Agave

Agave leaves

Tender, exotic-looking architectural plants with impressive grey-green spiky leaves. Some species are reasonably hardy in the UK, whilst others are only suitable for a cool conservatory or greenhouse. The large evergreen succulent leaves will provide form and texture all year round.

Family: Asparagaceae (asparagus family)
Botanical Name: Agave
Common Names: Century plant, American aloe

Foliage: Evergreen rosettes of spiky-edged, succulent, blue, grey or green leaves. Many attractive variegated forms are available.

Flowers: Racemes or panicles of greenish-yellow flowers may be produced on mature specimens.

Flowering Period: Summer. Rarely flowers outside in UK.

Soil: Moist but well-drained, fertile soil (sand or loam). Acid or neutral pH. Avoid waterlogged conditions.

Conditions: Full sun. Thrives best in an east or south facing aspect, in a sheltered position.

Habit: Upright.

Type: Tender Perennial.

Origin: Mexico

Hardiness: Mostly tender in the UK, although a few semi-hardy varieties can survive temperatures down to about -8°C.

Planting and Growing Agave

Plant in free draining loamy compost, in full sun. Tender forms can be planted in containers and brought outside during the summer. Return tender forms to the greenhouse or conservatory to over winter in a bright, frost-free environment.

Hardier forms look great in gravel and shingle gardens, in large pots or as a specimen plant. They dislike rain and wet, so plant them in a raised bed or on a gentle slope for good drainage.

Taking Care of Agave

Water moderately during the growing season and feed occasionally with a balanced fertiliser. Keep almost dry during the winter.

Note: Agave plants usually die once they have flowered, even if the flower spike is removed.

Pruning

Not necessary

Pests and Diseases

Can be affected by scale insects.

Propagating Agave

Increase from offsets taken in spring or autumn. Many agaves only produce offsets (or Bulbils) from the base once the main rosette dies after flowering. Alternatively, you can sow seed under glass in gentle heat in February.

Popular Varieties of Agave

Agave Americana (American Aloe) is a large tender species with thick fleshy leaves. Ideal for a cool greenhouse. Height from 20 to 40in.

Agave angustifolia (Caribbean agave) is a compact bushy form with grey-green foliage with toothed leaf margins and spiked tips. Some tolerance to frost. Height to 4ft, spread to 6ft.

Agave filifera (Thread agave) is a tender form with narrow green leaves with fine white threads on leaf margins. Height and spread to 2ft (60cm).

Agave attenuata (Foxtail agave or lion's tail) is a tender form with wider green leaves (with no teeth or terminal spike). The rosettes form on small trunk, eventually giving a palm-like appearance. Height and spread 3-4ft (1 to 1.2m).

Agave ovatifolia (Whale’s Tongue agave) has wide oval grey-green foliage with small teeth on margins and a large black tip spike. Some tolerance to frost. Height and spread 3-5ft (1 to 1.5 m).

Agave Shaka Zulu (Agave Blue Glow) is a tender decorative succulent, producing fleshy blue-green leaves with a sharp, pointed tip and jagged edges, which are also lined in reddish brown. Ideal as a low maintenance houseplant for a bright windowsill. Height and spread to 20in (50cm). For sale at You Garden.

Agave tequilana (Blue agave) is a tender species with long, narrow blue-green foliage, toothed margins and a long, sharp terminal spike. The core of the plant (or piña) is used to make the Mexican drink Tequila.

Agave victoriae-reginae (Queen Victoria agave, royal agave) is a compact form with small rounded rosettes of tight grey-green leaves with small teeth on margins and a dark tip spike. Tolerant of low temperatures but not frost. Height and spread to 18in (45cm).