Agave kewensis (Grijalva’s Agave)

Agave kewensis

Agave kewensis (Grijalva’s Agave) is an agave, native to the Sonoran Desert of northern Mexico and southwestern United States, including southern California and northern Baja California and Arizona, as well as extreme southeastern Utah in the United States.

It can grow as tall as 10 feet but is usually shorter at 7 feet with leaves up to 1 foot long. The plant blooms in late summer or early fall, with one to four yellow flowers that are 2-3 inches wide.

Agave kewensis has an interesting history and is something of an enigma to botanists and other plant experts, but it is one of the most elegant plants you can add to your garden or indoor décor.

Origin and distribution

It is endemic to Mexico, in regions of Oaxaca and Chiapas, in montane areas. It inhabits shaded ravines and canyons of humid zones at altitudes between 300 and 3,000 m (1,000–10,000 ft). Typical habitat is rocky outcrops with decomposed limestone substrates.

In these places it grows with abundant moss cover. It is sometimes found on boulders as large as 5 meters above ground level. This plant has been reported from only three locations: Sierra de Juárez and Sierra de Nacajuca in Oaxaca, and Sierra del Aguila y San Pablo in Chiapas.

The total area of occupancy is less than 20 km2 (7.7 sq mi), making it one of Mexico’s most endangered plants.

Agave kewensis propagation

Agave kewensis

Agave Kewensis is one of the easiest plants to propagate. In fact, it will just sucker and multiply to infinity. Once an Agave kewensis plant has reached about 4 feet in height you can break off or cut out a portion from one of its sides shoots near ground level.

This piece should have at least two sets of leaves on it. This plant grows best in sandy soil with good drainage, but will tolerate clay soils as well. It does not require rich soil, so add compost only if your soil is very poor. The ideal planting depth for an agave kewensis cutting is 8-10 inches deep.

Water your agave kewensis sparingly when first planted until it becomes established. Once established, water regularly during warm months and keep dry during cold months (this means no watering at all). Fertilize once every 3-4 months using a balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10. When applying fertilizer be sure to water thoroughly after application.

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Agave kewensis care information

Agave kewensis

Although agaves can live for 50 years or more, they are most effective when used as a landscape plant in their first 20 years. During those first decades, it is necessary to care for them during each stage of their life cycle; however, after maturity has been reached, only minimal maintenance is required to keep them looking beautiful.

Before buying your agave plant, be sure to research its specific needs so that you will know how best to care for it once it arrives at your home.

Light requirement

While some agaves can take shade, Agave kewensis are slow-growing and prefer full sun. If grown in part shade, they may have lanky growth. Light is needed for photosynthesis and too little will result in a slow plant.

Soil/potting mix

An extremely adaptable and forgiving species, Agave kewensis has been found in a variety of conditions and still managed to thrive. For soil, a cactus potting mix or other well-draining media will work fine. You can also use a combination of 1 part garden soil and 2 parts sand or perlite.

An acceptable medium would be 2 parts fir bark, 2 parts peat moss, and 1 part perlite. If you are growing in a container, make sure that it is large enough for your plant to grow into. A good rule of thumb is 5 gallons for every foot of height; however, if you are using an airy mixture like fir bark, you may need more volume than that.

In addition to providing space for growth, your container should have adequate drainage holes and sit on a tray or saucer so excess water can drain away from the roots.

Watering

The Grijalva’s agave thrives in arid conditions, so it does not need regular watering. It should only be watered when its soil is dry. Do not overwater, as it will kill your plant! Also, do not let it sit in water or soak up a puddle of water for too long, as it can also lead to root rot and other damage.

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This plant prefers light watering every few weeks rather than frequent heavy watering. If you are unsure whether or not it needs water, wait until you see signs of wilting before giving it any. Once you see that signs of wilting have begun, give it a thorough soaking once per month; do not let it go longer than that without being watered again.

Fertilizer

If you want to use fertilizer on your Agave kewensis, we recommend a water-soluble balanced fertilizer. Water-soluble means that there is some combination of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous in every granule. Most good sources will also have a few minor micronutrients as well.

We recommend Espoma organic fertilizer which can be found at Home Depot. Do not put regular houseplant fertilizer on agaves as it usually has very high concentrations of a single element (phosphorous for example) which will burn them.

Temperature

The temperature in which Agave kewensis plants are grown has a direct effect on how they flower. Because of this, most nurseries use heating and cooling systems to regulate agave temperatures year-round. Agaves prefer temperatures between 15–25°C (59–77°F).

When grown outside their native range, there are two methods for providing these conditions: artificial climate control inside a greenhouse or warm winter shelter, or growing them outdoors in containers during cool weather and moving them into heated structures for cold protection during inclement weather.

Humidity

Ideally, you want to maintain a humidity level between 30% and 50% relative humidity. Humidity levels of 30% are easier to control and more desirable in many ways than those at 100%. If your relative humidity is above 50%, try misting your plant every day for about 5–10 minutes. This will release moisture into the air without allowing it to pool on leaves or stems.

Pruning

The most important part of maintaining Agave kewensis is proper pruning. The rule of thumb is not to prune them at all during their first year, as they require time to establish themselves and are slow-growing. After that, if you need to trim a rosette, take off just enough to expose healthy new growth—as little as possible.

If you have multiple plants in one pot, leave some space between each plant so they can grow without crowding each other out. In general, it’s best to avoid pruning altogether; however, if you must cut your plant back by more than 25 percent of its size, be sure to water it heavily before and after cutting so it doesn’t wilt or dry out too much.

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When to repot

Repotting Agave kewensis is only necessary every 2-3 years with proper care. You can gauge when your agave needs repotting by looking at its roots. If they fill all of their space in a pot, then it’s time to transplant it into a larger pot.

If they are growing around inside of a pot and have no room to expand, you should divide your plant and repot half while leaving the other half where it is.

When dividing an agave, use a sharp knife or pruning shears to cut off one side of its root ball from the base. Once you’ve separated it from the rest of the plant, set it aside for about two weeks before planting it in new soil.

This will give your newly divided agave some time to recover from being transplanted before going back into full sun exposure.

Dormancy/Winter rest

As with many plants native to Mexico, Agave kewensis will go into a sort of hibernation during the cold winter months. While it’s best to protect your plant from frost, it can survive temperatures as low as 20 degrees. During dormancy, there is no water or fertilizer necessary.

If you live in a temperate climate where there are only mild winters, watering can continue during dormancy or whenever you feel your plant needs it. However, if you’re growing your agave in an area that gets cold throughout most of the winter, consider letting it rest for a few months without any additional care.

Once spring arrives and things start warming up again, resume normal watering and fertilizing habits.

Agave kewensis flower & fragrance

Agave kewensis

The flowers are produced in late spring, usually starting in May. The inflorescence is a spike of yellow-white flowers on top of a leafless stalk 8–12 feet tall. The plant has an unpleasant odor and attracts insects to pollinate it. It often looks like it’s infested with pests when in full bloom, but don’t worry – those are bees and butterflies visiting for their nectar fix!

Growth rate

As with other agaves, the Grijalva’s agave plant has a growth rate of 1 to 3 feet per year. In ideal conditions, it can grow as tall as 10 feet. However, if it doesn’t receive enough sunlight, water or nutrients; its growth rate can be stunted.

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When you have new agaves and want them to grow quickly, place them where they will get an ample amount of sun and water regularly. Once mature, they require less light and water and can survive in poorer conditions.

Toxicity

All parts of Agave kewensis are toxic and a few people may experience skin irritation or an allergic reaction when exposed to sap from damaged leaves. Petals may be eaten but should not be ingested in large quantities due to their laxative effect; ingestion of large amounts of petals could lead to digestive problems, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

Ingestion of any part of Agave kewensis is strongly discouraged due to potential toxicity if ingested. Chewing on leaves can cause tooth decay.

USDA hardiness zones

Agave kewensis thrives in USDA hardiness zones 9b through 11. While it can survive temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit, it is best to keep it above 32 degrees. The plant grows well in sunny locations and should be planted near a wall or fence for support.

The soil should be well-drained, dry, and sandy with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5. It prefers full sun exposure but will tolerate some shade during its first year of growth. After that, however, it requires full sunlight to grow properly.

Pests and diseases

Certain pests and diseases are also common, but you can take action to keep them at bay. These include aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and scale. You can purchase pest control products online or at a local garden center or nursery. Also, look for signs of disease; if you notice unusual leaf growth or patterns on your agave leaves then it’s time to seek out help from a professional gardener.

Conclusion

Some people are allergic to Agave kewensis. Symptoms include vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea. The only way to ensure your safety is to do a skin test first.

To do a skin test, wear gloves and rub a little agave on your skin for 15 minutes. If you have any symptoms after removing it and washing it off, then you know that you’re not immune to agaves.