Maguey or Agave americana is a native plant from Mexico, but is now cultivated in many parts of the world. This drought tolerant plant, also known by the name century plant or American aloe, is neither an aloe nor a cactus, but pertains to the Agavaceae family. The unique architectural Agave is one of the best xeriscape plants for your garden.
Maguey Plant is one of the many species of agave plants (commonly called cactus) that exist in the Americas. They grow in semi-arid environments from sea level to an altitude of about 9000 feet.
Above, is one of the largest Agave Americana Plants, Maguey Plant or Century Plants in the world. (photo courtesy of statesman.com)
In ancient Mesoamerica, (Middle America), maguey or agave, was first collected and then cultivated for many uses. Native people used the agave leaves to make ropes, construction materials and textiles. See the picture below of Agave felgeri, also called Mescalito. Mescalito is native to Mexico and is found in many desert gardens especially in Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona.
Ancient Mayans used Agave thorns in bloodletting rituals, Royal Maya Blood Sacrifices, to communicate with the gods. However, the most important product the Mayans obtained from maguey, agave, was a mildly alcoholic beverage called pulque, obtained by the fermentation of the sweet, milky juice extracted from the agave plant.
Agave americana (aka Century Plant) is a massive plant. There are many varieties of agave in cultivation, with some being excellent for smaller gardens or pots, and some being too large; therefore used for botanical gardens or ranches.
Agaves are called century plants since some species take 100 years to flower in the wild. However, in cultivation with adequate summer moisture, most agaves flower between 10 and 15 years of age. When they do flower, the tall bloom stalks attract many hummingbirds!
Agave americana grows wild in Europe, India, Australia and South Africa. It has become naturalized in many areas such as California. In southern California there are massive plantings of Agave american, Century Plants, along the highways. This Century Plant, Agave american, is a common species of agave that is beautiful but very aggressive. Many gardens in California and Mexico use Agave americana as a living fence.
When Century plants or other agave cactus are grown in pots, they will grow to the size of the container. Please note that containerized century plants must be brought indoors when temperatures drop below freezing. Below is one of our agaves growing in a pot next to other cacti. Two Maguey, Agave americanas are in the top right of the picture below.