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Arboretum Spotlight: Century plant with a difference

This smaller century plant is a distinctive two-tone agave.
This smaller century plant is a distinctive two-tone agave.

This is one part in a weekly series featuring the UC Davis Arboretum’s “40 Plants You (Probably) Have Never Heard of – But Will Love,” 40 can’t-fail, easy-care, low-water plants well adapted to our region but hard to find.

White-striped century plant

Agave americana “Mediopicta Alba”

Size: Up to 3 feet to 4 feet tall by 5 feet wide at maturity

Bloom season: Yellow-green stalks of flowers that appear after 10 years or so

Exposure: Full sun

Pruning needs: None

Water needs: Very low water; once established, water once a month.

Snapshot: A smaller and more manageable version of the familiar century plant, this American agave features beautiful white-striped leaves. The variegated leaves curve in a very sculptural way and are delightful planted in combination with finer textured plants, such as native grasses and perennials. Like other agave, these century plants produce lots of “pups” that your friends will want; those pups are offshoots that will produce new plants. Although its nickname comes from the myth of one bloom per 100 years, this century plant will produce a 10-foot bloom stalk after a decade. Keep away from high-traffic areas or paths because those leaf edges have sharp spines.

For more on “40 Plants,” click on arboretum.ucdavis.edu.