There are many species of agave, but only a few are suitable as houseplants, since most eventually grow too large. They form rosettes of long, sword-shaped leaves with toothed edges and are very attractive. Perhaps the best known is /. amerlcana, the century plant. This common name was applied in the erroneous belief that the plant took a century to flower. In fact, it will flower under suitable conditions in from 20 to 25 years.

This species makes an impressive houseplant in its young stages, but in large specimens the leaves may reach over 90cm (3ft) long. There are a number of forms with variegated foliage.

having a yellow stripe down the leaf centre or along the edges. These are especially attractive. Suitable for most ordinary small rooms are A. jilifcni. the thread agave, and A. victoriae-reginae. The former has spiky rosettes of leaves somewhat curved upwards and bordered with thread-like filaments, suggesting its common name. and longitudinal pale stripes. The latter has a more clump-like leaf formation and dark green colour. Ivach leaf, stiffly erect, is topped with a brown to blackish spine, and is marked with line, whitish lines.

Most agaves produce offsets, and these can be removed carefully and separately potted to produce new plants. They like a sunny position and will enjoy standing out in the open air during summer. Ordinary potting composts suit agaves well, since most enjoy a fairly rich rooting medium, but make sure the pots or containers are well drained. Large specimens of /. americana have been used with good effect in spacious but well-lit foyers of offices and public buildings.

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