Agave plants bloom only once in their long lifetimes — hence their “Century Plant” nickname — but when they do, it’s spectacular. So spectacular, in fact, that the staff of the Rawlings Conservatory in Druid Hill Park have to be careful that their agaves’ towering spikes don’t bust through the Desert House’s glass ceiling. And this year, something amazing is happening — two of the conservatory’s giant agaves are preparing to bloom around the same time.
According to the conservatory, the blue agave, aka the agave Americana, (which stands at an impressive eight feet, even without the flowering spike) began sprouting a stalk on March 22; on April 3, staff members removed a glass panel in the ceiling to allow the plant room to grow. That was exciting enough — but then on April 28, a twelve-foot variegated agave began to grow a flowering stalk as well. That spike had grown to 25 feet by the first week of May. That’s about the size of a two-story building! (Two smaller agaves have grown spikes, too, but they’re getting overshadowed by the big guys.) Once the spike stops growing, it erupts in clusters of flowers — something that should happen any day now for the giant blue agave. (Follow along with the agave bloom watch on the Rawlings Conservatory’s Facebook page, or go visit in person!)
Sadly, the colossal spikes and long-awaited flowering mark the end of the plant’s life cycle. In happy news, however, the plant can be re-propagated, since it also produces numerous small “pups,” or baby plants.