The agave plant is a broad-leafed succulent that takes 8-10 years to mature.
One of its unique characteristics is that it blooms only once, before dying shortly thereafter. The blooming section of the flower saps all of the energy from the plant, causing it to wither.
Before it dies, however, the flowering spear drops pups that will bear new agave plants.
This eye-catching plant is perfect for aspiring gardeners because of its hardy nature.
There are numerous types of agave, giving you a wide variety to choose from. Currently, the Plants of The World Online website recognizes 269 species in the agave family.
We have chosen 4 of the most popular agave species that will make your garden the envy of the neighborhood. We’ll go through them one by one to give you some horticultural inspiration.
Types of Agave
Agaves are drought-resistant, giving them the ability to grow in harsh environments.
The fountain like form makes for a striking addition to any garden. Planting the fleshy-leafed agave can provide a beautiful contrast with more finely-textured plants.
Most agaves range from three to six feet tall. They prefer dryer conditions and do not need much water. Over-watering will clog their roots, so they should be planted in coarse soil with good drainage.
Agave plants are indigenous to Mexico and Southwest America but they can grow across many parts of the globe.
Take a look at the four varietals below to gain some agave insights:
This plant has a distinctive spiky appearance and is also known as blue agave or tequila cactus – although it isn’t actually a cactus.
The unique blue color of this magnificent backyard succulent is extremely alluring. It has sharp needle-shaped spines on the broad leaves, so use caution when handling.
Agave tequilana loves a hot, sunny environment and can reach up to 8 feet in either direction. Plant it in a high-clearance area so it does not get stunted or shaded.
Grow Agave tequilana in USDA zones 9b and 10 and keep in mind that it does not do well under 50°F.
The plant usually lives for 8-14 years.
After planting the blue agave, water it once a week for a month. Once the succulent grows, make sure it receives water at least once a month. The soil needs to be completely dry before watering again. It should stay relatively moist, especially during the summer months, but avoid overwatering.
Diseases and Pests
Since blue agave started being industrially grown for tequila production, the previously unknown disease ‘Tristeza’ has spread and caused many deaths.
If your succulent suffers from the disease, this can lead to the stem and roots blackening, and the heart getting infected by weevils. The surrounding tissues rot and turn red due to the deadly bacteria.
Luckily, it mainly affects plantation-grown agaves, so this is unlikely to occur in your garden.
If your garden experiences temperatures below 28°F, cover the plant with old blankets.
Fertilize the blue agave in early spring using fertilizer specially made for cacti. Note that fertilizing encourages flowering, after which the plant will die.
This a large perennial plant, with long, sharp leaves.
The Agave americana leaves are blue-green in color, and they reach up to 6 feet long. The common ‘Yellow Ribbons’ variety is green with yellow stripes.
At maturity, it produces a flowering stalk that can reach up to 15 feet tall with yellow-green flowers.
This is the most commonly known agave, also bearing the name ‘century plant’. Once thought to flower only once every century, this majestic evergreen agave plant actually lives around 20-30 years, flowers, and then dies.
The flower head of each plant can produce as much as 1000 liters of sap called aguamiel (honey water). This is fermented into pulque, a viscous beverage popular in Mexico.
Agave nectar from the core of the plant makes a sweetener that substitutes for honey and sugar.
Plant agave in well-drained soil and full sun, although it can tolerate light shade. A. americana grows best in USDA zones 8-10.
The A. americana has low water requirements and grows rapidly during summer. To avoid root rot, make sure the soil remains dry between watering sessions.
Once agave plants are mature and rooted, they can be neglected and grow with minimal water.
Diseases and Pests
Agave weevil is the most common pest, especially in the desert regions. Take a look at the video below to see how to get rid of this pest.
If you are thinking of growing A. americana, the plant will thrive both indoors and outdoors. This type of agave grows best at a temperature of at least 50°F.
Only fertilize this agave every two weeks when it is actively growing. Once mature, fertilize only once during the growing season.
Also known as Parry’s agave or Mescal agave, this is a herbaceous perennial.
IIts leaves are uniquely colored with blue-gray-green rosettes and a dark tip. This species of agaves reach up to 2 feet tall by 3 feet wide.
It flowers from between 10-15 years with the stalk reaching up to 20 feet tall.
Agave parryi prefers an environment with dry soil, full sun, and it can tolerate drought. It is also known to handle ‘dry winters’ with temperatures as low as 20°F.
Plant agave within USDA zones 7-10.
Like most agaves, this species prefers well-draining soil, without excessive water.
Diseases and Pests
This is a particularly hardy agave plant, with no known pests or diseases that it is susceptible to.
This type of agave can often outgrow small spaces.
You do not need to worry much about this particular agave plant care as it’s fine being left alone.
Use liquid fertilizer for younger plants during the summer, but do not fertilize during the winter.
This agave plant is also known as the lion’s tail, swan’s neck, or foxtail.
It can grow up to 4 feet tall, and twice as wide.
The leaves on this type of agave are silvery, green-yellow rosettes. The leaves arise from a thick stem, then gracefully arch backward like an open flower.
Foxtail agaves grow best in USDA zones 10-12. They prefer to grow in gravelly, well-drained soil in full sun.
You can use a pre-mixed cactus mix or combine a mixture of soil, sand, and perlite.
Like most agaves, foxtails are drought tolerant but you should still hydrate them regularly. If planted in full sun, you will need to provide moisture more often than you would other types.
This plant is not likely to suffer root rot like most other agave plants, but it is still advisable not to overwater.
Diseases and Pests
If this agave is grown in poor conditions, it may result in infection by scale insects. These suck the moisture out of the plant until it eventually dies. Your best option is to provide well-draining soil and enough sunlight.
These types of agave plants sometimes struggle with excessive heat as the leaves are quite tender. To protect your plant, place it in partial shade. Furthermore, don’t leave it outside when it’s extremely cold, as it cannot handle frost.
Grow Your Choice of Agave
When growing agave plants, you can decide which ones you would like to plant depending on:
- How many feet tall and wide you’re looking for
- The weather conditions in your area
- Whether your preferred agave can withstand the temperatures
The care is minimal as planting agave means growing some of the easiest types of succulents.
You can pair them with other succulents such as aloe vera or use them as accent pieces in your garden.
But that’s not all you can do. Your garden is a place full of possibilities and all you need is great advice on how to transform it to your liking.
The Gardening Channel is the best place for all the pro-tips to keep your garden healthy and beautiful. From growing agave to all other kinds of plants, fruits, and vegetables. Read our blog to excel in your gardening ventures.