Agave salmiana (Maguey Pulquero)

Agave salmiana

Agave salmiana, or maguey pulquero, are succulent plants that grow wild in Mexico and parts of the southwestern U.S. A family of agaves known as century plants because of their long life spans, maguey pulqueros can live more than 100 years.

A native Mexican species of agave, Agave salmiana is an evergreen succulent that grows wild in certain parts of the country and can be used to produce pulque and mezcal. A hardy plant that’s easy to care for, growing agave salmiana requires very little maintenance and produces excellent results when properly managed.

Origin and distribution

Agave salmiana

Agave salmiana grows in drier regions of northern and central Mexico, especially in Jalisco, Michoacán, Guanajuato and San Luis Potosí. It is known as agave pulquero because it was historically used to make pulque, an alcoholic beverage derived from a fermented juice of maguey plants.

With its high concentrations of carbohydrates and natural sugars, Agave Salmiana is ideally suited for conversion into alcohol.

Agave salmiana propagation

Agave salmiana

Cuttings or seeds can be used to propagate agave salmiana. Seeds should be started indoors and then transplanted outside after all danger of frost has passed. Transplanting is done carefully by hand, making sure that each rosette is taken out intact with a piece of root ball attached.

Rooted cuttings can be planted directly outdoors in full sun and well-drained soil once the threat of frost has passed. It’s best to plant them on top of an organic mulch like bark chips or coconut fiber. Space plants 12–18 inches apart from one another.

Agave salmiana is a slow grower, so patience will be required for its first few years as it establishes itself in your garden. It does best when given at least 4 hours of direct sunlight per day and prefers soil that drains well but retains moisture for long periods between watering.

Agave salmiana care information

Agave salmiana

How to take care of green maguey and keep it healthy, tips for growing Green Maguey in your garden at home or outside. Agave is a plant similar to aloe vera but with long spines that grow on both sides.

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The flower of maguey is small and greenish-white; Maguey can also be red or yellow depending on when it blooms. They like full sun areas so they need a lot of light, especially in summer time to develop long and strong roots.

Light requirement

Like its cousin, Agave tequilana, maguey pulquero is succulent and thrives in hot, dry climates. Grow it in full sun to enjoy green leaves; place it in partial shade for blue or greyish-green growth. Use containers indoors to prevent overgrowth, but be careful not to overwater your plant. When growing agaves outdoors, remember that they grow quickly, at least one foot per year when conditions are optimal.

Soil/potting mix

The soil for maguey pulquero should have good drainage and be made up of about 75% pumice, a porous volcanic rock, 15% organic matter such as compost or peat moss, and 10% perlite. Some growers add sand to help with moisture retention.

Add lime to balance out any acidic soil. If your soil does not have good drainage you can place a layer of sphagnum moss at bottom of each pot for extra drainage. I would recommend using cactus mix from your local nursery if you do not have access to these ingredients.

Watering

Maguey salmiana needs plenty of water to grow, so it’s important to water regularly. In times of dry weather, you may need to check on your agave daily and even water it a few times a day if needed.

The maguey will begin wilting as a sign that it is in need of water. If given proper amounts of water, however, an agave can be drought-tolerant when established in its habitat. For best results, try watering early in the morning or late at night to avoid evaporation.

Fertilizer

For Agave salmiana, never apply chemical fertilizers. Only use organic mulches, compost, and other natural soil amendments that provide your plants with slow-release nutrition throughout their growth period. Avoid chemical pesticides and herbicides which are likely to damage nearby plants and harm wildlife.

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If you have previously applied chemical fertilizers or pesticides to your green maguey plants, remove all traces of it before transplanting them into your garden. Once established in your landscape, avoid over-watering these agaves as they tend to rot easily if kept too wet for too long.

Be careful not to let water sit on leaves during periods of heavy rain as they will likely be damaged by disease.

Temperature

The Agave Salmiana requires temperatures ranging from 27°C to 35°C with a high level of humidity. Extreme temperature changes are not recommended. The plant must be kept in a place where there is direct sunlight for half of each day, and no sun during wintertime.

If it gets below 5°C, you should cover its pot to protect it from any possible frost damage.

Humidity

Maguey pulqueros are tolerant of high humidity levels, but they will succumb to rot if they don’t have adequate ventilation. Because they’re fairly rare in cultivation, most magueys will be potted plants.

You can create humidity for these plants by placing a shallow tray underneath them filled with rocks or pebbles and just enough water to keep it from drying out completely. The steam that rises up around your plant will improve its air quality significantly.

The ideal humidity range is between 60 and 80 percent. If your maguey’s leaves are starting to curl, they may be too dry. If they’re wilting or look like they’re drying out, it could mean that your plant needs more water. You can check by poking a finger into your soil; if it feels dry at a depth of one inch, you should give it a good watering.

Pruning

The most important part of caring for an agave plant is pruning. Every year in late winter, you should look for new growth at your agave’s center, just under its leaves.

Cut it off and repot your plant. Because agaves generally grow more vigorously when potted into a larger container, it’s a good idea to let them grow into whatever size pot they want in their first year or two so they can really establish strong roots.

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After that, you can move them into a slightly smaller pot if desired. Keep in mind that over-potting an agave will cause its roots to rot. If you do need to repot an older plant because it has outgrown its current container, be sure to use a soil mixture made with 50 percent commercial cactus mix and 50 percent coarse sand; make sure not to bury any of the existing root balls.

When to repot

Agave salmiana

You should repot your agave salmiana every year once it gets to 3 or 4 feet in height. Every time you prune off its leaves, look for roots to appear. When you see them, it’s time to repot. Use a container that is 2 to 3 inches larger than your existing pot to prevent root rot from overwatering and not giving your plant room to grow.

The soil should be light and airy; if you have clay soil, add sand to make it lighter. Mix in some organic fertilizer with compost when repotting. Be sure to water your maguey pulquero well after planting. If there are no signs of new growth within two months of planting, consider moving into a larger pot again.

Dormancy/Winter rest

Like a succulent, Agave salmiana is dormant in winter and therefore should be left undisturbed in the warm months of summer. The plant will not grow or flower while in dormancy and it can handle temperatures as low as 4 °C. To ensure optimal growth, minimal light is required during winter rest so it is best to keep

Agave salmiana away from windows that receive direct sunlight for most of the daylight hours. During dormant months, water less frequently than usual to avoid overwatering. It’s also important to note that if you live in an area with cold winters, make sure your Agave salmiana has proper protection against freezing weather conditions.

If you do not have a greenhouse or other suitable structure to protect your plants, try moving them into an unheated room where they won’t freeze but will still get some indirect sunlight.

Agave salmiana flower & fragrance

Agave salmiana produces small, fragrant yellow flowers that grow in clusters at its base. The petals of these flowers are used to make a delightful jam.

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Growth rate

Agave salmiana has a moderate growth rate. In optimal conditions, mature plants can grow 3–4 inches in a single year. However, it is possible for these plants to grow as much as 2 feet per year when given ideal care and growing conditions.

Toxicity

Recent research shows that at least some varieties of Agave have high saponin content, which can be toxic. Other researchers have discounted these findings, however, and as of 2013 consider agaves to be non-toxic. At any rate, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and use agaves with caution until more information is available.

USDA hardiness zones

Agave salmiana thrives in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11. It is a very drought-tolerant plant, so it can survive long periods of time without water. However, it is important to note that agave plants do need regular watering during their first year of growth. In addition, they need full sun and well-drained soil.

If you live in an area with wet winters, planting your agave salmiana in a raised bed or on a slope will help ensure its survival over time.

Pests and diseases

Aphids can be found on agaves and look like tiny greenish or grayish-white insects. Aphids weaken plants by sucking sap from their leaves. They can also transmit viral diseases. You can spray off aphids with a forceful stream of water, but if you want to eradicate them, you’ll need to spray with insecticidal soap and repeat at two-week intervals for three months.

Treating when temperatures are above 85 degrees may cause flowers and buds to drop, so plan your treatments carefully.

Conclusion

The care of agaves is not a complicated process, and you should have no trouble growing agaves provided that you are diligent about following their requirements for sun exposure, water, temperature, and soil drainage. Always be aware of its natural location in your environment so that you can make sure it receives adequate sunlight throughout most of its life.