Agaves are native to to the hot and arid regions of Mexico, central and tropical South America and the southern and southwestern United States. They are members of the family Asparagaceae, comprising about 200 species.
Plants in this genus may be considered perennial, because they require several to many years to mature and flower. The succulent leaves of most Agaves have sharp marginal teeth, an extremely sharp terminal spine and are very fibrous inside. The stout stem is usually extremely short, which may make the plant appear as though it is stemless. Height ranges by species. For example, Agave americana may grow up to 6 feet (1.8 m), while Agave parryi may grow up to 2 feet (60 cm) tall.
In the garden, they create visual interest, especially when they bloom. Th flowers are quite impressive, not least because of their infrequency. Agave attenuata flowers when it is about 10 years old, while Agave parryi blooms sometime between 20 and 30 years of age. The flowers appear on a tall, upright stalk that can be anywhere from 5 to 30 feet (1.5 to 9 m) tall, depending on the species. The flowers typically range from yellow to greenish-yellow.
Most species are monocarpic, flowering once and then dying, but there are a few that are repeat bloomers. As soon as flowers set seed and drop, the monocarpic plant withers and dies. Before dying, suckers are produced at the base of the stem, which grow into new plants.
Because they are native to warm climates, Agaves generally prefer full sun. Their soil preferences range from medium moisture to dry and they like sandy or gritty soils that provide good drainage. Although they tolerate drought, they do like regular watering and will wrinkle if they go too long without water.
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