Quarter-of-a-century plant blooming takes centre stage in Leicester

A rare plant that flowers once every 25 to 30 years has finally bloomed in the University of Leicester’s Botanic Garden.  

The Agave succulent plant, otherwise known as the Century plant, is over 15 feet and even had to be cut back at one point for safety reasons as it was pushing on the roof of the greenhouse. It’s believed it would have been at least another metre high if it had been allowed to grow to full height. 

“Now its flower buds have finally opened into large yellow pom-poms,” said gardener Rachel Benskin. “It really is a wonderful sight to behold.”

Generally, Agaves grow, flower, then die. It is originally thought that it took 100 years to flower, hence its common name (the century plant). However, this particular plant self-planted after the previous Agave flowered and died in 1998. It has been kept frost free throughout the winter, and generally dry with some light watering during sunny spells and weekly soaks over the past few weeks. 

Rachel said: “The Agave is native to Mexico and southern North America and naturalised through much of the Mediterranean range. Its fantastic flower spike can grow between five and eight metres tall so it’s exciting to see this one bloom after so long, despite us cutting it back a little. It will die by the end of the year so visitors should make the most of this wonderful plant while they can.” 

The Botanic Garden is home to hundreds of different plants from around the world. Originally founded in 1921 with the assistance of Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society. It was established on its present site in Oadby in 1947 and comprises 16 acres of grounds and greenhouses with arboretum, herb garden, woodland and herbaceous borders, rock gardens, water garden, and a collection of hardy Fuchsia, and a series of glasshouses displaying temperate and tropical plants, alpines and succulents.