The agave genus is a group of perennial succulents native to Mexico and parts of the American Southwest and Central America. Varieties of agave plants are grown for their hardiness, their attractive, cactus-like appearance and, in the case of the blue agave, for the high quality tequila that can be made from their pulp.
Mescal is an agave plant that sports a rosette of thick blue-green leaves accented by a stalk of white, pink or red tinged flowers, which appear in the summer. The Mexican native has a height and spread of between 1 to 3 feet. Mescal is quite low maintenance and works well as an outdoor container plant for a patio or porch, or as a specimen plant in a desert or rock garden. Mescal will thrive if planted in full sunlight, in a well draining, rocky or sandy soil in USDA zones 9 to 11. Good drainage is essential to the mescal plant's well being; root rot will occur in poorly drained soils and kill the plant.
Century plant (Agave americana) is an enormous native of Mexico that has also become naturalized throughout the Mediterranean.The plant has thick, dusty green leaves that may be 10 feet wide and 6 feet long. The leaves have sharp, fishhook-shaped spines at the end that may be as long as an inch. The century plant is notable for its tremendously tall flower stalk, which may grow up to 40 feet high. In cool climates, the plant may take as long as 60 years to bloom. Century plants do best in full sunlight USDA zones 8B to 11. The ideal soil for this drought tolerant plant is a slightly acidic, well draining sandy or gravelly soil.
Blue agave (Agave tequiliana) is the famous agave from which tequila is made. A native of Jalisco, Mexico, blue agave grows naturally in sandy soils at high elevations. Agave plants in the wild are pollinated by native bats. Like many other agave species, the blue agave sports pointed, fleshy blue green leaves that have a dusty sheen. The plant reaches an average height and spread of between 4 to 6 feet. Blue agave will grow in soil pH ranging from mildly alkaline to mildly acidic so long as the soil is extremely well draining. Plant the agave in full sunlight in USDA zones 9B to 11, and avoid watering.