When Eloise Payton planted a small century plant in her yard she had no idea that one day it would grow to produce a 25-foot-tall bloom.
The name “century plant” comes from the fact that the slow-growing plant takes years, although not 100, to flower. On average it can take one 15 to 20 years to produce a bloom. Some flower faster if pampered with rich soil and ample water. Payton must have pampered hers because she recalls planting it less than 10 years ago.
“It was just an itty bity sprout,” said Payton. “It has just grown and grown.”
This plant is monocarpic, meaning it will bloom only once in its lifetime. When growing a century plant, the rougher its conditions are the longer it goes before blooming and therefor the longer it lasts. The bloom begins as a large spike that looks like an asparagus spear. The spike grows taller and taller reaching 15-25 feet. Nectar-rich yellow flowers grow in clusters at the end of horizontal branches near the top of the tall stalk attracting hummingbirds and bees. Under the flowers form bulbous little plants. Each branch cluster holds dozens. The longer the bloom stands the more the original plant withers. When it can no longer support its towering stalk the bloom falls leaving gardeners with a supply of new plants.
Century plants do best in an area that receives at least a half-day of sun and in well-draining soil, in the garden or in a large pot. Although they tolerate drought, they do like regular watering, and will wrinkle if they go too long without water. Once watered, they will plump back up.
Upon hearing that her century plant will provide numerous sprouts she said those interested can let her know and she will give them one. Also plentiful at the Payton property are playful kittens.
“No charge for either the century plants nor the kittens,” said Payton. “They can just come and get them.”
Those interested can visit Payton on Sundays after church at Saint Savoir Baptist Church or call her at home at 318-357-8880.