the driveway unplanted and rootbare for 3 months and it is still alive and plantable!! They make beautiful border plants and showpieces.

The century plant will produce one large yellow flower on a very long stalk in 10-30 years (so I've read), and after a few weeks of this bloom, the plant will die along with its flower. New plants may be grown from seeds, or propegated from the suckers which pop out over the years.

I encourage more research on this plant, as some sites conflict with others (such as poison level and flowering time). best to err on the side of caution, however.

On May 29, 2004, lilooker from Bossier City, LA wrote:

I have had this plant for three yrs and it has traveled with us. I got this plant in San Antonio as a gift from a lady that had a lot of them in her back yard.
I live in Bossier City ,La and planted it last Nov. almost lost it to frost. I do notice that if it gets to much water it starts to loose the leaves.

On Mar 19, 2003, Lavanda from Mcallen, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

As a lover of southwestern plants, cacti and succulents, I
love this and other agaves.

They are not to everyone's taste, but they are strikingly beautiful, and require very little water. Normally, they
only need water obtained from rain, nothing supplemental.

This plant is from the same family of the agaves used to
make tequila.

A. The Origin of Agave americana and Its Characteristics

The name “century plant” may refer to its perennial characteristic. It also needs a rather long time to bloom flower, thus the name.

It comes from the Asparagaceae family within the Plantae Kingdom. In some areas, the plant is also known as American Aloe, though it has no relation to the Aloe plant at all.

Century plant originated from sandy desert areas around America such as the Mexico country, states of New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona.

Through the years, the plant has become naturalized in major parts of the world as a decorative plant.

The succulent appearance can be determined by its stiff leaves with rows of sharp spines on the sides.

The color of the leaves is a combination of dark green and grey which can grow as long as 1.5 meters. The total basal size of the plant may reach as wide as 3 meters in diameters.

When Agave plants flowering are ready to bloom, the plant shoots out a stalk that can grow up to 9 meters in height.

With proper care, it can live up to 30 years in age. However, the appearance of the yellow flowers means that the plant is ready to die and reproduce.

The dying plant would produce shoots that grow into another century plant. Particularly for the Agave americana variety, the century plant bloom more than once in its lifetime.

Watch the video: Century Plant Agave americana Best Care Tips u0026 Hacks!

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