Agave plants are called century plants since some species of this succulent genus take 100 years to flower in the wild. These plants are beautiful garden subjects and are also the source of the culinary agave nectar and also of tequila.
While most people are interested in Agave for the sugar-free sweetener called agave nectar or for its use in making tequila, we love agave for its ornamental value over its culinary or medicinal value. Nonetheless, we think agave is a very 'sweet' plant...in the garden.
Agave plants are called century plants since some species of this succulent genus take 100 years to flower in the wild. However, in cultivation with adequate summer moisture, most agaves flower between 10 and 15 years of age and when they do flower, the tall bloom stalks attract hummingbirds. Agaves are exotic, deer-resistant, drought-tolerant plants with an amazing garden structure. The agave plant, native of the Southwest US and Mexico, fascinates us with its architectural but anti-social traits. You might not expect it by looking at them, but the agave century plant is a first cousin to hosta.
Only a limited number of agaves, including Agave parryi and Agave americana, thrive outdoors here on the east coast in our hot, humid summers and cold, wet winters but we have found amazing selections of these plants including the ever popular variegated agave and blue agave plant. We also have an impressive collection of agaves for sale that make perfect container specimens.
How to grow an agave in the garden:
In the summer months, agaves respond amazingly to water and organic fertilizer but in the winter, good drainage on a sloped site is essential for agave survival. In cold zones, we recommend establishing agave plants early in the growing season (by midsummer at the latest) for best results. When grown in pots, agaves will grow to the size of the container, but remember that containerized century plants must be brought indoors when temperatures drop below freezing. Agaves are also salt tolerant plants, good for coastal gardens. Select carefully when planting your new agave, because some can get quite large...i.e. Agave salmiana and Agave protoamericana, which can grow to be 4 to 8 feet wide.
We are pleased to offer an increasing number of rare, variegated agaves for sale that until recently have been confined to the high-dollar collectors' market. When you are ready to buy agaves for your garden or containers, we hope you will check out our list of succulent agaves for sale.
Trivia: The agave nectar that is so popular right now is not, as the name implies, a product of the agave flower. Instead, agave nectar is made from sap pressed from the central core of the agave plant ( the piña) or the flower stalks. This pre-agave nectar is called 'aguamiel' and it is processed into a syrup. It is this same syrup that is brewed into the beer-like drink pulque and further distilled into tequila or mezcal.
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