Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Agave Americana

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch
Agave americana in flower (02/07/2011, Rabat)

Agave americana in flower (02/07/2011, Rabat)

Position: Full sun

Soil: Well drained soil

Flowering period: Spring and summer

Eventual Height: 2m (8m during inflorescence)

Eventual Spread: 3cm

Hardiness: USDA Zone 8a-11a

Family: Asparagaceae

Sub Family: Agavoideae

Agave americana is an evergreen perennial with a clump forming habit. The succulent leaves emerge from a basal rosette and are sharply pointed along its length and tip. These can grow up to two metres long. Its branched flower stem can grow up to eight metres long and bears dense, tapering spikes of bell shaped, white to pale creamy flowers in spring and summer. The plant from which the flower spike emanates will die once flowering is complete.

A. americana, is commonly known as the Century Plant or in Mexico as the Maguey. Ironically, this plant only lives for 10-30 year despite being given the name Century Plant. It is native to Mexico but has been naturalised in many regions around the world including Europe, South Africa, India, and Australia. Traditionally it has had many uses, from weaving of the fibrous material of its leaves into rope and cloth to the production of Pulque, a viscous alcoholic beverage with a rich cultural history. Its close relative Agave tequilana is the plant used to produce the spirit Tequila.

In Greek mythology Agave was a daughter of Cadmus, who supposedly founded the city of Thebes. Americana being a Latinised word meaning ‘of or from the Americas’. This plant was described by Carl Linnaeus in the 1753 edition of Species Plantarium, with the same binomial name still in use today.

Agave americana (02/07/2011, Rabat)

Agave americana (02/07/2011, Rabat)

This plant may be useful to the landscape architect in creating xeriscapes due to its drought tolerance, but poor conditions may prolong an already lengthy period before the plant will flower.

The Royal Horticultural Society have given it their prestigious Award of Garden Merit.

This plant will tolerate many soil conditions; it will be happy in neutral or acid pH levels, in loam or sand based soils facing a sheltered, southern or eastern facing aspect. The RHS recommend this plant be grown under glass.

Ecologically this plant will attract pollinating insects such as butterflies and honey bees but as it takes so long to produce flowers (sometimes over a decade) and will die upon flowering this impact is limited.

Maintenance: Requires no maintenance. If this plant is located close to a footway or where people have access the spikes at the end of each leaf may be removed. The plant may be propagated easily removing an offset which are produced readily by this plant in spring or autumn.

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