Agave

Bob Long stands by the agave in his front yard in Green Valley.

When Bob Long moved to Green Valley just over three years ago, he knew one plant in his front yard would have to go — but it wouldn’t be at his hands.

It’s an Agave Americana, commonly called a Century Plant, and they can grow 10 feet high and just as wide. That’s until the stalk starts growing, which in Long’s case makes it about 30 feet tall.

Long said the stalk, which looks like a big piece of asparagus, started growing about three weeks ago at about a foot a day. It’s not done yet, he said, but he’s not sure how long it’ll continue. He has photos of it at 10 and 20 feet.

He lives in the 500 block of West Paseo Potrero  and doesn’t mind if you drive by for a look. You can’t miss it.

What happens next? This is from an upcoming column by Green Valley News gardening expert Mary Kidnocker: “Agaves are succulents that bloom only once. This can occur anytime from 5 to 50 years of age, depending on the variety. When producing the flower stalk, which can reach from 5 to 25 feet, all of the plant’s energy is sent to the bloom. As a result, the agave plant will then die.”

So, Long’s plant will, in effect, kill itself soon. He doesn’t know how old it is (the house was built in 1973), but a gardener tipped him off when he moved in that it would eventually have to be dug out at some point.

What else do we know about the Century Plant? It’s a true desert dweller and easy to care for.

A previous column by Kidnocker said there are more than 130 species of agaves and they “thrive on neglect! In winter, water once monthly; once a week during hot summers. Fertilizing is not generally necessary.”

They like the sun and shrivel in the shade.

Kidnocker also tosses aside a fallacy: “Agave flowering process is fascinating to observe. There is an erroneous belief that if cutting off the flower stalk, the plant will not die. This is not so; however, resulting bulbils (baby Agaves) and/or seeds do an admirable job of producing future generations.”

Look for her column on agaves on Sunday.



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