Successful Cultivation of Agave and Ageratum

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Legend has attributed to Agave americana the character of flowering only once in a hundred years. This erroneous idea is responsible for the name of the name Century Plant being bestowed on it. Actually Agave americana and its varieties are among the largest in the genus, the flower stem sometimes rising to a height of 20 ft, and more. As a result it takes many years of liberal treatment to enable the plant to gain sufficient strength to bloom. The smaller species make handsome tub plants or specimens in the conservatory. All of them must be thoroughly established before flowering, after which the majority perish.

The agaves are, for the most part, simply managed. When at rest they will survive any amount of cold short of actual frost, but during the growing season they require a warm dry atmosphere. Very free drainage is essential, and a good com�post can be made up of two parts of good loam, old mortar rubble, and river sand of which one part each. Repotting will be necessary every fourth or fifth year and is best accomplished in the spring.

Very little water will be required for the first few weeks after potting and also during the winter months, but rather more must be given during the growing season. An abundance of light and air is also essential, or the leaves will become drawn and flabby.

Well-grown plants will produce suckers or offsets with comparative freedom. These afford the simplest means of increasing stock and should be severed from the parent plant with a piece of the connecting stem and potted on singly in small pots. They will root freely in a temperature of 60 degrees to 65 degrees.

Quite differently the Ageratum are half-hardy annuals.
The parent of the valuable race of modern hybrids is Ageratum mexicanum . This species reaches about 18 in. in height, but constant selection has evolved a race of dwarfer hybrids largely used as edging plants in summer bedding schemes.

The plants will thrive in almost any type of soil so long as good drainage is assured, but like most annuals they demand a firm root�ing medium. Wet, adhesive clay, which does not allow of free surface drainage, is a prolific source of failure.

Seed should be sown in pans of light compost in a temperature of 55 degrees to 65 degrees in February or March. The seeds are tiny and need only the merest covering of soil. After sowing place a sheet of glass over the pans and shade with brown paper. As soon as the seedlings have formed two pairs of leaves prick off into boxes 2 inches apart each way and gradually harden off in preparation for planting out about the end of May. Good results can also be obtained from a sowing made in a cold frame about the end of March or even in a warm border out of doors in April. The plants will naturally be rather later in blooming, but they will nevertheless make a fine display.

Although strictly annuals, ageratums can be propagated annually from cuttings. This method was extensively practiced for many years to ensure a dwarf even habit, but is now largely discounted by the trueness to type of modern seed strains. The plants, which must be prevented from flowering, are lifted and potted in early October and wintered in a cool greenhouse. Cuttings of the young shoots taken in early spring when growth commences are easily rooted in sandy soil in a temperature of 60 degrees to 70 degrees.

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Author: Ian SG Smith
Ian is very interested in gardening and writes occasional articles, but he would like you to look at his latest website which is and particularly the page on

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