Landscaping in the Desert: The Agave Century Plant

Landscaping in the Desert: The Agave Century Plant

This year’s frosty winter is still showing signs of stress on desert landscaping staples like the Agave Century Plant.  This plant has several species you can see prominently in The Valley and especially in North Scottsdale.  Plants like the ones in the picture above are about 25 years old and usually “stalk” around that time, but with the extra cold nights we had this year, many plants are stalking prematurely.  This is the century plant’s last-ditch-attempt to procreate.  By sending up their stalk, which grows 4-6 inches a day with beautiful yellow flowers, the century plant leaves their future in the hands of the birds and bees.  Unfortunately, these plants die after they stalk in the spring.

Agaves really are incredibly shaped succulents that add great depth and dimension to desert yards all over Arizona.  Unfortunately, many landscapers buy older, more mature versions that do not have much longevity, with only a maximum life span at 30 years.  They are by far my favorite plants in my yard, due to their architectural shape, low water usage and incredible ever-green color.   Coupling them with a low, ground cover like lantana makes a landscape with great shape, color and visual interest.  Mature versions can run about $150 per plant, younger ones are around $25.  I have 8 stalking right now, so thanks to an unusually cold winter, I am losing about $1,200 in century plants alone this year!

Bottom line is if you don’t mind having to replace them every few years, the mature ones are xeriscape-friendly, incredibly interesting, and great features in desert yards.  But, don’t say I didn’t warn you, they won’t live forever.  And, they should be called 30-Year-Max-Plants, not Century Plants.