Agave americana | ‘American Aloe’, ‘Century Plant’, ‘Maguey’ | 25 seeds
Agave americana is a popular flowering species of the Asparagaceae family, which is commonly and widely grown as an ornamental. Originally native to Mexico and parts of the USA, the species has since become naturalised in parts of Africa, Australia, China, India, the southern Mediterranean, South America, Thailand and the West Indies. Informally known by names including ‘American Aloe’, ‘Century Plant’, ‘Maguey’ and ‘Sentry Plant’, the Agave americana seed listed here is of the “type”, subsp. americana.
Confusingly, the species is or has been synonymous with Agave altissima, Agave communis, Agave complicata, Agave cordillerensis, Agave felina, Agave fuerstenbergii, Agave gracilispina, Agave ingens, Agave melliflua, Agave milleri, Agave ornata, Agave picta, Agave ramosa, Agave salmiana var. gracilispina, Agave subtilis, Agave subzonata, Agave theometel, Agave variegata, Agave virginica and Agave zonata!
Generally living for between ten to thirty years, americana grows to roughly three metres in height and diameter, forming prickly blue-green-grey leaves up to a metre and a half long, tipped with a hefty spike! Toward the end of its lifecycle, americana produces a strikingly yellow-flowered, branched stalk up to nine metres high, before eventually expiring.
There are currently two recognised subspecies (subsp. americana and subsp. protamericana) and two varieties (var. expansa and var. oaxacensis). Many fantastic cultivars are available too, including several which have been awarded the (British) Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit – as has the species overall. Notable examples include ‘Marginata’ (yellow-striped leaf margins), ‘Mediopicta’ (a cream central stripe), ‘Mediopicta Alba’ (a white central stripe), ‘Mediopicta Aurea’ (a yellow central stripe), ‘Striata’ (multiple yellow to white stripes on the leaf margins) and ‘Variegata’ (white leaf margins).
Besides being cultivated for its ornamental beauty, the species is also famous as one of the original sources of the alcoholic beverages ‘Pulque’ (fermented from the ‘Aguamiel’, or ‘Honey Water’, which can be obtained from the heart of the plant), ‘Mezcal’ and ‘Tequila’ (the latter two being distilled spirits produced from sugars extracted from the plant). Its fibres (‘Pita’) are used to make cloth, matting and rope and in ‘Piteado’ leather embroidery, while its nectar is gaining popularity as a natural sugar with a low glycaemic index.
Agave americana is quite easy to grow from seed or cutting, provided you’re either in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-11 or else indoors. Plant in well drained, mildly acidic to mildly alkaline soil, in full sun to partial shade. Space approximately three metres apart in the ground to allow ample room to reach maturity.
All the seed sold by Arkham’s Botanical was freshly and ethically sourced this year