One of the iconic plants of the Southwest flowers only once and produces the most unusual flowers you will probably ever see. 

What is even more interesting, is that each one of these plants produces a different type of flower depending on the species. 

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that the plant dies after flowering.

So, by now you may have guessed that I am talking about Agave, sometimes referred to as Century Plant, although they do not take that long to flower.

As I was preparing this post, I was going through my photos of flowering agave and I was struck again at how unusual they are and how different they look from species to species.  Some form a single stalk and others branch out from the single stalk.

I would like to share with you some of my favorites….

When an agave flowers is largely dependent on the species.  Some only take 8 years, while others can wait up to 25 years before they flower.
Some people inadvertently hasten the flowering process by over watering and fertilizing their agave.


 Not all agave flower at the same time.  Some start in the spring while others begin in the fall.


 Contrary to popular opinion, removing the flowering stalk, will not keep your agave alive.  
In fact, you are interfering with the agave’s crowning glory – their life’s work by removing their flower.
It is fascinating to see how the stalk begins to rapidly grow and then transforms as you can see from the following photos of an Octopus Agave (Agave vilmoriniana).
The stalk begins to appear.
It is so interesting to view up close.
The flowering stalk has reached its full height.
Small Octopus Agave that are just waiting to fall and root.  Or you can pull them off and plant them yourself.
The entire flowering process can take months and in many cases, the flowering stalk is quite beautiful and is highly prized.
You can even keep it after it has dried out.  Believe it or not, people pay money for dried agave stalks.
In my own landscape, I have 4 different types of agave and I am always thrilled when I see the flower stalk appear and can witness the strange and beautiful flowering process.
The flower of Agave desmettiana
So, how about you?  Have you witnessed an agave flowering?
Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

5 replies
  1. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    Hi Noelle, those agaves are so magnificent. I only have seen the first one, but i've seen some others not posted. In my way to and from work, i always pass these very wide road where one stretch is occupied by some multinational companies on IT, and the landscape is mostly alloted to agaves, which are flowering now. I always face this side of the road just to see that. I always intend to drop by and take photos, but it hasnt happened yet.

    Reply
  2. rosiemomma
    rosiemomma says:

    One of our octopus agave's just sent up the first flower stalk we have had in our yard!! You'd think we were getting a puppy we've all been so excited! The kids and I examine it every day and note the changes. I had not idea it would end up covered in pups that we can then plant. Neat!! I really enjoy your blog, thanks for writing!

    Reply
  3. Rose
    Rose says:

    Talk about going out in a blaze of glory! These are all beautiful, Noelle, but I had no idea that the flowers would be so different on the agaves. I was lucky enough to see one of these in the DBG on my first trip there a few years ago when our guide pointed it out and explained the life cycle of the agave.

    We aren't going to make it to Arizona this spring since my daughter is getting married soon, so I'm enjoying my virtual trip to AZ through your posts!

    Reply
  4. p3chandan
    p3chandan says:

    They are so fascinating when they shoot out their flower stalk. My front neighbour has one like your first photo, I dont know how long they have it before it finally bloomed. Your close-ups on the stalk with those tiny agaves on the column are so amazing!

    Reply
  5. Pam/Digging
    Pam/Digging says:

    Witnessed, yes, but not yet in my own garden. When that happens with my big A. ovatifolia, I'm going to throw a party, a celebration like a New Orleans funeral march, to say goodbye.

    Reply

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