Because you searched for it: The Century Plant

(Quail Hollow signage. Photo by Robin. 2006)

One of the things I enjoy about WordPress is the stats page. On the stats page, in addition to the stats, there’s a neat little feature which shows me the search engine terms that brought people to my blog.

So, I was thinking, on the days I have nothing other than cleaning and weather to write about, I might attempt to answer the question which brought someone to visit me here at Life in the Bogs. My top post is, in fact, just that. I now provide the Wal-Mart associate number for calling off from work and boy, does it draw in the crowds. Not really crowds, but a goodly number of people are out there searching for that phone number.

This will also give me the opportunity to learn a little about various subjects, increasing my knowledge of trivia for that day I work up the guts to try out for Jeopardy (like Alto2 who is currently studying for her appearance on Jeopardy sometime this month).

The past few days have drawn people who are searching for how to care for a century plant. My mention of the century plant (as well as the before and after photos) from Longwood Gardens is why they ended up here.

Having no earthly idea how to care for one, I had to look it up. Here’s what I found:

  • The century plant is a cactus/succulent (an agave) native to the desert. It likes full sun (but will do okay in light shade), dry soil, and warm temperatures. It wouldn’t do well outdoors in the Bogs, that’s for sure, as it doesn’t like extremely cold temperatures.
  • It’s a very tall plant (6-12 feet), needing even more head space when the bloom spike shoots out and up (12-25 feet). It’s also wide and the sharp pointed spines on the leaf tip can be a hazard to humans and pets so you want to keep it away from foot traffic. Unless you have plenty of room for this plant, it’s advised not to plant it. That said, it does very well in a large pot so it seems to me that’s the way to go if you must have one and don’t have the room for it.
  • It’s moderately deer resistant. I think any deer that attempted to munch on a century plant would have to be a very hungry deer indeed. I suspect it’s mostly deer resistant and you aren’t likely to see many deer chowing down on this plant.
  • Hummingbirds like it, as do nectar-eating/drinking insects.
  • The century plant blooms in June or July.
  • Maintenance of the plant (removing dead or dying bottom leaves, etc.) sounds difficult due to the sharp spines.
  • Generally, the plant lives about 8-10 years. The mature plants dies after it blooms but it does provide off-shoots or “pups” that can be planted to start a new one. (A bit of trivia: Plants that die after flowering and fruiting once are monocarpic.)
  • The century plant is drought tolerant and suitable for xeriscaping.
  • If you cut the stem of the plant before it flowers, the nectar, called agua miel (“honey water”), gathers in the heart of the plant. This can be fermented and distilled to produce mezcal. Tequila is a form of mezcal that is made from the blue agave plant.
  • HOWEVER, you should be very careful not to get the sap/juice from the plant on your skin. It can be quite toxic, causing a painful, itchy rash that blisters and can take up to 4 weeks to go away completely.
  • Gardener’s notes on various websites are somewhat negative. The plant is aggressive, taking over the garden pretty quickly. It’s hard to contain although containment is possible by planting it in the ground in a clay pot. The spines and edges of the leaves are sharp and one description mentioned that getting impaled by the spines is extremely painful. But for those who live in desert conditions who know something about the plant, it did get good, sometimes rave, reviews as it is a stunning plant.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website has good information about the plant. Check it out if you want to learn more (especially the section at the bottom of the page “Mr. Smarty Plants Says”).

(Flower of the century plant at Longwood Gardens. Photo by Robin. June 2006)

A lot of people apparently want to know how to remove a century plant from their garden. I was unable to find any useful information on the subject. Perhaps someone else out there will know and leave a comment about it.

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10 Comments on “Because you searched for it: The Century Plant”

  1. Firedancer says:

    Enjoyed the information about the century plant.

  2. English Nutter says:

    This made me chuckle, as did the post with the phone number. One day I might even ring them for a laugh.

  3. Kel says:

    what a clever blogger you are

    my blog would be full of seashell posts if I wrote on what people searched for when they arrived at the xfacta

  4. Wellness says:

    Hey

    I was surfing the web and i saw this site, pretty cool.
    Currently im running and adult site:Wellness
    k, just want to say hi 🙂
    Can i link you from my site? im looking for quality content like yours. If no let me know if i can add u in exchange for a montly fee or something.

  5. Robin says:

    Depends on whether you’re spamming or not. If you’re spamming, no. If you’re not spamming, sure.

  6. […] of trees (including palm trees), cacti and other succulents (including the Century Plant which I’ve written about before and is responsible for some of the visitors that come to my blog via search engine), and a wide […]

  7. Anonymous says:

    I can tell readers how not to transplant a giant agave Americana! We purchased our house in Gulf Breeze, FL 5 years ago. Gardening is my passion so I worked diligently on the overgrown beds in front of the porch.. Giant sago plants, big palms, huge box hedges all too tall for the space. One harmless looking, young century plant, perhaps 12″ tall was planted against the railing. I dug it up, easily, with the rest, thinking I may try to transplant it, I let it rest up against the side of my brick house, along with some other salvageable shrubs. It quickly took root 2 ft from my house so I let it stay there for the winter. the next spring was 3 ft. Tall. I tried to move it myself, several times over 4 years with no success. I could not talk my husband into helping because the thorns are so vicious and it’s a huge job that keeps getting bigger! Today, the thing is 5 ft tall with lots of babies. It is crammed up against my house and I worry about the foundation. I finally talked him into helping today after our morning coffee, by telling him I was going to hire a tree removal service. He resorted to cutting each 3- 4 ft, long, dense, heavy leaf with a circular saw, so we could try to get to the roots with a shovel. It was like lifting dolphins with razored edges. After 10 minutes our hands, arms & legs were covered in a rash so itchy that it felt like we were covered in acid! The sap soaked through our clothes & gloves. We were jumping around the yard with the hose and dish soap trying to scrub it off, ran into the showers, slathered Benadryl cream all over our arms & legs and took oral Benadryl. The stupid thing is still in the ground and I’m going to have to brave hoisting the giant leaves into the trash can. This may be a great plant for places like Texas or as a focal point in the right location in Florida, but I urge caution when planting one of these giant agave Americana. I’m a seasoned gardener but was not prepared for how quickly this small plant I inherited from previous homeowners would take root and take over. The conditions in Florida must be perfect to create a monster. The thorns are horribly large and sharp. It’s very difficult to move and poisonous! The irritation from the sap is like a combination of jellyfish & fire ants. It is a survivor, perfectly adapted to its native environment! I can’t get into the root system…I think it may be attached to my foundation. I feel like an idiot for not taming it when it was an innocent baby! I underestimated this plant and it has outsmarted me with every turn!

    • Robin says:

      Great advice, Anonymous. Sounds like the Century Plant is a beast.

    • Anonymous says:

      Get you a gallon of vinager, two pounds of table salt and 5 gallons of water mix well pour directly on the plant it will kill it and anything else it comes in contact with including the nutrients in the dirt m you will never grow anything in that area againm goodluck

  8. magee says:

    I was stabed right between my fingers real deep with the thorny tip of the noxius weed!The needle like thorn brole off,it took 3 days to fexter out,the toxic sap this barb released into my body dam neer killed me,My hand broke out into this horrible itchy fextering eeewzing,blistering bad rash,then it hit my digestive system,i puked like the exorsist and shit myself so bad like the burrow in the Ridiculous 6!i was.a walkin freeky shit storm!Dont touch this plant!dont go near it!if you have to get ride of it bulldoze or back hoe,kill the freekin thing!


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