Agave americana
Common Name: American century plant 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asparagaceae
Native Range: Southwestern United States, Mexico
Zone: 8 to 10
Height: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: Rarely flowers
Bloom Description: Greenish yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought, Dry Soil

Culture

Reliably winter hardy to USDA Zones 8-10. Best growth occurs in a sandy/gritty, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun. Container plants may be grown in a gritty, cactus-type potting mix. Sharp soil drainage is important. Poorly-drained soils may lead to root rot. Tolerates dry soils and drought. This agave may be propagated from seed or offsets.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Agave americana is a rosette-forming perennial succulent that is native to Mexico. It has been introduced and has naturalized in a number of tropical areas around the world. Each plant typically forms a large, evergreen basal rosette of thick, succulent, lanceolate, gray-green leaves. Each rosette typically matures over time to as much as 6' tall by 8-10' wide. Each leaf has a waxy bloom, spiny tip, and sharp marginal spines. This plant is also well-known for its infrequent but spectacular flowering spikes. Plants are monocarpic (bloom only once and then die). Common name of century plant suggests the plant will live 100 years before flowering. In reality, outdoor plants typically bloom between the 10th and 25th years. Indoor plants rarely flower. When an outdoor plant blooms, it sends up a single, stout, erect flowering stalk from the center of the basal rosette of leaves to 15-30' tall or more. The flowering stalk resembles a narrow telephone pole with horizontal branching near the top. Greenish-yellow flowers (each to 3-4" long) bloom in panicles at the branch ends. Suckers/offsets root at the base of each rosette over time, often forming a colony of new plants. Once a plant flowers and dies, the offsets around the base of the plant continue to grow.

Genus name comes from the Greek word agauos meaning admirable or noble in probable reference to the very tall flower spikes found on the plants of many species of Agave.

Specific epithet means of America.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Agave weevil can be troublesome. Slugs and snails may damage foliage. Root rot may occur, particularly in poorly-drained or overly-moist soils.

Garden Uses

Where winter hardy, this agave serves as an interesting tropical accent or specimen. It is a large and showy plant for the landscape. It needs a large space in which to grow. Plants are often grown in cactus or succulent garden areas. It will grow well in containers as an indoor plant at a much smaller size.