Agave parrasana (Cabbage Head Agave)

Agave parrasana

Last updated on July 4th, 2022 at 02:26 pm

Agave parrasana (also known as the Cabbage Head Agave) has been known to decorate people’s homes and gardens with its broad and beautiful leaves that spread out from the center of the plant and can grow to be over 2 feet in diameter.

It’s not just pretty, it’s also very useful! The sap from this Agave was once used as a sweetener but now it is used to create tequila.

Agave parrasana, also known as Cabbage Head Agave, was named after the shape of its leaves which resemble an actual cabbage head. Agave parrasana are usually found in Mexico and the southwestern parts of the United States, primarily in California and Texas.

These succulents prefer rocky soil but can also grow in sand or clay if there’s enough water available to them during their growing season. As with most types of agave, Agave parrasana prefers full sun but will tolerate part-shade if they receive direct sunlight at least six hours per day throughout the growing season.

Origin and distribution

Agave parrasana is endemic to mountainous regions of northeastern Mexico, from Coahuila south through Nuevo León and Tamaulipas. It is generally found at elevations between 1,500 and 2,000 meters above sea level in semi-arid habitats with minimal vegetation cover or standing water.

The species has been planted in other areas where it is not native, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, and Texas. However, there are no known natural populations outside of its native range.

Because of its hardiness and drought tolerance, Cabbage Head Agave is an ideal candidate for use as a landscaping plant outside its natural range.

Agave parrasana propagation

Agave parrasana

If you’re interested in growing more than one Cabbage Head, you can divide and repot your plant. Simply dig up a section of your agave. Break up any large roots that have formed around the parent plant, and remove all but one of them.

Plant it in new soil to avoid root competition, space out at least 2 feet apart. Water thoroughly, and keep at least 3 feet away from other agaves and slow-growing succulents.

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When they reach full size, they won’t need as much water. It is also best to not move them after they are mature so they don’t become stressed and potentially die off.

Agave parrasana care information

Agave parrasana

The cabbage head agave is one of my favorite agaves to look after. I don’t know if it’s because they are easier to care for or that they just look so cool. They are known as century plants, but unless you have a plant older than 100 years, leave it alone!

Agave parrasana has been around since at least 1596 when Spanish Conquistadors first saw them in Mexico. It was named parrasana by early Spanish settlers who mistook its large leaves for cabbage heads and called them cabezas de repollo which means cabbage heads in Spanish.

Light requirement

In its native habitat, agaves are often seen growing under oaks and pines. This makes sense as it appears they thrive on just a few hours of full sun per day. From what I’ve read online, they seem to prefer partial shade, and apparently, you can tell if Agave parrasana is healthy by checking if their leaves turn slightly purple.

Soil/potting mix

Soil and/or potting mix is important for a healthy plant. For Cabbage Heads, it can be difficult to find soil that does not crush or bruise their long leaves. The best mix for them is bark, sand, and perlite or volcanic rock.

It’s also important to keep your plants in well-drained soil so they don’t get root rot. As with most succulents, you should avoid using cactus soil as it will cause too much salt buildup around your plant’s roots.

Watering

Although cacti are native to arid environments, succulents need good drainage and ample water in order to grow well. The last thing you want is for your cabbage head agave to get root rot.

Water your Agave parrasana on a weekly basis. A word of caution: these succulents are prone to rotting if they sit in water. When you’re done watering, allow excess water to drain from each pot before returning it back to its designated spot.

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Fertilizer

Cabbage head agaves require minimal fertilizer, but can be grown in any well-draining soil with a pH ranging from 5.0 to 7.5. If you want to use fertilizer, it’s best to provide a nitrogen source like blood meal or fish emulsion twice a year at 1/4 strength.

Don’t fertilize during the winter months when growth has stopped. In addition to adding nutrients and improving drainage, organic matter such as compost or rotted manure will also help maintain an acidic environment that is beneficial for many succulents.

For those of us who don’t have access to large quantities of organic matter, crushed oyster shells are a great alternative and will also add calcium and magnesium which are important for plant health. Be sure not to overdo it though!

Temperature

Agave parrasana are hardy plants that can survive temperatures of up to 30 degrees Celsius, though they may drop their leaves when temperatures get above 35 degrees Celsius and below zero degrees Celsius.

uring winter, when light is scarce in northern latitudes, it benefits from a grow lamp placed 2-3 feet away. It will likely survive temperatures down to freezing and maybe even lower, but I wouldn’t advise much colder than that.

Humidity

Cabbage head agaves should be grown in sunny areas with plenty of sunlight. Since they are native to desert climates, they need a lot of moisture in order to thrive. This is especially true during their spring and summer growing periods.

The ideal humidity range is between 50 and 80 percent. If you live in a dry climate, you may need to increase your humidity levels by using a humidifier or watering more frequently. You can also place your agave on a tray of wet pebbles, which will raise its moisture level as it evaporates.

Pruning

If you have Agave parrasana, you may notice that some of its leaves start to fade, while others are plump and green. Don’t be alarmed, this is natural! Fading leaves won’t affect your plant overall, but if it looks like too many leaves are beginning to wither or fall off, it’s time to prune.

You can prune at any time throughout the year; agaves should actually be cut back after flowering to keep them healthy and attractive. However, during warmer months, when plants tend to grow more quickly, it’s best to prune in late winter or early spring. To do so, simply remove dead leaves with a sharp pair of scissors.

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The goal is to leave approximately one-third of your plant intact. Afterward, water your agave thoroughly to help it recover from any stress caused by cutting.

Remember: The key is to avoid over-watering, which could lead to root rot and kill your plant!

When to repot

Agave parrasana

Repot Agave parrasana as needed, which will depend on how quickly your plant grows. If it’s growing slowly, you can probably get away with a repotting once a year or so. However, if your agave is growing quickly, you may need to repot it once every 6 months or so.

Dormancy/Winter rest

Cabbage head agaves are known for their long dormancy period in winter. During their dormant period, they can survive periods of drought and frost. They have been known to last years without water and still be able to produce buds after a dormancy period.

This is ideal for those of us who live in harsh climates that have shorter growing seasons. For most people, it’s best to leave your agave outside during its dormancy period as temperatures tend to fluctuate more inside than out.

If you decide to bring your plant inside, keep it near a window where it will get at least 4 hours of sunlight each day. It’s important not to place your plant near any heat sources or drafts because these could damage or kill your plant during its resting phase.

Agave parrasana flower & fragrance

Agave parrasana are noted for their highly fragrant flowers. Each flower is pollinated by a single insect, most commonly a moth. The blossom can take up to 7 years to mature and only opens at night and then only when it has been adequately pollinated. If there are no insects around, sometimes agaves will self-pollinate or cross-pollinate with other species of agave.

Growth rate

Agave parrasana grow in a similar manner and have a similar life cycle, but the growth rate is dependent on the environment, with temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit encouraging growth. In ideal conditions, you can expect Cabbage Head Agave to grow six inches per year.

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It will take seven years for it to reach maturity at which point it can flower; keep in mind that plants grown outdoors will take longer than those grown indoors as they must adapt to their surroundings.

Toxicity

In large quantities, Agave parrasana can be toxic and potentially fatal to pets. If you suspect your pet has ingested a lot of agave nectar or syrup, contact your veterinarian immediately. Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and depression.

USDA hardiness zones

Agave parrasana thrives best in USDA hardiness zones 8 through 11. In colder climates, it can be grown as a potted plant and brought indoors during the winter months. When grown outdoors, plant your agave parrasana near a wall or fence to protect it from strong winds. It will need full sun exposure for up to 12 hours per day.

Pests and diseases

Cabbage head agaves don’t have many pests and disease issues. While there are several different kinds of bugs that will nibble on your cabbage head agave, none of them will do significant damage to its overall health.

If you do find insect pests eating away at your agave, simply use a strong spray of water from a hose to remove these bugs from your plant.

Conclusion

The century plant, also known as Cabbage Head agave and Agave parrasana, is a gorgeous perennial that adds a unique flair to any garden setting. This beautiful flowering succulent can survive harsh climates but needs little to thrive in milder conditions.

If you’re looking for an attractive addition to your garden that is sure to attract attention, look no further than Cabbage Head agave!