Create Your Garden

Agave: Plant Care and Growing Guide

Agave americana, Agave attenuata, Agave bracteosa, Agave desmettiana, Agave havardiana, Agave lophantha, Agave macroacantha, Agave neomexicana, Agave ovatifolia, Agave parryi, Agave salmiana, Agave stricta, Agave tequilana, Agave utahensis, Agave victoriae-reginae, Agave vilmoriniana

Agave americana, Agave attenuata, Agave bracteosa, Agave desmettiana, Agave havardiana, Agave lophantha, Agave parryi, Agave salmiana, Agave stricta, Agave tequilana, Agave victoriae-reginae, Agave vilmoriniana

What are Agave Plants?

Agave is a genus of about 300 species of succulent plants that are native to arid regions of the Americas, particularly Mexico and the southwestern United States. It belongs to the asparagus family, Asparagaceae, along with asparagusyuccabluebell, hosta, and some houseplants.

Agaves are evergreen succulents with handsome rosettes of usually thick, rigid, fleshy leaves with marginal teeth and often a sharp terminal spine.

Diversity: Agaves come in many different sizes and colors and showcase a diverse range of leaf shapes. They make excellent landscape features, providing year-round visual appeal. Smaller varieties are perfect for adding texture, color, and drama to containers. They are fascinating plants that offer a lot of variety and interest to any landscape.

Foliage: Agaves are characterized by their thick, fleshy foliage that often has spiky edges or tips. Their leaves can display a range of colors, from green to blue-gray to variegated, and some species feature eye-catching patterns or markings.

Long-lived: These succulents are often referred to as “century plants” because they can take many years – up to 30 – to bloom and produce seeds.

Flowers: A blooming agave is an impressive sight – the plant is topped with a striking flowering spike that can reach up to 15 ft (5m) in height and features vibrant clusters of flowers. Many agaves are monocarpic, meaning they bloom once and then die. However, it may take several years for this to happen, and many agaves produce offsets that will happily replace the dead plant.

Guide Information

Hardiness 7 - 11
Heat Zones 5 - 12
Plant Type Cactus & Succulents
Plant Family Asparagaceae
Genus Agave
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Tolerance Drought, Rabbit, Rocky Soil, Dry Soil, Deer
Attracts Birds, Hummingbirds
Landscaping Ideas Beds And Borders, Banks And Slopes, Patio And Containers
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Gravel and Rock Garden, Mediterranean Garden
Agave ‘Blue Glow’
Agave ‘Kissho Kan’ (Butterfly Agave)
Agave americana (Century Plant)

Why should I Grow Agave Plants?

There are many reasons why you might consider growing agave plants, including:

  • Architectural interest: Agaves are known for their striking architectural forms and can add a dramatic, sculptural element to any landscape or garden design.
  • Low maintenance: Once established, these plants require very little maintenance or care, making them an ideal choice for low-maintenance landscapes or garden beds.
  • Drought tolerance: Agaves are highly adapted to dry conditions and can thrive in areas with limited rainfall or water resources.
  • Fire resistance: Agaves are highly fire-resistant and can help protect your property and home in wildfire-prone areas.
  • Wildlife habitat: The plants can provide habitat for a range of wildlife species, including pollinators and small animals.
  • Deer/rabbit: Agaves are generally resistant to browsing by deer and rabbits, as they have tough, spiny leaves that are not palatable to most animals.
  • Ornamental value: Agaves are popular ornamental plants that can be used in a variety of landscape designs, from rock gardens to borders to container plantings.
  • Culinary use: Some species are edible and have a long history of culinary use, particularly in Mexico and other parts of Central and South America.
Agave ‘Joe Hoak’
Agave americana ‘Mediopicta Alba’ (Century Plant)
Agave attenuata ‘Ray of Light’ (Fox Tail Agave)

10 Popular Species of Agave

Agave americana – a large and dramatic plant with blue-gray leaves and sharp spines that can grow up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall and 10 feet (3 meters) wide.

Agave attenuata – a medium to large-sized agave with soft, pliable leaves that lack spines or sharp teeth. It can grow up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall and produce a flower spike up to 10 feet in height.

Agave Blue Glow – a small to medium-sized agave with blue-gray leaves that have red margins and can form clumps. It can grow up to 2-3 feet (0.6-0.9 meters) tall and wide.

Agave victoriae-reginae – a smaller agave with dark green leaves and white markings that can grow up to 1 foot (0.3 meters) tall and 2 feet (0.6 meters) wide.

Agave parryi – a small to medium-sized agave with blue-gray leaves that form a rosette shape and can grow up to 2 feet (0.6 meters) tall and 3 feet (0.9 meters) wide.

Agave desmettiana – a large agave with green leaves that have white stripes that can grow up to 3 feet (0.9 meters) tall and 4 feet (1.2 meters) wide.

Agave bracteosa – a smaller agave with soft, pliable leaves that are green or bluish-green and can grow up to 1 foot (0.3 meters) tall and 2 feet (0.6 meters) wide.

Agave filifera – a medium-sized agave with green leaves that have curly white threads along the edges that can grow up to 2 feet (0.6 meters) tall and 3 feet (0.9 meters) wide.

Agave parrasana – a small to medium-sized agave with bluish-green leaves and a compact growth habit that can grow up to 2 feet (0.6 meters) tall and wide.

Agave vilmoriniana – also known as Octopus Agave, this plant has long, narrow leaves that curl upwards and outwards, giving it a unique appearance. It can grow up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall and 6 feet (1.8 meters) wide.

Agave chrysantha (Golden Flowered Century Plant)
Agave desmetiana ‘Variegata’
Agave filifera (Thread Agave)

When to Plant Agave Plants

  • Spring and early fall, when the temperatures are mild, are the best times to plant Agaves.
  • Planting during the hot summer months should be avoided, as it can cause stress to the plants.

Where to Plant Agave Plants

  • Light:  Agaves thrive in full sun. Most species require at least six hours of direct sunlight per day in order to thrive. However, in areas with hot, intense sun, some species may benefit from partial shade during the hottest part of the day, particularly in the afternoon.
  • Soil: These succulents are easily grown in slightly acidic, sandy, or gravelly, well-drained soils.
  • Water: Dry soil and drought tolerant, they can go without water for weeks, even months. Overwatering may encourage fungal root rot. Allow the soil to dry out between watering, and be sure to water the plants deeply but infrequently.
  • Hardiness: Many species are hardy in USDA zones 8 to 10, which includes much of the southern United States, as well as parts of the West Coast and Southwest. Some species, particularly those native to higher elevations or cooler climates, can tolerate colder temperatures and are hardy in USDA zones 6 and 7. However, it’s important to note that even hardy agave species can be sensitive to cold temperatures, particularly if they are exposed to prolonged or extreme cold.

How to Plant Agave Plants

  • Choose a suitable location with well-draining soil and full sun to partial shade.
  • Dig a hole that is slightly larger than the root ball of the plant.
  • Place the plant in the hole and fill the hole with soil, making sure to cover the roots completely.
  • Tamp the soil down firmly around the plant to remove any air pockets. Ensure that no part of the leaf rosette is covered with soil, which can cause rotting.
  • Water the plant thoroughly, then allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again.
  • Mulch around the base of the plant to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.Use caution, safety glasses, long sleeves, long pants, well-covered shoes, and gloves when handling agaves.
Agave macroacantha (Black-Spined Agave)
Agave victoriae-reginae (Queen Victoria Century Plant)
Agave vilmoriniana ‘Stained Glass’ (Octopus Agave)

Landscaping with Agave

Agaves can be a great addition to any landscape design, whether you are creating a desert-themed garden or simply want to add some bold and dramatic accents to your existing garden.

  • Choose the right species: Agaves come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, so it’s important to choose the right species for your landscape design. Consider the overall look and feel you want to achieve, as well as the growing conditions in your area. Find the right agave for you.
  • Create focal points: Agaves are excellent for creating bold and striking accents in a garden, whether used as focal points or as a backdrop. You can plant them individually or in groups to create a dramatic effect that catches the eye.
  • Use contrasting textures: Agaves have a unique and distinct texture that can be accentuated by contrasting it with other textures in your garden. Consider pairing agave with plants that have fine, delicate foliage or those with rough, textured leaves to create an interesting contrast.
  • Use containers: Agaves can be grown successfully in containers, making them a versatile addition to patios, balconies, and other small outdoor spaces. Find pretty agave plants for your pots and containers.
  • Slopes: Agaves that produce numerous offsets are an excellent choice for planting on slopes with challenging watering conditions. They will form a beautiful ground cover that is both attractive and easy to maintain.
  • Consider companion plants: Agaves are great companions for other cacti and succulents such as aloe and opuntia. They also pair well with perennials, ornamental grasses, and shrubs.
  • Plant away from foot traffic: Due to the needle-sharp spines on their leaf tips, planting Agaves near paths or walkways can be hazardous to humans and pets. It’s best to avoid planting them in these areas.
Agave ‘Blue Flame’
Agave montana (Mountain Agave)
Agave ovatifolia (Whale’s Tongue Agave)

Agave Care

Here are some tips for caring for agave plants:

  • Water: Agaves are drought-tolerant and prefer infrequent, deep watering rather than frequent shallow watering. Water the plant deeply every 2-4 weeks during the growing season, and reduce watering during the winter dormant period.
  • Soil: Agaves prefer well-draining soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH level. Avoid planting in soil that retains moisture or becomes waterlogged.
  • Fertilizer: Agaves do not require regular fertilization.
  • Pruning: Remove dead or damaged leaves as needed, and cut back any flower stalks that have finished blooming.

How to Propagate

Agaves can be propagated through offsets, also known as “pups”, that grow at the base of mature plants. Here are the steps to propagate agave plants:

  • Wait until the offset has developed its own root system before separating it from the mother plant.
  • Carefully remove the offset from the mother plant by cutting it off with a sharp, sterile knife.
  • Allow the cut to dry out for a few days to prevent rotting.
  • Plant the offset in well-draining soil in a new location, making sure the soil is firmly packed around the roots.
  • Water the new plant deeply, then allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again.
  • Monitor the new plant for the first few weeks to ensure it adapts well to its new environment.
Agave parryi var. truncata ‘Huntington’ (Artichoke Agave)
Agave striata (Narrow Leaf Century Plant)
Agave univittata ‘Quadricolor’

Pests and Diseases

Agaves are generally low-maintenance and relatively resistant to pests and diseases. However, they can still be affected by a few common issues, including:

Agave Snout Weevil: This pest can cause damage to the center of the agave plant, where it feeds and lays its eggs. Infested plants may eventually die. To prevent infestation, inspect your plants regularly and remove any affected areas.

Anthracnose: This is a fungal disease that can affect agaves, causing brown or black spots on the leaves and stems. It can be caused by a variety of fungal pathogens and is often spread through water droplets or contact with infected plant material. To prevent anthracnose, make sure to plant agave in a well-draining location and avoid getting water on the leaves of the plant.

Root rot: Overwatering or poorly draining soil can cause root rot, which can be fatal to agaves. To prevent root rot, make sure to plant agave in well-draining soil and avoid overwatering.

Scales: Stressed agaves (inadequate water or poor growing conditions) are more susceptible to soft scale. Scale insects attach themselves to the agave leaves and damage the plant by sucking the plant juices from the leaves. To control agave scales, it’s important to inspect your plants regularly and remove any affected areas. You can also treat the plant with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil, which can smother and kill the scales. Another option is to use a systemic insecticide, which is absorbed by the plant and kills the scales when they feed on the sap.

Agave ‘Cream Spike’
Agave americana ‘Mediopicta Aurea’ (Century Plant)
Agave havardiana (Harvard Agave)

Click here to compare all Agave varieties

Frequently Asked Questions

How fast does agave grow?

The growth rate of agave plants can vary depending on the species and growing conditions. Generally, agave plants are slow-growing, taking several years to reach maturity and produce flowers. Some species of agave can take 10-30 years to flower.

What is agave plant good for?

Agave plants are used to produce tequila, mezcal, and other alcoholic beverages. The sap of some agave species is also used as a sweetener and a source of inulin, a dietary fiber.

What are the negative effects of agave?

The sap of some agave species can be a skin irritant, causing rashes or allergic reactions in some people.

How often should agave be watered?

In general, agave plants should be watered deeply but infrequently. It is recommended to water agave plants once every 2-3 weeks in the growing season and reduce watering in the winter months when the plant is dormant.

Garden Examples

A Beautiful Duo with Agave ‘Blue Flame’ and ‘Blue Glow’
A Californian Retreat
A Colorful and Low Maintenance California Garden
A Colorful Succulent Garden
A Low Maintenance Succulent Border
A Ravishing Zen Garden
A Simple and Low-Care Mediterranean Border
A Sparkling and Low Maintenance Garden
An Eye-Catching Mediterranean Garden with Agave, Aloe and Pincushion
Compare All Agave
Compare Now
Explore Great Plant Combination Ideas
Agave
Guides with
Agave
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 7 - 11
Heat Zones 5 - 12
Plant Type Cactus & Succulents
Plant Family Asparagaceae
Genus Agave
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Tolerance Drought, Rabbit, Rocky Soil, Dry Soil, Deer
Attracts Birds, Hummingbirds
Landscaping Ideas Beds And Borders, Banks And Slopes, Patio And Containers
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Gravel and Rock Garden, Mediterranean Garden
Compare All Agave
Compare Now
Explore Great Plant Combination Ideas
Agave
Guides with
Agave

Related Items

Please Login to Proceed

You Have Reached The Free Limit, Please Subscribe to Proceed

Subscribe to Gardenia

To create additional collections, you must be a paid member of Gardenia
  • Add as many plants as you wish
  • Create and save up to 25 garden collections
Become a Member

Plant Added Successfully

You have Reached Your Limit

To add more plants, you must be a paid member of our site Become a Member

Update Your Credit
Card Information

Cancel

Create a New Collection

Sign Up to Our Newsletter

    You have been subscribed successfully

    Join Gardenia.net

    Create a membership account to save your garden designs and to view them on any device.

    Becoming a contributing member of Gardenia is easy and can be done in just a few minutes. If you provide us with your name, email address and the payment of a modest $25 annual membership fee, you will become a full member, enabling you to design and save up to 25 of your garden design ideas.

    Join now and start creating your dream garden!

    Join Gardenia.net

    Create a membership account to save your garden designs and to view them on any device.

    Becoming a contributing member of Gardenia is easy and can be done in just a few minutes. If you provide us with your name, email address and the payment of a modest $25 annual membership fee, you will become a full member, enabling you to design and save up to 25 of your garden design ideas.

    Join now and start creating your dream garden!

    Find your Hardiness Zone

    Find your Heat Zone

    Find your Climate Zone