Once in a Lifetime — Agave Blooming in the Greenhouse

We have a very interesting botanical event happening in the greenhouse right now. One of our Agave plants is blooming.

Agave plant in full bloom
Agave plant in full bloom

This plant is about 3 or 4 years old and has decided to bloom after all this time.  This is actually fairly quick for an Agave though.  Their other nick name is “century plant” , so-called because of the seemingly long length of time it normally takes them to flower in the wild.

Agaves are native to the southwestern part of this country and “south of the border down Mexico way”.  The ‘Blue Agave’ variety that grows in the Mexican state of Tequila is used to make… you guessed it…Tequila.

I don’t know what variety this one is since Judy rescued it from going into the compost bin at the Botanical Gardens.  At that time the plant was just a small  one inch diameter “bulblet” with no name.

Agaves only bloom when they have stored enough energy in their roots and leaves. How many years this takes depends on the species.  After blossoming and forming seeds, they die, trusting that the seeds will carry on the next generation.

Even though this Agave of ours is planted in a small 8 inch pot, the flower stalk is 10 feet tall! It has been alternately ignored and well-tended throughout its life.  It couldn’t have had life too hard since it took quite a bit less time than a century to bloom. We had a few last year that were in 6″ pots and their stalks reached nearly 6 feet.

This Agave is planted in an 8 pot. Note the swollen bulb-like stem.
This Agave is planted in an 8″ pot. Note the swollen bulb-like stem.

I counted over 120 flowers on the flower stalk! Wow! Each flower will produce a bulblet that will go on to produce another plant. I’d say that is pretty good odds that the next generation will survive.

Our Agave produced a ten foot tall flower stem containing over  120 flowers. I can barely reach the lowest set of flowers.
Our Agave produced a ten foot tall flower stem containing over 120 flowers. I can barely reach the lowest set of flowers.

The new seeds will go into a 20 inch pot.  I wonder what will happen…

Bob

Aloe vera re-potting

The Aloe vera plant has been popular for decades as a balm or salve used to treat minor burns, cuts, sunburn and other maladies. Every household should have an Aloe plant as part of their first-aid kit.

You can do your part to spread the good news about Aloe by dividing your plants and giving them away to folks who don’t have an Aloe yet. It’s very easy to do.

As an Aloe plant grows, it forms small plantlets or off-shoots around the base of the main stem. They may or may not have roots. These can be gently pulled apart from the main plant and transplanted into new pots.

In this post I’m using an old Aloe that needed to be renewed. The same process is used for making divisions of an Aloe that might not be this far gone. Here we go…

Start by getting a potting mix together. I like to use  fairly coarse potting mix to which I add sand, fine gravel and other grit to help the mix drain water well.  Aloe doesn’t like to be in a soggy pot.

In this example, where the plant has grown too long between re-potting, the Aloe has developed a long, undesirable stem with a lot of dead leaves.

Fix this by cutting the stem an inch or so below the green active part of the plant. Peel off all of the “onion skin” until you reach the stem itself. Also, remove  any dead or dying leaves. The stem has dormant root buds that will sprout to form new roots to support the newly separated plant. A dormant bud can be seen just below the pencil point. If you rub your finger over the stem, the bumps you feel are the root buds.

Then just fill a pot (be sure it has a drain hole in the bottom) with your potting mix and insert the prepared Aloe cutting into the soil. Water the new plant and that is it.  You now have a new Aloe plant that will soon take hold in it’s new home. Here is An Aloe I transplanted a few weeks ago.  Look how nicely the roots are growing.

This brand new plant  can now be given away as a gift.  Everyone loves Aloe !

To use Aloe as a treatment for an injury, cut a leaf from your plant. Slit the leaf open and apply the jelly-like juice to the affected area. You’ll feel relief immediately.

It’s medicine you can grow right on your window sill!

Bob