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Furcraea is a plant genus that is part of the Agavaceae family. It contains about 12 species of succulent plants that are native to Mexico, Central America, and South America. Most species have characteristic blue-green leaves that are arranged in a rosette and greenish-cream colored flowers. Many of these plants are ideal for landscapes in drought-prone regions. A problem encountered by gardeners when working with these species is chlorosis, which is a premature yellowing of the leaves.
Plants within the Furcraea genus are monocarpic, which means that once the plant flowers, it dies. The life cycle of monocarpic plants consists of germination, growth, reproduction, and death. During the growth period, the plant stores large amounts of energy. Some species may grow for more than 15 years before flowering. All the stored energy is used during the reproductive stage to produce flowers, fruits, and seeds.
The moment of flowering is quite a sight. Gardeners wait patiently for years to witness flower blooms from their plants. Usually, there are hints in the spring which reveal that the plant might bloom in the summer. For example, the youngest leaves at the center of the rosette will fade in color and may even have a purplish hue.
The next sign that the Furcraea is ready to bloom is the appearance of the flower spike tip. Gradually, over the next few months, the spike will grow into an asparagus-like structure, reaching a height of 10-26 feet (3-8 m). Branches at the end of the spike will develop flowers subsequently. Furcraea longaeva develops white or pale green flowers that are about 2 inches (5-6 cm) across.
Providing an adequate growing medium and proper environmental conditions increase the longevity of plants within the Furcraea genus. Generally, a well-draining loamy or sandy soil that is slightly acidic is an ideal medium for most species in the Furcraea genus. If grown in a greenhouse, a cactus compost is recommended. The plant should be placed in an area that has some protection from the wind. Also, most species grow well in direct sunlight.
A problem commonly seen with this genus is chlorosis, which is usually caused by magnesium deficiency. Applying a nutrient solution directly to the leaves can help reduce the severity of the problem. Usually, a solution of water and magnesium sulfate is sprayed on to the foliage. Another method to correct the deficiency is to add soil amendments, such as dolomitic limestone.
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