Everything You Should Know About The Agave Plant
This succulent plant not only provides aesthetical beauty to your landscape but also come with other multiple benefits which encourage many plant lovers to have this agave species indoor as well as outdoor.
Let’s try to explore on how to grow agave, choose among different varieties of agave, their planting techniques, benefits, fun facts and how to care them properly?
Agave, the native species of Mexico and the arid and semiarid region of Carribean, belongs to the family Asparagaceae / Agavaceae. These are succulents with a rosette growth habit that will left you astonishing. They grows well in Mediterranean region but also do well in the tropical and subtropical region.
It has become more popular among gardeners in the water-guzzling landscapes as they enhances the aesthetic value by its dramatic foliage and subtle color. These perennial drought-tolerant species have large leaves with tapering spiny tips.
Preferred Zone: It thrives best in the USDA 8-10 growing zones where a seasonal dry period occurs.
Why grow the Agave plant?
– Attractive leaf symmetry;
– Drought tolerant and can grow for months without water;
– Easy care and management;
– One of the best option among perennial patio plant
– Also considered fire retardants.
Some uses and facts about the Agave plant
1. It is used in making liquor-Tequilla and pulpue (bee-like drink).
2. It can be used for making ropes.
4. It can be used as sweet alternatives as it is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar.
5. Agave plants are grown in the garden for their beautiful foliage.
6. It belongs to the family Lilly despite resembling its morphology with cactus.
7. As many species have spiny leaves, make sure to leave some walking space around them.
8. For growing in a container or as indoor or in a garden small agave species are better suited.
9. Planting with ornamental grasses soften the rough edges and further enhances aesthetical beauty of the landscapes.
Agave can be grown by using various methods. Some of the common methods are:
a) By seed
Most of the agave species flower between 3 – 50 years of age. Therefore, the fruit develops from the pollinated flower. No special seed treatment is required. But, germination requires warmer temperature so summer planting gives the best result. Selection of seed species depend upon where (indoor or outdoor) you intend to plant.
Source: (Rodriguez et al., 2019)
The seed will start germinating after 1-2 weeks of sowing. Once the plant establish themselves, you can transplant it onto another suitable area. Transplanting time might differs from species to species. For example:
a) A. attenuata– 4 months
b) A. victoriae-reginae– 18 months
Transplant the seedlings in the pots and leave them for about 4-8 month in the greenhouse. After that hardening, off in shade should be done for 1 month before planting outdoor. It will give the best result.
b) By Pups or sucker
It is a widely used method in naturally clustering species of Agave such as in arborescent agaves such as A. attenuata. The suckering of young plants i.e. aroused from the mother plant are called pups which is used particularly in this sort of propagation.
In this technique, first, separate the pups from the mother plant by cutting with a sharp knife. But be careful not to do the harm to the mother plant while extracting pups. After then, check the presence of roots on each pups as only rooted pups are likely to grow, survive and do good. Immediately after cutting the pups, plant it in well-drained soil.
c) By Rhizome cutting
It can also be done in some clustering type of agave. Cutted- rhizome with at-least one dormant bud are preferred as it provides best result. But be careful to plant these rhizomes in well-drained soil and cover it with perlite. In 4-6 months the plants from the rhizome will be ready to transplant to another suitable media indoor as well as outdoor.
d) By Bulbils
Small plantlets produced from the axils of exhausted flowers are called bulbils. This method have been found to do best in A. vilmoriniana, A. desmetiana A. atrovirens etc.
e) By Coring
It is also a commonly used method of propagation.
– First, make a wound by cutting the central growing portion of the plant to prevent further growth and promote the development of new shoots.
– Spring season preferable.
– After 5-6 month, a new plant will arise from the damaged portion which develop roots in about a year.
f) By Micropropagation or tissue culture
It is becoming a popular technique of agave propagation due to ease and healthy planting production. Tissue culture in laboratory is more quick with better production and now has been commercialized in a large scale around the globe.
Planting care and climatic requirements
a) Soil Preparation
Prepare the soil by mixing sand or perlite (3 sand: 1.5 Perlite). For improving well-drained condition you can use peat moss or cocopeat too. Well-drained sandy soil is the ideal condition for agave but could grow also on soil ranging from rocky to loamy type with good drainage.
b) Planting time
Transplant them in the spring or before the rainy season. This will give your plant plenty of time to gain the maximum size. But be aware that while planting, rosette should not be covered otherwise plant will rot.
c) Sun exposure
They are sun-loving plant. So, make sure to plant in the area where bright sunlight comes. They even can tolerate scorching sunlight without showing any burning effect.
They could survive in cold temperature after establishing as well as hot one but grows best in warmer and low humid condition. The optimum temperature for its proper growth is 20-28 °C. Below 20°C plant growth retards while below 10°C plants could not survive.
Proper irrigation should be done in the seedling stage. But once plants establish themselves, you should cut the water supply. As they are desert plants could grow well in dry soil too. However, proper moisture should be maintained during active growth period. The amount of water also depends on soil moisture content, soil type, weather condition and growth stage of plants. Generally watering twice a week is enough in the early growing phase. While in cold weather, 1-2 times in 2 weeks is more than enough. They cannot tolerate waterlogging conditions. They show yellowing symptoms if over-watered leading to crown rot. So, proper drainage should be maintained.
Although they grow well in undernourished condition than over-fertilizing, additional additional application of fertilizer might be beneficial during summer and late spring. But be aware of over-fertilizing as it leads to flowering and plant die after that. Fertigation (irrigation + water) in a monthly interval gives the best result. In winter, avoid fertilizing.
Agave rarely needs repotting due to its slow-growing nature. Repotting has to be done in case the plant outgrow the container or pot. In such a scenario, transplant the young plants in a container having 2-3 cm larger diameter during spring with special care. Cover the stem with pebbles rather than covering it with soil or substrate because it will enhance drying and facilitate proper oxygen in the root zone. Also, transplant the plant in shallow depth without burying the neck and rosette of the plant to prevent the plant from rotting.
Thinking of bringing agave plant indoors?
If you do not have gardens for outdoor planting or if you are living in excessive cold areas then you can grow Agave plants indoors too. However, special care should be given while planting this plant indoors. Here are few things to consider before indoor planting of Agave:
1. The indoor-planted Agave requires bright light to preserve its peculiar form so ensure good sunlight.
2. Overwatering is the major problem in the indoor-planted Agave. Watering in a weekly interval is enough.
3. Pot the agaves in a 2:1 mixture of soil and sand.
4. Nutrient may become deficient in container planted Agave. So, fertilize during the spring season with compost tea or manure each year.
Types of Agave plants
Genus Agave contains about 270 species, all hailing from the deserted area near South America. Among a large number of species of agave, here we will mention only a few of them which you might prefer.
1. Century plant (Agave americana)
Century plant (Agave Americana) is also known as Maguey in Mexico. It has attractive bluish-green leaves tapering like saw-toothed spines. Two major varieties are- A. Americana mediopicta and A. Americana marginata. Both these varieties grow quite well in an open setting.
2. Royal Agave/Queen Victoria agave (Agave Victoriae-reginae)
Agave Victoriae-reginae or Royal agave is best suited as a potted or container plant. It is the most beautiful species among the genus Agave. Plants are smaller only about 6 inches taller that can also be grown as a border plant.
Leaves of this species form compact dome shape by curving inwards. The plant can live up to 20-30 years depending on the agronomic practices, climatic condition, and variety. Flowers of this agave are reddish-purple or creamy in color.
3. Blue Agave or Tequila Agave (Agave azul)
It is also popular species most commonly used in making tequila, a traditional drink of Mexico. It has many elongated and fleshy leaves having bluish tint. The leaves are filled with sap but the outer surface is hard and dull.
4. Sisal (Agave sisalana)
Mexican origin but spread around the tropical and subtropical region too due to the fiber content in leaves. Large rosette arrangement of leaves. Young leaves bear the spine which gradually disappears over time. It is used for Sisal fiber production. The yellowish-green colored flower immerses from the rosette and the plant dies after flowering.
5. Mountain Agave( A. montana)
It is an evergreen cold-tolerant quite large succulent species i.e. about 4 feet tall having a rosette arrangement of leaves. It can be grown above 2500 m altitude also. Leaves are broad, fleshy, upright having an apple green color. The cinnamon red colored spine on the margin of the leaves makes this plant more attractive.
6. Thread agave (A. filifera)
It thrives well in both containers or the garden. It has wide dark leaves containing white margins and fuzzy white filaments. No special care and management is required.
7. Foxtail Agave (Agave Attenuata) or Dragon Tree
It is a spineless plant i.e. 4-5 feet tall with curved inflorescence. Leaves are soft, pliable, and attractive. It has a greenish-yellow flower which make it perfectly adorable.
8. Octopus Agave (Agave Vilmoriniana)
It is a unique and graceful foliage succulent species having rosette growth. Long slender leaves arc and undulate making it looks like tentacles of an octopus. Toothless leaf margin of this species curls inward.
9. Smooth Agave (Agave Desmettiana)
It is a variegated form of agave species with smooth margins and a sharp terminal spine best suited as a potted plant. They flower only once at 8-10 years. Just after flowering it dies. So grown for leaves decoration rather than flower.
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