Century Plant ( Agave americana )

Century plant
Crown rot from cold and wet conditions

This plant was abandoned in the free pile at the extension office a few weeks back. I thought, gosh, there are almost no roots will it make it? But then you’ve heard the adage about gardeners bearing gifts? So here it is and time will tell if it will take, or take over.

Century plant gets extremely large. Leaves can reach 6′ in length, the flower stalk will be 20-40′ tall when it decides to bloom. The century plant can reach 7′ in height with an 8′-12′ spread. Most are fast growing plants, some grow so fast you can feel the heat escaping if you put your hands near the leaves on a cool day.

Most agaves are too large for city gardens. So plant with lots of room and caution. Removing agave plants is not fun. RoundUp and such do not usually effect them. You’ll be doing the removal by hand if needed.

This is a desert plant, so give it full sun and little water. It is named century plant because early botanists thought it only bloomed once every 100 years. It’s not quite this bad. Most will bloom after 10 years in a given location. After blooming the mother plant dies and babies will appear from the ground near the mother plant.

Watch the sap when trimming it, it will cause skin irritations.

These make great barrier plants. The points are extremely sharp. Many growers clip the point on the tip off a little. Think of it as declawing the plant.

Some agaves stay compact as a single plant, while others send out runners with babies. Agaves die after flowering.  Flowers are generally white or yellow and on very tall stalks. It takes about 50 years to go from seed to flower for most agaves.

Smaller agaves, especially slower growing agaves make good container plants.

These agaves were not bothered by several freezes last winter, not summer heat. Other’n the fact they try to take over the place they make a great landscape plant.

While this is not the preferred agave for making tequila  it has been used in a pinch when enough of the agave salmiana and mapisaga can’t be found. Fibers created from the leaves were commonly used in cord and cloth by the Mayas and Aztecs and are still used in production today.

They can be clean, modern looking int the garden, but rapidly get out of control in Houston

See also:
Rare plant towers over owner’s house

String of bananas ( asteraceae senecio radicans )

This is a very easy to grow plant. North, east or a west window will do just fine, and it will forgive you many errors.

Water as needed to keep from drying out totally.

Trim strands occasionally to keep it looking nice. Trimmed strands will easily root in water.

This is a succulent that is related to the ‘string of pearls’ plant.

It will occasionally flower, flowers are small and I’m told cinnamon scented.

I find that these hanging succulent type plants really love some organic fertilizer now and again.

Cats whiskers ( Orthosiphon aristatus )


It was love at first sight when I first saw this plant at a botanical garden in San Antonio. I was able to acquire one at the Extension Office plant sale this spring. Hummingbirds also love this plant.

Flowers may be purple or white, grow on 6″ stems, and have very long stamens resembling cat’s whiskers. It is a flowering shrub that can reach 4′ in height with a 3′ spread. Flowering occurs late summer through early fall in most places, can bloom year round here in Houston.

Cat’s whiskers prefers full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. Keep the soil moist and do not let this plant dry out. It wilts stops growing and flowering when the soil is too dry.

It is a fast grower and blooms easily.

Cat’s whiskers can be easily propagated from cuttings.

If you are looking for an unusual plant that is easy to grow consider this one. The picture really doesn’t show just how wonderful the blooms are.

This plant loves the summer heat, but died after a winter freeze.

Java Tea is made from this plant and said to help pass kidney stones.

Keep an eye out for scale on this plant.

Be free with the pruning shears it will thicken up after heavy prunings.