Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Variegated Century Plant
Agave americana var. marginata

Family: Agavaceae (ah-gav-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Agave (a-GAH-vee) (Info)
Species: americana var. marginata
Additional cultivar information: (aka Agave americana Variegata)

One vendor has this plant for sale.

31 members have or want this plant for trade.

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Cactus and Succulents

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:
Chartreuse (Yellow-Green)

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
This plant is monocarpic

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
From leaf cuttings
Allow cut surface to callous over before planting

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

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11 positives
5 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive coriaceous On Jul 22, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

I love their formal, symmetrical structure. We grow them in pots and place them around the garden in the summer, lending an exotic touch. We overwinter them in an unheated garage, giving them just a little water once a month, just enough to slow their shriveling, though they can get by without.

When they get potbound, rather than repot them into a larger pot, I'll sometimes cut back the rootball in the spring and add soil. They can get by with a surprisingly small rootball.

They do make a lot of pups, which we remove and pot up separately in the spring. I understand that in the landscape where they're hardy, they can be aggressive spreaders.

Neutral DaylilySLP On Jul 21, 2014, DaylilySLP from Dearborn Heights, MI (Zone 6a) wrote:

The Great American Agave Bloom 2014
Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

An 80-year-old American agave (Agave americana) is beginning the slow process of blooming for the first---and last---time in the conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. The agave flower stalk is now over 26 feet high and bristling with hundreds of flower buds. This agave follows its own rules but should bloom in late June-early July and continue for several weeks. After that, the parent plant will die but not before leaving behind some genetically identical "pups."

Positive DracoVolans On Oct 7, 2013, DracoVolans from Crestline, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

I acquired my two as pups from a MUCH larger parent about three years ago. My gosh, that thing was huge! I'm 5' 3" and it stood over me by an easy two feet and it had to be at least eight feet across at the base with those long leaves. Anyway, my pups are doing well, haven't needed re-potting, yet (though I suspect they're due) and there is a pup from one of them already. I'm chuffed to find out that they're hardy for my area, so I'm leaving my pointy little friend outside close to the house. I've never seen the temps get down to 15 F here, but there's always a first time, so protecting it against the building is a precaution.

I water it maybe once a week or less, a little more in the hottest part of summer, since it's in an earthenware pot. Oh, and beware the little 'sweet ants' (the wee black ants that are everywhere)--they like to hang out in your soil. And scale--I had to remove some just the other day. Didn't seem to be hurting the plant, but you never know. A toothbrush soaked in diluted Safer's Soap did the trick.

Neutral St8kout On Mar 31, 2013, St8kout from Las Vegas, NV wrote:

Bought a house in Vegas July 2012 with this plant thriving in the middle of the front yard. All the limbs were vibrant and healthy.

Several months later some limbs started drooping with the ends shriveling up and turning black. Now more are folding over and dying off on the ends. Not sure what is happening but the plant seems to be on a downward death spiral. There is a watering system already in place by the previous owners and I have not changed a thing. All the other plants (yucca, cactus, olive tree, mesquite tree, rose bush) are doing great and growing like crazy.

I read it dies after flowering but I have not seen this yet. I don't have a clue as to how old it is but it's pretty big. Now I have about a dozen 'baby' versions popping up all around it through the edges of the grass mat under the gravel.

Neutral RPhillips On Jun 16, 2012, RPhillips from Shiloh, GA wrote:

When I type "Century Plant" into the computer, I invariably get a picture of an upright spiny plant which has a stem-12 or 15 feet tall with a bar across the top with stringy little yellow flowers.

Years ago, when my family and I went to Florida, we saw huge plants with big leaves which sometimes snaked out from the center and were mostly on the ground. Sometimes they had large pale pink blooms in various stages of blooming. They were called "century plants", but were nothing like these now called that name. Does anyone know what these old style century plants are called nowadays and where I can get some? I last saw one in south Georgia at a house in the mid 90s.

Neutral gkok On Apr 12, 2012, gkok from Bonita Springs, FL wrote:

I planted one about 3 months ago in southwest Florida. It is in full sun and It is about 3 feet tall. It was doing well until a couple of days ago when I noticed some blotches in the center of a couple of leaves. Today it looks like the area where the blotches are, the blotches are turning yellow and drying out. Has anybody else seen this. Is it due to over watering?

Positive ogon On Jun 23, 2011, ogon from Paradise, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

About 15 years ago, my grandfather gave me a small Agave americana "Marginata" pup he saved from a friend who was taking out their overgrown agave bed. It's been in a pot and followed me everywhere I'ved lived since. I've repotted it once, and plant on repotting it one more time soon to a large whiskey barrel so it has room to spread.

They are very spiney and I've been poked pretty badly more than once. The best method that I have found for repotting very spiney and large cacti is to sacrifice the old pot. Make sure the necessary soil is in the bottom of the new pot to make the plant sit at the same height, and then lay the plant in the old pot on it's side, and hit the ceramic pot with a sledgehammer or similar instrument until it breaks. Then, wearing thick clothing, wrap something as impermeable as possible around the plant (thick tarp, piece of thick plastic, or several towels if nothing else) and gently lift it into the new pot. Hopefully someone else can help you place dirt around the edges while you hold it in place. Not fun, but not something that needs to be done often :).

Though the flowers are beautiful, I don't look forward to the day it blooms because I will miss my old friend. Some people don't realize that agaves only flower once. The flowers last a long time, but when the flowering is over the plant disappears. The pups remain and will grow into new plants, but keep that in mind when placing them in your garden.

Positive jskyieeyes3 On Sep 12, 2010, jskyieeyes3 from Saint Cloud, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

love the striking beauty of the variegated agave! aquired a small one from a local nursery, that already had a pup in the pot with it. have separated the two, and both are doing well. you do have to be careful when handling the plant, or are in the general vicinity of it; the sharp spines can cut/impale you. ouch! have seen many large agave's around central florida, and when they bloom it is truly a beautiful sight!

Positive Plant_Man_28 On Apr 2, 2009, Plant_Man_28 from Saint Augustine, FL wrote:

Nice looking center piece to a garden. Grows well in St. Augustine FL. Take torrential summer rains and stands up to the dryest droughts and heat. Freezes don't bother this agave either, Nice plant

Negative Kell On Jan 9, 2009, Kell from Northern California, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

Beware sends out runners many feet from original plant so you must constantly dig them up or have your yard totally taken over by them. Also grows fairly fast and becomes so huge it gets incredibly difficult and expensive to remove.

But gorgeous!!

Positive princesscarol On Aug 28, 2006, princesscarol from Lake Worth, FL wrote:

3. mo. ago we purchased 2 blue,3 americana marginata's,2 carribean agave's from a local nursery. they were in 7 gal. containers.we transplanted them into 15 gal. containers and all are doing well.we treat them like cactus and only water them every 3-4 weeks. we are in south florida and they seem to love our sun and heat. they are beautiful and get lots of attention from onlookers. we put them in pots so they wont grow so massive.

Positive Rainbowman18 On Jun 5, 2006, Rainbowman18 from Weston, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

I didn't know the true name (Americana) of this plant until this morning, but it is one of my favorite agaves. I have not seen the bloom spike yet, but I believe it also propagates by runners. I am definitely looking forward to multiplying this plant, if and when the time comes.

Bloom spike update: 12-26-06 I had had a 10-12 foot bloom spike on the plant now for a good few months. At first the spike throws out clumps of whispy yellow strands, first blooming at the bottom of the spike and traveling up.
Then the whisps are gone, only to later reveal tender little pups growing on the bloom spike, about an eigth of an inch large now. These are expected to mature a bit on the spike and then I will replant them in chosen spots.

All in all, having this plant in my landscape has been a really positive situation. I am definitely looking fowrd to having more of these plants in my self-propagating south Florida garden.

Positive BayAreaTropics On Sep 22, 2005, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

What was over planted in the 50's and 60's is not so commonly planted anymore. So they now really stand out as front yard plants. And if you remove suckers and worn or laying flat leaves with a pruning saw (makes a easy, clean cut) they actually look elegant with a vase shape. Plus, that helps them to fit in the urban garden.

EDIT 2013: Funny,as you can see another 8 years and its a real question mark of remove or prune.

Neutral ladyannne On Jul 11, 2005, ladyannne from Merced, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

We had this agave in the back of the yard, a rather useless area until we turned that area into a nursery. Now, I would rather have that space for my roses, but I am in awe of this magnificent plant, despite it's horrible thorns. I have tried to find it a home, but no one wants to tackle this baby. I would hate to see something like this become hacked up (it must be against my religion to intentionally kill a plant) so it might just stay. I was watering the plant for the first time to six years as we thought we had found a taker and I wanted to soil easy to dig. What a mistake. It's growing at twice it's normal speed. Those center spikes developed within a week. Those are now lying with all the rest and there is already an entirely new set in the center. OMG, What have I done??

Positive allatti2d On Jul 10, 2004, allatti2d from Littlerock, CA wrote:

Excellent/hardy grower (I live in the dry CA desert, where there are temperature extremes). CAUTION: DO NOT GROW AROUND small children play areas or pets!! Leaves are spiny and sharp, and tips of leaves have a sharp point that like to regrow after being clipped. I have read they will live a minimum of 30 years and grow to about 10' tall by 6' wide. They propegate VERY WELL and need almost NO WATERING. To propegate, use suckers from the base and plant in well-drained pot. Do not overwater!!!

They make nice potted plants, not a huge root system to worry about when they're young (first 3 years or so), please investigate yourself about mature plants. My neighbor has done an amazing thing with a couple of his plants -- he has removed the lower leaves of his 4' tall Agave to give the plant a tree-like appearance. I will try to put up pictures of his in the near future.

CAUTION: I have read that the sap or drippings are poisonous, so use utmost caution when you're around them! Above all, WEAR GLOVES whenever working with or around the leaves or they will poke you badly (good to have outside of windows to discourage robbers???)

The variegata form of Agave is a beautiful deep green succulent with yellow edging around each of its leaves. Drought-tolerant and cold-hardy, it can be damaged by overwatering. I had an extra plant lay out on the driveway unplanted and rootbare for 3 months and it is still alive and plantable!! They make beautiful border plants and showpieces.

The century plant will produce one large yellow flower on a very long stalk in 10-30 years (so I've read), and after a few weeks of this bloom, the plant will die along with its flower. New plants may be grown from seeds, or propegated from the suckers which pop out over the years.

I encourage more research on this plant, as some sites conflict with others (such as poison level and flowering time)... best to err on the side of caution, however.

Positive lilooker On May 29, 2004, lilooker from Bossier City, LA wrote:

I have had this plant for three yrs and it has traveled with us. I got this plant in San Antonio as a gift from a lady that had a lot of them in her back yard.
I live in Bossier City ,La and planted it last Nov. almost lost it to frost. I do notice that if it gets to much water it starts to loose the leaves.

Positive Lavanda On Mar 19, 2003, Lavanda from Mcallen, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

As a lover of southwestern plants, cacti and succulents, I
love this and other agaves.

They are not to everyone's taste, but they are strikingly beautiful, and require very little water. Normally, they
only need water obtained from rain, nothing supplemental.

This plant is from the same family of the agaves used to
make tequila.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Fountain Hills, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
Amesti, California
Arroyo Grande, California
August, California
Canoga Park, California
Casa De Oro-mount Helix, California
Chico, California
Granite Bay, California
Manhattan Beach, California
Paradise, California
Reseda, California
San Diego, California (2 reports)
San Leandro, California
Simi Valley, California
Spring Valley, California
Sun City, California
Belleview, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida
Homestead, Florida
Islamorada, Florida
Lake Worth, Florida
Lecanto, Florida
Niceville, Florida
North Port, Florida
Palm Coast, Florida
Saint Cloud, Florida
Tallahassee, Florida
Weston, Florida
Dublin, Georgia
Shiloh, Georgia
Hawaiian Paradise Park, Hawaii
Mathiston, Mississippi
Las Vegas, Nevada
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Roswell, New Mexico
Kure Beach, North Carolina
Bluffton, South Carolina
Sumter, South Carolina
Austin, Texas
Kerrville, Texas
Round Rock, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
White Center, Washington

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