Landscaping Tips - May Agaves

Those Amazing Agaves!

Tips for Growing and Maintaining Agaves:

  1. The most important cultural requirement for growing agaves is excellent drainage.  Placement on mounds, slopes or raised beds helps to keep water draining away from the roots.  Waterlogged, clayey soils will kill agaves, particularly in colder climates.  If water/drainage may be a problem, mix gravel or sand generously into the backfill before planting.
  2. The soil must dry out between irrigations.  Irrigating one or two times a month in the summer and once per month to every five or six weeks in the winter at most is recommended.
  3. Agaves need little to no fertilizer.  Compost spread around the surface beneath the plant once a year or a light application of complete fertilizer in the early spring is more than sufficient.
  4. Agaves love the sun.  A few species in the hottest, driest climates may benefit from afternoon shade or filtered shade from a tree canopy.
  5. There are two major insect pests that can damage or kill an agave:  agave running bug and the agave snout weevil. The running bug, very small and seldom seen, leaves small, round yellow or white spots throughout the leaf surface. Application of an insecticidal soap or broad-spectrum insecticide in spring or fall may be effective.  The agave snout weevil is an inch to inch and a half long with a curved proboscis. The female lays eggs in the heart of the agave where the eggs hatch and the larvae feed.  Often the damage is done before the insect’s presence is noticed.  Agave snout weevil particularly prefers A. americana, A. weberi and A. ovatifolia and agaves with softer leaves but has been observed on many species. There are no known chemical controls. Removal of infested plants as soon as noticed is recommended. Prevention is key.
  6. Agaves are monocarpic; they bloom one time then die. Once the plant has transitioned from vegetative growth (producing leaves and stems) to reproductive growth (producing flowers and fruit) the process cannot be retarded or stopped by cutting off or removing the flower stalk.  Agave inflorescence are extremely tall, often five to ten times the height of the rosette and heavy.  Even though the basal rosette may dry after blooming, removal may prove difficult with larger specimens often requiring chains hooked to tractors or trucks.