Plant, Develop, and Take care of Agave Vegetation

Do you live in the desert and struggle to grow flowering plants? Or perhaps you want to be more water-wise with your garden. Maybe you’re looking for a plant that will come back year after year with little to no outside maintenance or intervention. Well, look no further than agave. Gardening expert Kelli Klein walks you through how to plant, grow, and care for agave plants. 

Agave is a lovely desert succulent that has evolved to survive the harshest desert conditions with very little water. This plant thrives in hot and dry climates, and it also flowers! These flowers are as rare as they are stunning. In fact, it is sometimes referred to as the century plant since it can take up to 80 years for this plant to produce a flower. But most will flower within the 10-30 year range. 

They’re also very easy to care for, which makes them a great choice for beginner gardeners or those who would like to add to their landscape without adding to their garden maintenance to-do list. Agave might often be thought of as a syrup that you buy in the grocery store or that plant that is used to make tequila and mezcal, but it also holds its own in the garden as an ornamental. 

It is not truly a perennial as it will die after it flowers, so it is considered to be a multiannual, but since it takes decades to flower, you will enjoy it for years to come. 

Plant Overview

Native Area

North America


Full sun to part shade

Watering Requirements


Pests and Diseases

Agave weevil, slugs and snails, root rot, crown rot

Soil Type

Well-drained, rocky, sandy

Soil pH

Neutral, slightly acidic

What Are Agave Plants?

Agave is a stunning succulent that is commonly used as an ornamental plant in xeriscaping and desert landscapes. It has plump and firm leaves that retain water as a survival mechanism for the harsh conditions of the desert. Although these plants are more commonly used as ornamentals by the home gardener, they are also cultivated commercially for agave nectar and used to make tequila and mezcal. 

Agave is a Greek word meaning “noble” or “marvelous.” This name was given to the plant by Carl Nilsson Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist. It is a testament to these beautiful desert plants and the marvelous flower stalks they produce. They also grow in unique rosettes. There is nothing else like them, and some of them can grow quite large


Sunlight bathes an Agave field, casting deep shadows between the rows of towering plants. The blue-green leaves rise in sharp points, creating a dramatic scene of light and shadow. Each plant stands tall and proud, like a warrior in a silent army, their fibrous armor gleaming in the golden rays.
In prehispanic times, agave played a crucial role in textiles, food, and the creation of “mezcal.”

Prehispanic cultures used agave for textiles such as clothing and rope. It was also used for food such as fermented beverages, nutritional supplements, and to make mezcal. Mezcal roughly translates to “cooked” in English.

The root of the word is metl (agave) and izcalli (the place to cook). Metlizcalli was changed to mezcali by the Spanish, which evolved into the present-day term, mezcal

Native Area

This close-up captures the rows of mature agave plants stretching across a vast field. Their spiky, fleshy leaves, in various shades of green and blue, emerge from the reddish-brown soil like clusters of swords piercing the earth. 
Agave thrives in arid regions, often taking decades to mature, earning its “century plant” nickname.

This plant is native to North America, with 70% of all species being found in Mexico. It survives in hot and dry desert climates with ease where it doesn’t require daily watering or fertilizing. Because of the harsh conditions in its native area, it is slow-growing and can sometimes take decades to fully mature.

This has led to the common name “century plant.” Some varieties can grow 60-80 years before flowering


This close-up captures the spiky beauty of a blue agave plant from above. Its countless leaves unfurl from the center, resembling a flower in bloom. The succulent blades shimmer with a blue-green hue, their edges tipped with danger, while the parched earth below hints at the harsh beauty of the agave's native desert home.
This plant features triangular, fibrous leaves and blooms with a tall flowering spike.

Agave tends to grow in a rosette of triangular leaves. The succulent leaves have marginal spines and are very fibrous. During flowering, a tall spike grows from the center stem and produces an asparagus-like stalk with branches that host short tubular flowers. These flowers will eventually produce seeds. 

The root system consists of shallow rhizomes, which allow these plants to pick up moisture close to the surface of the soil, like dew or other condensation. Not only do agave produce flower stalks at the end of their life, but throughout their life, they will produce a series of “pups” that can be transplanted away from the mother plant to create more plants. 


A close-up shot of a sun-drenched agave plant, its thick, fleshy leaves cascading downwards like emerald waves. The plant's spiky tips contrast with the soft blur of a house in the background, hinting at the agave's wild spirit tamed by a garden setting.
Agave’s low-maintenance appeal makes it a popular choice for xeriscaped gardens in dry climates.

These plants are popular ornamental plants in hot and dry climates since they need little in the way of supplemental water to survive. For this reason, they make a great choice for a xeriscaped or low-water-use garden. They are beautiful and low maintenance, which is hard to resist for a hands-off landscape. 

Aside from their ornamental uses, agave is also cultivated commercially to produce agave nectar, tequila, and mezcal. To be called tequila, it has to be produced from the Blue Weber variety. This variety is a popular choice for syrups and nectars as well. You might notice labels that indicate “blue agave nectar” which refers to Blue Weber agave. 

In the last few years, agave is being researched as an alternative biofuel in Australia. It can be used to produce an ethanol-based fuel alternative similar to sugarcane and corn. Early testing shows that it can even outperform its sugarcane and corn counterparts. 

Where To Buy Agave Plants?

A row of small blue variegated American agave plants in black plastic pots fills the frame. The agave plants have thick, fleshy leaves with green edges and yellow centers. The plants are all different sizes, and some have sprouted pups at their bases.
When choosing agave for your garden, online retailers offer variety, while local nurseries provide expertise.

Agave plants are widely available at big box stores, online retailers, and local nurseries. Searching online retailers will give you the biggest range of varieties available. On the other hand, shopping at a local nursery will likely result in picking up a variety that is well-suited to your area. Not to mention the in-person information that you can receive at a local nursery.

If you have a friend growing agave, then you might be able to dig up some pups or gather some seeds to propagate


A close-up of a spiky agave plant with thick, grayish-green leaves that resemble cactus paddles. The leaves have brown teeth lining their edges and sharp black tips. The agave is planted in a bed of small, brown pebbles.
Plant agave in a hole twice as wide as its container, using cactus soil for drainage.

Prepare your planting site by digging a hole that is twice as wide as the container your agave was originally housed in. Gently lift your agave from its original pot and place it into the hole. Then, backfill with cactus soil to provide proper drainage. Water regularly, once a week, until established. You’ll know your agave has established when it puts out new growth. 

The best time to plant is either spring or early fall when temperatures are mild. Although agave can survive extremely hot temperatures, you want mild temperatures when your plant is first getting adjusted to its new home. Also, know your variety. Most agave plants are frost-sensitive and cannot survive winter temperatures below freezing, but there are a few varieties that can! 

How to Grow

Agave is a low-maintenance plant that has evolved to survive harsh desert conditions. They can withstand hot and dry climates with little in the way of supplemental water. Provide it with a few preferred growing conditions, and it will thrive for decades to come. 


A close-up of a spiky agave plant. The agave's long, thick leaves radiate from the center, their edges lined with tiny yellow teeth and black spines. The agave's sturdy form and sharp edges convey a sense of both resilience and danger.
Apart from determining the right planting spot, it’s essential to consider lighting throughout the year.

Agaves prefer full sun but can also survive in partial shade conditions. If you are growing your agave indoors, then you will need to place it near a bright, sunny window. Agaves need a minimum of six hours of sunlight per day. This does not have to be a consecutive six hours, meaning they can receive 3 hours of morning light, afternoon shade, and then three hours of sunlight later in the day.

It’s important to keep these light requirements in mind when choosing a planting site. It’s especially important to scope out the lighting at your planting site in the winter when the sun is at its lowest in the sky. Agave will still need at least 6 hours of sunlight in the winter, too. 


Sunlight dances on plump water drops adorning the smooth, emerald blades of an agave plant. Each droplet acts as a tiny magnifying glass, revealing the intricate veins beneath the plant's vibrant skin.
To maintain agave, adjust watering frequency based on outdoor precipitation and season.

Agave has low water needs, which makes it perfect for xeriscaping. It can survive long periods of drought. Although when you do water it, agave prefers to be watered deeply but infrequently.

Of course, a watering schedule will be dependent on how much outdoor precipitation your plant is receiving, but in periods of drought, it should be watered once every 2-3 weeks during the growing season. It can be watered less often during the winter and cooler months. Be sure to let the soil dry out completely before watering again.  


A close-up of a dry, sandy, and rocky soil texture. The ground is covered in small to medium-sized pebbles and stones, with some larger rocks scattered throughout. The soil is a light brown color, and there is no vegetation to be seen.Use cactus soil blends for improved drainage, unlike moisture-retaining potting soil.

Agave has evolved to survive in deserts, which are commonly made up of sandy and rocky soil. Regardless of what the soil is composed of at your planting site, it is most important that it provides good drainage. Overly wet or soggy soils can cause fungal or rot issues.  

If you need to amend your soil, opt for pre-mixed cactus soil blends. These bagged blends differ from traditional potting soil. Standard potting soil blends are made up of organic matter that is made to retain moisture. Cactus soil blends, however, are made up of inorganic matter such as pumice, chicken grit, or gravel to prompt good drainage. 

Temperature and Humidity

This close-up captures the intricate details of an Agave attenuata. The succulent plant’s broad, blue-green leaves unfurl from the center, their smooth surfaces catching the sunlight and revealing subtle striations. The sharp spines along the leaf margins add a touch of drama to the overall composition.Agave thrives in low humidity, mimicking its native hot and dry conditions.

These plants do not like high-humidity environments. High-humidity environments can lead to fungal issues and slow growth.

Much like in their native range, these plants prefer hot and dry climates. You can create this indoors by placing a dehumidifier near your agave plants if the surrounding area is too humid. 


Sunlight glints off a variegated Agave americana Mediopicta, its spiky leaves and vibrant colors contrasting with a muted background of grass and trees. It has thick, fleshy leaves that are green with creamy-yellow stripes running down the center.Fertilizing agave is discouraged, as it may cause premature flowering and plant death.

This is a rare case where fertilizing your plant is neither optional nor optimal. It’s not recommended. Fertilizing agave plants can lead to premature flowering. Since these plants die after they bloom, that will also result in the premature death of your plant. 


This close-up shows the base of a pruned yucca plant. The rough, brown trunk transitions to smooth, green leaves as it rises. The sharp contrast between the two colors highlights the plant's sculptural form. 
Agave needs minimal maintenance, mainly removing dead or damaged leaves and infrequent watering.

Regular pruning is not required outside of removing any dead or damaged leaves from the plant. Other than that there is little in the way of maintenance required for agave plants aside from the above-mentioned waterings, which are few and far between.  

Growing In Containers

Two agave plants in small white pots sitting on a windowsill. The plant on the right is thinner with yellow edges and small, spiky thorns along the sides of its leaves. The plant on the left is thicker and has fewer thorns, and its leaves are arranged in a rosette shape.
Consider the mature size of your agave variety when deciding between container or ground planting.

Small varieties of agave can certainly be grown in containers. These plants don’t mind becoming root-bound, unlike other houseplants. However, varieties like Agave americana grow so large that they will do better in the ground.

Agave americana can reach 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide. And that isn’t including the up to 8-foot tall flower spike that is produced shortly before this plant dies. Long story short, make sure you know which variety you are growing and its mature height and spread when deciding whether or not to grow it in a container. 


A close-up of a black plastic seed tray filled with agave pups. The pups are planted in moist, healthy brown soil and have already formed leaves with tiny thorns emerging. Some of the pups also have small roots starting to grow.
Agave propagation options include pups, which are clones, and collecting seeds from blooming plants.

There are two main ways to propagate agave, and that is by either pups or seeds. Pups are the smaller plants that appear around the base of the main plant or mother plant. Pups are clones of the mother plant and can be dug up and replanted to produce more agave. This is perhaps the easiest way to propagate agave plants. Some varieties produce pups throughout their lifetime, while others only produce pups as they begin to bloom. 

You can also collect seeds from your plant. When it blooms and produces tubular flowers, the flower will eventually die and form seeds. The seeds can be collected and started just like you would start any other seed.

Be sure to keep seeds evenly moist until they germinate and then slowly back off on watering as the seedling grows. Transplant into cactus soil until it is large enough to be moved outdoors or moved into a larger container. 

Common Problems

Agaves are relatively low-maintenance plants with very few pest and disease issues. However, there are a few things to be on the lookout for. Early intervention is key to the longevity and overall health of your agave plants, so here are some signs to watch for. 

Yellowing Leaves

An agave plant with browning leaves. The tips of the leaves are the most affected, and the color is starting to spread towards the base of the plant. The soil around the plant is dry and dusty, and some of the dust has collected on the leaves.
Wrinkled, yellowing leaves from the bottom up signal insufficient water; deep watering can revive them.

Wrinkly leaves that eventually turn yellow, shrivel, and fall off indicate that your agave is not receiving enough water. When watered properly, the leaves should be plump and firm. This yellowing of the leaves starts from the bottom up. 

If you see yellow leaves appearing at the base of your plant, assess your watering schedule. You can also feel the soil around your plant. If it is completely dry, then consider giving your plant a deep watering. Remove dead/dying leaves and new growth will take its place. 

Distorted Growth

This close-up shows a succulent agave plant with several abnormalities. Its leaves are distorted and misshapen, some of them a grayish color and others with brown spots. The edges of the leaves are also curled. 
Leaf curl, may result from inadequate light or excessive water.

If you notice distorted growth, such as leaf curl, this can be caused by improper light or too much water. To troubleshoot, first make sure that your agave plant is receiving at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. If it is not receiving enough sunlight, consider relocating your plant to a better location. 

To determine if the issue is being caused by too much water, dig down into the soil surrounding the agave plant and feel if it is wet. If the soil feels constantly wet, you’ll need to increase soil drainage. You can amend the surrounding soil with the above-mentioned cactus soil mix or make your own by adding gravel, sand, and perlite to the soil. 


A close-up reveals a cluster of mealybugs, fuzzy white insects, congregating at the base of an agave leaf. The insects cluster around the base of the leaves, where they feed on the plant's sap. The infestation has caused the leaves to become distorted and discolored, with some areas turning brown.Diseases are rare, but Agave Weevils can be problematic, causing wilting at the leaf base.

Agave plants don’t generally suffer a lot of disease issues, but when they do, it is usually in conjunction with an infestation of Agave Weevils. The feeding of these weevils creates an opening in the plant’s natural defenses for disease pathogens to enter. This large black beetle can kill agave plants and seems to favor the century plant, particularly right before it blooms. 

Agave weevil damage will appear at the base of the leaf where it meets the stem and causes wilting. If caught early, the weevils can be picked from the plant manually, and the ground can be treated with a grub killer to prevent a new generation from appearing. Insecticides used on adult weevils have mixed results. If an infestation is severe, remove the plant to prevent the weevils from spreading to surrounding agaves. 

Slugs and snails aren’t a threat to a mature plant, but young plants may be susceptible to feeding by either pest. Use a slug bait, hand pick them at night as they feed, or nestle a beer trap in the ground to control them.


A once vibrant agave plant now stands skeletal against a harsh sun, its leaves wilted and bleached by what appears to be root rot. Its once-plump leaves hang limp and gray, succumbing to the relentless heat and unforgiving drought. 
Overwatering can lead to root rot, with symptoms like a mushy stem and wilting.

Too much water causes most of the main problems for agave plants and also contributes to the development of root rot. The symptoms of root rot will appear as a soft, mushy stem, wilting, and, of course, rotten roots. This type of rot is harder to recover from but can be remedied if there are still fresh, white roots that have not yet turned to mush. You can dig up your agave, cut back the rotted roots, and replant into dry soil. Cut back on watering and only water if the soil has completely dried out.  

Similar to root rot, crown rot is caused by an overabundance of moisture. The symptoms are deterioration or rotting at the crown of the plant. The crown is found at the base of the plant where it meets the soil, at the area right before the roots form. This causes the plant to turn yellow, collapse, and die. You might even notice fungal growth at the base of the plant near the surface of the soil. Reduce watering until the soil has completely dried. In severe cases, you can treat with a copper fungicide to reduce fungal growth as well. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Agave are considered to be succulents. All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Agave has leaves, while cacti do not.

The short answer is yes, agave plants bloom!

They generally live between 10-30 years on average, but sometimes they can live decades longer than that. Up to 80 years!

Most agave plants are considered to be monocarpic, which means they will live for as many seasons as it takes them to bloom. They will die shortly after blooming. It can take decades for them to bloom which makes them multi-annual rather than a true perennial plant.

Final Thoughts

Agave are beautiful desert hardy plants that make a great addition to your low-water use or xeriscaped landscaping. They are low-maintenance and long-lived. Keeping your agave healthy will result in a unique and stunning bloom within your lifetime if you’re lucky!  

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