Called the Century Plant for a good reason, Agave live for many years in dry and inhospitable conditions. Desert plants from the southern United States and Mexico, they are slow growing, and some species never get very big, staying at a very tidy softball sized clump for most of their lives.
In some areas, the clumps are the size of a small car, comprised of many rosettes of spined leaves, warning the unwary to stay away.
One unique characteristic of Agave is the single spine at the end of every leaf.
Although they may resemble Aloe in some cases, this single thorn is there to remind you that they are not to be messed with.
For this reason, it's best to plant these away from trafficked areas, and out of reach of children, who are right at the level to get these in their face.
Some growers cut these off, to make it easier for workers when handling them.
Many Agave also show 'watermarks' - a distinctive pattern caused by the pressure of each row of leaves on the outer surface of the inner row of leaves.
The juice from the leaves is used commercially to make pulque, or tequila. It is also poisonous until it's received the right treatment in the manufacture of this potent beverage.
To grow these indoors as houseplants, it's best to select those that stay small, and even then, their lifespan is only about ten years before they'll outgrow their space.
Luckily, they produce pups at their base, so it's usually possible to keep named varieties or specialty variegated ones going indefinitely.
In a landscape, they will grow very slowly for ten to fifty years, and then suddenly put out a flower stalk, which can tower overhead at over 3 meters (15') tall.
This is not a plant for a well behaved and domesticated landscape, rather a rough and rugged themed desert garden.
See more about Agave...
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What on earth are they? Watermarks are formed on each successive leaf as it opens.
The previous leaf shape can be seen almost as if it were embossed and impressed into the surface.
This is one of the most typical traits of Agave, along with their wicked spines.
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