If you are looking for a houseplant that can withstand cold temperatures, agave attenuata may be the perfect plant for you. This agave is native to the mountainous regions of Arizona and New Mexico in North America. The agave attenuata plants grow up to 3 feet tall with long, sword-shaped leaves that make them an attractive addition to any home or garden.
The agave plant produces flowers that are pollinated by bats and insects, however, they have evolved not to produce nectar or pollen because their main pollinators cannot handle cold conditions!
They are also often called ‘Foxtail Agaves’ because of their long, flexible leaves that resemble the tail of a fox.
Origin and Description
A native of the Chihuahuan Desert and northeastern Mexico, Agave attenuata is a member of the Crassulaceae family. It was first discovered in 1808 by botanist Karl Ritter von Goeppert during an expedition to New Spain (Mexico).
Agave attenuata is a slow-growing house plant that reaches heights of up to three feet tall. It features long, narrow leaves with pointed tips and smooth margins. The base color varies from greenish blue to bluish-gray, while the leaf margin can usually be found in shades of purple or pink. Its flowers are similar to those of a century plant but tend to be smaller.
The Agave attenuata is sensitive to cold temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and should not be exposed to drafts or sudden changes in temperature. It can thrive under indirect sunlight for most of the day. The average home humidity level suits this houseplant well, as it prefers dry air. It can be found growing in its natural habitat at elevations up to 7000 feet and requires very little water with regular fertilization every few months during the spring and summer seasons.
Agave attenuata is an excellent choice for those looking for a unique house plant with distinctive coloring throughout the entire year, as it only blooms after reaching a mature age of around five years.
Agave attenuata propagation
Cut the offsets from the parent plant and let them dry for a few days. The number one rule is that you should absolutely never cut into an agave’s flesh or remove its leaves with your bare hands. You can use garden shears, though be aware that some sources say they’re too dull to work well on this plant.
Plant the offsets in pots with well-draining soil and direct sunlight for a few hours each day. Water them regularly, but not too much to avoid rotting roots – you need to let their shallow roots dry out between waterings.
If you want a large agave, put the plant in a spot with full sun and well-drained soil. The more sunlight it gets, the larger the flower head it will produce. This is not possible for plants grown indoors or those that are shaded too much by surrounding trees or buildings.
Keep an eye on your plant, as you might have to keep transplanting the offsets if they grow too large for their pots.
One major benefit of propagating your agave is that it allows you to share with friends and family members, or even sell them online. The same way a new baby cactus can easily be watered every day by adding just a cup of water to the pot, planting offsets of an established cactus is just as easy.
Make sure that your agave has plenty of room for its roots by repotting it every few years or so. Once the plant’s leaves start turning yellow and falling off, you can begin harvesting some of them before they completely die off.
Agave attenuata can also be propagated by seed or stem cuttings although this is not easy for most gardeners to do since it requires specialized equipment such as a mist chamber, humidity dome, and fungicide solution.
It is possible to root a leaf in water or moist soil. However, this method can be difficult, and rooting often fails.
If growing agave attenuata indoors it will need repotting every year due to the slow growth of its roots. It should also be watered sparingly since overwatering leads to rotting roots which kill the plant.
Agave attenuata care
Care for Agave attenuata ‘Foxtail Agave’ is relatively easy. The plant does not require any special care during the dormant period, which can last up to four months. During dormancy it’s recommended that you water your agaves sparingly, only when needed and let it dry out between irrigation cycles.
In order for the agave attenuata to thrive, it requires a soil that drains well. The plant is able to grow in full sun and partial shade conditions as long as either area receives at least six hours of sunlight each day. In addition, the earth should be kept on the dry side because agaves prefer not having excess water around their roots.
Agave attenuata care involves the following:
Agave attenuata can tolerate a wide range of light. However, the best growth is achieved when it receives full sun to partial shade. It requires filtered light when grown indoors. It can survive in direct sunlight but it will be unlikely to flower or grow new leaves if placed in full sun.
Agave attenuata can be grown in a variety of soil types including clay, loam, and sand. It prefers to have its roots kept dry but it will tolerate very wet conditions once the plant is established. A good potting mix that drains well is ideal for growing agave attenuata indoors or outdoors.
It may help to add a good amount of organic material to the soil such as compost, aged manure, or leaf mold.
The plant will do well when grown in containers with a fast-draining potting mix.
It is best to avoid planting it directly into the ground if you live in an area that has long periods of frost since this can kill the plant.
A fertilizer with an NPK ratio of about 16-16-16 is ideal for agave attenuata. It should be applied during the growing season at a rate of one-third of the recommended dosage each month to ensure healthy growth and flowering. Too much or too little fertilization can prevent it from flowering.
It is also beneficial to add a slow-release fertilizer in the soil when re-potting agave attenuata or planting it outdoors.
Although this plant can tolerate long periods of drought, watering regularly will help ensure that the leaves do not wilt and shrivel up. The best time to water is in the morning so that excess water can drain away by nightfall.
Overwatering will lead to rotting of the roots and leaves, but under-watering results in dry or wrinkled foliage which may eventually die off.
Pruning the foxtail agave
There are few major pruning tasks for agave attenuata since it can be left to grow into a large shrub. It is best pruned after flowering and in the springtime.
Agave attenuata can tolerate a wide range of temperatures but it is best to maintain the room temperature at around 18°C. If you are growing agave attenuata indoors, make sure that there is plenty of air circulation and ventilation since this plant likes fresh air.
One aspect of agave attenuata care is humidity. This plant does best with high levels of humidity and it dislikes dry air, especially during the winter months when heating systems are being used. In general, this species prefers humid conditions year-round as long as there is a good supply of water to keep up moisture levels in the soil.
The humidity in the room can impact this plant’s growth and water intake, especially if it is located in a dry area of the home or office with no nearby plants to help in adding additional moisture into the air. Luckily, there are some ways that agave attenuata caretakers can maintain high levels of humidity for their plants even when the air is dry.
One way to increase humidity for this plant and other houseplants during colder winter conditions, especially when heating systems are being used, is by using a humidifier . The amount of moisture added into the surrounding environment can make all the difference in agave attenuata care as well as how much water it takes from the potting soil.
Another way to maintain high humidity for this species is by using a pebble tray . This method works great if the plant will be located in an area of the home or office with no other plants nearby that can help increase moisture levels in the air. A small dish filled halfway with water should work well as long as the base of the pot is sitting in water. The idea is that moisture from the evaporating water will add humidity to the surrounding air and increase soil moisture for this plant as well.
The ideal humidity for this plant is between 60% and 80%, with the most ideal level being around 70%.
When to repot the plant
Repot in spring as needed, making sure not to damage the roots. Remove any dead leaves and cut back the flowering stalk if it has started to grow too tall for your liking.
Agave attenuata is a type of plant that requires dormancy. During this time, agave attenuata’s growth will stop and the leaves will begin to die off. If you notice any dead or dying leaves on your plant, it means they are dormant and need more time without water before continuing with regular watering.
Before the plant enters dormancy, stop watering it and let it dry out for a few weeks before fertilizing or planting again.
Flowers & Fragrance
The white bell-shaped flowers are the main attraction of the agave attenuata, but they’re often hidden until nightfall. They emit a sweet fragrance that you’ll smell when visiting this plant in your garden at night. The leaves also have an interesting shape and color, adding visual appeal to this beautiful desert succulent.
Agave attenuata growth rate
The agave attenuata is a slow-growing plant. If you want the Agave to grow fast, look for a variety of ‘Foxtail’ that grows about an inch per day.
It grows slowly, especially when young. Older plants tend to speed up their rate of growth as they age.
USDA Hardiness Zones
Agave attenuata is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zone 11 and can sustain the coldest winter temperatures, but it will likely die back to its roots and return with new growth in spring.
Pests and diseases
Agave attenuata is typically disease and pest resistant. However, sucking insects such as mealybugs may be problematic in certain growing conditions if not kept under control. Susceptibility to cold damage can also occur when plants are exposed to temperatures below 0°C (32°F). Agave attenuata grows best at a minimum temperature of 15° – 20°C (60°-68°F).
Agave attenuata uses
Agave attenuata is majorly used as an ornamental plant.