Are you a fan of succulents? Besides those small varieties that are aesthetically placed on small pots, do you know that there are other exotic-looking succulents that are much bigger? One of them is the Agave americana or the century plant. Being a succulent means that the plant is easy to maintain with a few tricks that are going to be discussed below.
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.
How and Where to Grow?
The best answer to this question is on the most similar environment as its natural habitat. This means that whether you are placing the plant on the ground or in a pot, you have to pay attention to elements like soil, water, light source, and temperature levels. Once you have the right portion of the elements, the plant would grow perfectly fine and easy to maintain.
Taking Care of the Century Plant
The fierce appearance of the spikes does not make century plant care difficult. The maintenance is rather simple because of its natural habitat that does not provide too much water.
Light and Temperature
The century plant enjoys full sunlight, so it’s best to leave it outside or place it near the South or East facing windows. It is ideal to keep the temperature around 21˚ C – 27˚ C to keep the plant growing healthy. In winter, take advantage of artificial grow lights to avoid the plant from freezing. It would be likely to encounter problems when the temperature touches below 10˚ C.
Frequent watering does not work with this century plant care. It only needs plenty of water during the growth time, and the interval between watering should be long enough that the soil is starting to dry out. As it survives well on a semi-arid land, overwatering may cause the plant to rot instead.
Soil and Fertilizer
As it comes from a sandy environment, clay soil would not match the plant. It prefers a well-draining soil which is a mix of potting and cacti soil. On the base of the pot, you may want to place dry pebbles to help the soil mixture drains well. The moisture and the pH of the soil should be balanced in neutral. During its growth time, the century plant may need to be fertilized once every two weeks using a standard liquid fertilizer.
Overcoming the Problems That May Occur
The most common problem that happens to the century plant is that it rots when overwatered. To fix this, place the plant in a sun-drenched area and allow it to dry. In contrast, thick brown spots on the leaves may be a sign that it has not received enough water during its growth period. Check the moisture of the soil to deal with that type of problem.
The century plant tends to be resistant to any pets. Still, it may attract animals like bees and hummingbird that come to extract the nectar from the plant. Bigger animals like deer, dogs, and cats may not be interested in eating it as it has protective sharp spikes on the leaves.
While potted century plant may look amazing as a decorative property of the interior, please do keep it out of children and pet reach. The moderately sharp spikes on the sides of the leaves may be dangerous if touched. It is also recommended that you use proper protection such as gloves and glasses when taking care of the plant.
Why Grow Century Plant?
Though the plant is known for its majestic foliage, its original use is to be consumed. There are at least three parts of the century plant that can be consumed: the sap, the flower, and the basal rosettes. The particular Agave americana variegata produces sweet nectar from the bottom of the stalk which has been used as one of the tequila ingredients.
The flower and the basal rosettes can also be roasted and eaten. Some said that the taste is close to molasses. Still, there are processes to learn before you can take these edible advantages from the plant. Some primitive uses also recommend the juice that is extracted from the leaves and roots to treat stomach inflammation, ulcers, tuberculosis, jaundice, and syphilis.
Studies have shown that the medicinal ability of the plant is supported by its rich composition of isoflavonoids, coumarins, alkaloids, vitamins C, B1, B2, K, and D. Those properties make the plant has an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and wound-healing abilities.
Besides from all of those benefits, keeping a century plant inside of your house would help to circulate oxygen around the house and give the interior an exotic tropical ornament.