Agave spp

Agaves are succulent plants with a very modern look, making them great additions to the landscape. Leaves are protected by a very sharp and sturdy spine at the end, and often with sharp teeth along the edges. Sometimes referred to as Century Plants because of their habit of blooming only once after fully maturing for years. Flower stalks are impressive, sometimes reaching 30′ tall.

Various Agave species are important sources of food, fences, rope, medicine and liquor.

Flowers: J F M A M J J A S O N D (flowers once at maturity, then dies)
Status: Mostly Native
Origin: Semiarid habitats from Utah through Mexico. The majority have natural habitats in desert grasslands and oak-pine woodlands.
Family: Asparagaceae
Sun: Full
Watering: Supplemental only
Growth Rate: Slow to medium
Soil: Prefer sandy with some loam but very tolerant
Temperature: Most species are very cold tolerant.
Pruning: None, except to remove spines if near garden paths.
Disease and Pests: Root rot, Agave Snout Weevil
Uses: Bold forms attract attention to the landscape. Nectar plants for insects, bats and hummingbirds (varies by subgenus).
Notes: Spines are dangerous. Though the flowering plant normally dies, many species produce pups to form colonies that may persist for a century. Seeds are dispersed by wind, usually close to the plant.

The two major groups of Agave are subgenus Agave (obviously branched flower spikes) and subgenus Littaea (unbranched flower spikes). Subgenus Agave have whites to yellow flowers that produce nectar and pollen at night, and attract bats for pollination. Subgenus Littaea are pollinated primarily by insects and sometimes hummingbirds.

Visit the links under Resources for photos and illustrations of these species:

  • American Agave (Agave americana)
  • Rough Agave (Agave asperrima)
  • Golden-flowered Agave (A. chrysantha)
  • False Sisal (A. decipiens)
  • Desert Agave (A. deserti) – shown above
  • Slim-footed Agave (A. gracilipes)
  • Havard Agave (A. havardiana)
  • Holly Agave (A. lophantha)
  • Lechuguilla (A. lechuguilla)
  • Murphey’s Agave (A. murpheyi)
  • Palmer’s Agave (A. palmeri)
  • Parry’s Agave (A. parryi)
  • Grand Canyon Agave (A. phillipsiana)
  • Schott’s Agave (A. schottii)
  • Coastal Agave (A. shawii)
  • Sisal (A. sisalana)
  • Toumey’s Agave (A. toumeyana)
  • McKelvey’s Agave (A. univattata)
  • Octopus Agave (A. vilmoriniana)
  • Queen Victoria Agave (A. victoriae-reginae)
  • Twin-flowered Agave (A. geminiflora)
  • Utah Agave (A. utahensis)
  • Sacred Mountain Agave (A. verdensis)


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