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Agave



Agave parryi var. truncata
at the Tucson Botanical Gardens


     Agave is a large genus of mostly hard fibrous leaved, rosette producing succulents with a long history of use from the early New World civilizations to modern man. It includes the famous "Century Plant". They are found from the southwestern USA to central South America. They are mainly utilized for their fiber but also raised for the main ingredient in Pulque and Tequila. Agave is named for the Queen of Thebes in Greek mythology.
     Agave is a very variable genus. These plants range from tiny dwarvs a few inches in diameter to giants 6 feet high or more and as much as 10 feet in girth. Most Agaves are impressivelly armed with shark like teeth along the leaf edges and a lethal terminal spine. A few species have smooth leaf edges but the terminal spine is nearly always present. Only a few Agaves such as A. vilmoriniana and A. desmetiana lack both spines and teeth. Color ranges from lime green to blue grey and can turn a reddish color in winter or when otherwise stressed. Some species such as A. victoria reginae have interesting patterns on the leaves and others sport white curly fibers along the leaf edges along with patterning. A. parviflora is a good example. The new growth leaves are tightly packed and sometimes each leaf has the impression of the leaves that went before it. These are very attractive patterns. A lot of variegated cultivars exist as well, making Agave a very desirable and collectable genus.
     Most Agaves are monocarpic, meaning they grow to flower once and then die. But most species offset and there are usually plenty of pups to carry on the line. Offsets are the easiest method of propagation in amateur cultivation. Agaves produce a tall flower stalk that at first can look remarkeably like a giant asparagus. An Agave inflorescense can be very impressive. With the larger species they can reach a height of 20 feet or more. The flowers are usually yellow. Occasionally offsets are produced on the flower stalk itself. I've had some luck rooting these and managed to grow on an Agave parryi that produced no side shoots, flowered and died.
     Agaves can be grown in any well draining cacti mix and will thrive with plenty of sun and water in the hot season. Some can grow quite fast given plenty of sun and water. They need to be kept much drier in winter. Planted in the landscape, they do well here in plain old desert dirt. In wetter climates it is best to add some gravel or other aggregate to make the soil fast draining. Some species are very cold hardy. Offsets root slowly but consistently. I've never tried to raise any from seed.


I have several species of Agave
Click on a thumbnail below.


Agave
zebra

Agave
victoriae-reginae

Agave americana
medio picta alba

Agave
verschaffletii minima

Agave
lophantha

Agave
parrasana

Agave
ferdinand regis

Agave
parviflora

Agave
colorata

Agave
vilmoriniana

Agave desmettiana
variegata

Agave americana
Marginata

Agave angustifolia
Marginata

Agave parryi
var. patonii

All images and text are copyright 2006-7 D.S. Franges, unless otherwise noted.