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Agave

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Polianthes
Phonetic Spelling
ah-GAH-vay
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Sometimes described as fierce and outspoken, agaves give great bones to the body of your garden, support gardening style in the heat of summer and keep their composure through winter rain and snow.  Great structure, unique foliage, and a flower stalk that can stretch up to 40 feet in the air are a few interesting features of agaves. Some tolerate frost, but most grow in dry climates in zone 9 and above.  Smaller varieties exist for use as houseplants.

Often called “century plants,” this genus is comprised of succulent perennials that patiently grow and accumulate their reserves to put out one grand flower show.  Fortunately, flowering doesn’t take 100 years, but it can take up to 30.  They will typically hold out for five to ten seasons before producing a monstrously tall stalk of yellow flowers that is well worth the wait.  The offsets or “pups” are produced as the original expires.  Flowering is rare in indoor environments.

Agaves are found native in the most challenging desert habitats of Mexico and the southwestern United States.  They can survive the hottest, driest summer that North Carolina can bring.  Agaves will benefit from as much sunshine as you can afford and respond well to fertilizer and water in the summer.  Keep their feet from staying wet; agaves require very good drainage, especially during our cool, wet winters.  Sandy or gravely soil is ideal.

Sunny spots and rock gardens are great places for agaves.  Larger species, such as Agave americana, grow five feet wide and produce tall flower spikes, while smaller versions and other species, such as Agave parryi, can display a more compact stature with equally beautiful, although slightly shorter, flower stalks. Select silver, blue, or variegated leaves and colorful spines to draw even more attention to this succulent, no matter the size.

 

Quick ID:

  • Rosette of fleshy, basal leaves
  • Spines along the leaf margins and a large spine at the tip
  • Tall spikes of flowers that bloom only once in the plant's life

 

VIDEO Created by Laura Barth for "Houseplants, Succulents, and Cacti", a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Souto Sun Garden Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Parking Lot Berms Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Crevice Garden Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Part Sun-Part Shade Gardens Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Parking Lot Berms Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Crevice Garden Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Parking Lot Berms Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Crevice Garden Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Muscadine Bed Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Greenhouse Beds Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Souto Sun Garden Patio Garden Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Souto Sun Garden Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Part Sun-Part Shade Gardens Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Souto Sun Garden Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Muscadine Bed Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Greenhouse Beds Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Souto Sun Garden Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Part Sun-Part Shade Gardens
Cultivars / Varieties:
A. americana, A. amica, A. parryi, A. salmiana, A. virginica, 'Multicolor', 'Sharkskin Shoes'
Tags:
#poisonous#full sun tolerant#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#perennials#specimen#succulent#yellow flowers#accent plant#silver#agave#spiny leaves#rock gardens#xeriscaping#dry soils tolerant#container plants#hsc#hsc-s
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
A. americana, A. amica, A. parryi, A. salmiana, A. virginica, 'Multicolor', 'Sharkskin Shoes'
Tags:
#poisonous#full sun tolerant#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#perennials#specimen#succulent#yellow flowers#accent plant#silver#agave#spiny leaves#rock gardens#xeriscaping#dry soils tolerant#container plants#hsc#hsc-s
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Agave
    Family:
    Agavaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Tropical USA, Mexico
    Edibility:
    Used to make a sugar substitute sweetener.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 6 ft. 0 in. - 8 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 10 ft. 0 in. - 12 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Houseplant
    Perennial
    Poisonous
    Succulent
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Appendage:
    Spines
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Very Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    3 feet-6 feet
    6-feet-12 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    9b, 9a, 10b, 10a, 11b, 11a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Description:
    Clusters of berry-like seed pods.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Spike
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Bell
    Tubular
    Flower Description:
    Tall panicles of white, green or yellow tubular flowers in various sizes depending on the species. The individual rosette will die back after flowering. Flowering is rare in indoor environments.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Blue
    Gold/Yellow
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Variegated
    White
    Leaf Feel:
    Fleshy
    Prickly
    Smooth
    Waxy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Showy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Rosulate
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblanceolate
    Obovate
    Spatulate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Description:
    Rosettes of stemless fleshy leaves with entire or serrated margins and pointed sharp tips in various sizes depending on the species. Many have a glaucous coating on the surface and may be faceted.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Houseplants
    Landscape Theme:
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Rock Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Specimen
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Heat
    Problems:
    Contact Dermatitis
    Poisonous to Humans
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Poison part: Plant sap from leaves Poison Delivery Mode: Dermatitis Symptoms: Skin irritation. Immediate burning and redness with developing blisters
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Unknown
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Leaves
    Sap/Juice