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Agave - Growing Guide
Agaves enjoy exactly the same sort of hot dry situations as you would find also hosting yucca, fucraea and beschorneria.
They originate from the USA, Mexico and South America but only two of these species of succulents are genuinely hardy outside in southern parts of the UK or in coastal locations. These are Agave americana and the much smaller growing Agave parryi.
The leaves form large rosettes. They are thick and leathery and armed with formidable spines and teeth. In Mexico Agave atrovirens is grown as the source of their natural drink. The stems are pulped and fermented to create tequila. Before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors to Mexico agave provided both paper and fibre as well as alcohol.
In the UK agave have a claim to fame only as notable architectural plants best kept well away from the public or children in locations where they can be admired without any physical contact.
Agave americana can, in maturity, produce flowering spikes of up to 25ft tall. The flowers are yellowish green. The flowering spikes on Agave parryi are creamy yellow and up to 15ft tall. Once a plant has flowered it will normally die leaving offsets at its base to grow on. Agave also produce suckering stems which are easily cut and can be moved or potted.
Agave will grow well in poorish coastal soils but these must be well drained or the plants will readily rot in winter. That is why you often see agave grown on top of a mound or bank where there is little chance of waterlogging.
If you need to grow these plants in the greenhouse for frost protection they can be treated like other cacti or succulents and grown in cactus compost. Water freely in summer and sparingly or hardly at all in winter.
We sometimes offer other species of agave on the website (Agave filifera, Agave victoriae-reginae) but these should be viewed as greenhouse plants.