Can you imagine living your entire life, looking forward to only one sexual encounter, which will only happen just before death? Such is the life of an agave (century plant). In botanical terms, this is known as being monocarpic. Growing monocarpic plants is the ultimate mixed emotional undertaking. It’s exciting to see them finally flower and hopefully set seed, but sad to know that this means impending death for non-offsetting selections, and starting over again with smaller plants in the garden with offsetting plants.

With our extensive agave collection, we get to witness these amazing events every year, and 2024 is no exception. This year, we began seeing flower spikes emerge as early as mid-to-late March. The process from spike emergence to flower opening is typically 45-50 days, so these early spiking century plants should hit perfectly for our spring open house, May 3-5 and 10-12, 2024.

Through the end of 2023, we’ve witnessed 125 agave spikes in the garden. So far, we have twelve that are already spiking for 2024, with potentially several more still to start the flowering process. Below are a few of those that are already in the giant asparagus mode – can you see why they are members of the asparagus family?

With a name like century plant, we’ve long assumed that it was age that determined flowering, but we now know that age is actually not the determining factor in whether or not they are ready to flower. Instead, what matters is the mass of plant. In other words, once the agave base has enough mass to both produce and support the weight of the spike, it will switch form vegetative to reproductive mode. If we plant the same agave in a well-prepared bed and give it plenty of summer irrigation, we may see flowers in as little as 5-7 years, while the same agave planted in an unprepared bed that receives no supplemental summer water may not flower for 15-17 years.

When the flower spikes are in peak expansion mode, they can expand up to 3-6 feet a week in their early development, with most maturing at 12 – 25′ in height. We’ve already got our ladder ready for our 2024 breeding efforts.

Agave funkiana ‘Grand Funk’ is an offsetting species, so there is a new rosette flowering almost every year.

Agave funkiana ‘Grand Funk’

Agave ovatifolia is a non-offsetting species, so it completely dies after flowering. Occasionally, after the seed mature in September, it can produce tiny clonal plantlets atop the flower stalks.

Agave ovatifolia

Agave x flexiferox ‘Megalodon’ is our cross of Agave flexispina x x pseudoferox. This will be our first time to flower this cross. It will be our hope to self-pollinate this, to see how the genes from both parents sort out in the second generation.

Agave x flexiferox ‘Megalodon’

Agave x loferox ‘Magical Moments’ is our cross of Agave lophantha x x pseudoferox. We’ve flowered many from our first generation, but this will be our first flowering from our second generation (F2) plants. With each subsequent early generation, the genes become more mixed, and the offspring more unique with different genetic trait combinations.

Agave x loferox ‘Magical Moments’

Agave x pseudoferox ‘Green Goblet’ is one of our largest century plants. This originated as a Yucca Do wild collection in Northern Mexico. It last flowered for us in 2011, leaving behind smaller offsets, which are just now flowering.

Agave x pseudoferox ‘Green Goblet’

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