AGAVES IN YOUR GARDEN
Agaves are succulents that store water and nutrients in their leaves. They have fibrous, shallow roots. Although well adapted to desert climates, they require supplemental water and some shade, especially when the plants are small. Some species are also susceptible to frost.
Agaves in the landscape provide unique design aspects, differing in leaf texture and color as well as having an interesting rosette shape. Different species of agaves offer a wide range of sizes. Their varieties of color add highlights and contrast to any landscape and thus they are excellent accent plants. They enhance native and semi-tropical gardens and can be used in formal or natural designs. Larger species create focal points and many can be showcased specimen plants. Smaller sizes can be used effectively as container plants.
SOIL: Agaves like a well-drained soil. A mixture of equal parts potting soil, native soil, and pumice should be used for container planting. When transplanting agaves from pots to the ground, care should be used to not disturb the roots. Typically, no soil amendment is necessary. Place the plants in the ground so that the soil line is the same as the original soil line in the container. It is very important that the plant not be planted deeper than its previous level.
WATER: When planted in the ground, agaves can be placed on a drip line that will deliver 1 gallon of water per hour. In the summer months or when temperatures are above 100 degrees, agaves benefit with 2 to 4 hours of drip irrigation once a week (depending on plant size and soil type). During the winter months irrigation should be reduced to once per month. After winter or monsoon rains watering should be adjusted accordingly.
LIGHT: Agaves that are small in size or are young plants do better with filtered sun. Most mature specimens can tolerate and thrive in full sun provided they have the supplemental water mentioned above.
FERTILIZATION: Agaves have two growing seasons: spring and fall. A complete, balanced fertilizer can be applied monthly during those seasons. A foliar, systemic 20-20-20 fertilizer would be beneficial to the growth of healthy plants.
PESTS AND DISEASES:
Snout weevil (Scyphophorus acupunctatus): Agaves and yuccas are prone to infestation of agave snout weevil. This beetle lays her eggs between the leaves of the plant. The eggs cycle into the grub stage that eats the plant tissue. When the plant tissue is exposed it becomes susceptible to bacteria. The bacteria eventually will destroy the plant. You can treat the weevil with an insecticide for both the beetle and the grub.
Place your agave in a container that has drainage holes in the bottom. Fill the container with a very well-draining potting mix, such as a commercial mix made for cacti and succulent plants that's usually a mixture of potting soil, sand and perlite. Alternatively, you can use a mix of 1 part sterile potting soil and 1 part coarse sand. Pot the agave at the same depth as it was planted in the nursery container.
Position your agave in bright light, such as in a sunny window. You can use artificial lighting by positioning a white fluorescent tube 6 to 12 inches above the agave plant, keeping the light turned on for 14 to 16 hours each day.
Maintain air temperatures around your potted agave of 15 to 20 degrees C during the day and at least 12 degrees at night. Agaves can thrive in much hotter temperatures, up to 40 degrees or more during the daytime, but hotter conditions can promote diseases.
Water your potted agave thoroughly only when the potting mix dries out completely.
Provide water until it begins to drain from the bottom of the pot. During winter, you should water your agave only right before the plant is about to wither, usually once every two or three weeks.
Feed your agave with a liquid houseplant fertilizer at half the normal dosage rate once in late spring and again in summer. Ensure that the fertilizer contains more phosphorous than nitrogen by looking at the "nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium" or NPK ratio on the label.
You can set your potted agave outdoors during the warmer spring and summer months, placing the plant in a partially shaded location first and then moving it into a sunnier spot. Move the agave back indoors during the cooler months when daytime temperatures fall below 18 degrees and nighttime temperatures are lower than 12 degrees.
Avoid overwatering and over fertilizing your potted agave, particularly during the winter. When you water your agave, don't allow the plant to sit in pooled water. After about one hour, discard any water that's in the drainage dish. Don't fertilize the agave during winter.
Propagating agaves. Air-dry the cut leaf and then insert the severed end of the leaf into a pot filled with sterile, moistened sand.
Water the cutting only when the sand dries out completely and then transplant the leaf cutting into the coarse sand and potting soil mixture after it forms roots.
Water the cutting only when the sand dries out completely and then transplant the leaf cutting into the coarse sand and potting soil mixture after it forms roots.Avoid overwatering and over fertilizing your potted agave, particularly during the winter. When you water your agave, don't allow the plant to sit in pooled water. After about one hour, discard any water that's in the drainage dish. Don't fertilize the agave during winter.