The century plant, a succulent whose leaves form a basal rosette, grows wild in eastern Mexico. The century plant becomes rather large in its native habitat, with leaves 5 feet long and nearly 10 inches wide. But as a houseplant, it grows slowly and remains much smaller. The plant is relatively easy to care for, as it is extremely drought tolerant and generally low maintenance.
The century plant prefers a daytime temperature of 75 degrees F and a nighttime temperature about ten degrees cooler. A native of arid areas, it does well in an environment with a low relative humidity.
Water century plants regularly, but allow the soil to become moderately dry between waterings. In the winter months, less water is needed.
A century plant requires a sunny location with at least four hours of direct sun. The plant seldom needs repotting, but when needed, repot in March or April using porous soil. A potting mix created for cacti and succulents would be ideal.
Keep the century plant away from children and vulnerable pets. The sap of the plant is poisonous so avoid contact with eyes and skin. Spines line the edges of the leaves on the century plant, and they can cut the skin much like a knife would. Stiff and dangerous needles also protrude from the leaf apex. For safety's sake, consider placing a potted century plant on a high stand so the leaves remain above eye level.
Unlike its name suggests, it does not take 100 years for a century plant to flower. Flowering may occur within ten to 15 years given the right growing conditions, especially, adequate warmth. When the plant does flower, it provides a grand display. Growing outdoors, showy flowering stalks can reach 20 feet tall.
Once the century plant flowers, it begins to die. In the process, a good number of juvenile plants, called “pups,” form at the base of the plant. These offspring may be removed and potted in order to grow new plants.
The century plant is hardy to USDA zone 8, which means it can withstand temperatures as low as 20 degrees F. The University of Connecticut recommends keeping century plants in a warm greenhouse until they are well established. Then, if living in the appropriate climate, plant the century plant outdoors. Cover the plant to provide some protection during the first few winters outside.