Belonging to the Asparagaceae family, Agave is a genus of about 300 species available in a wide range of sizes, colors and amazing array of leaf shapes. Evergreen succulents of outstanding beauty and structural form, Agaves form handsome rosettes of usually thick, rigid, fleshy leaves with marginal teeth and often a sharp terminal spine.
Agaves are often commonly named 'Century Plant' because they were thought to require about a century to bloom. Most species, though bloom more quickly, usually after 10 to 15 years, in a spectacular show of giant panicles of flowers. A blooming Agave is a sight to behold when it is topped with a magnificent flowering spike that can reach 15 ft. (5m), and bears colorful flower clusters. Most Agaves are monocarpic: they flower once and die thereafter. However, many Agaves produce offsets that will happily replace the dead plant.
Native to the southern United States, Mexico, the Caribbean and northern South America, Agave plants grow best in the Southwest and Mediterranean climates, but some are quite cold hardy. Below is a list of Agave species considered the hardiest. However, keep in mind that to survive cold temperatures, most Agaves must be planted in an area with excellent drainage. Dry soils during the winter months are critically important.