Agave vilmoriniana (Octopus Agave Succulent)

Agave vilmoriniana

Agave vilmoriniana, commonly known as octopus agave succulent, octopus cactus, or just the octopus succulent, belongs to the asparagus family (Asparagaceae). These succulents are native to Mexico and Central America, although they have also been introduced to Africa and Madagascar.

Because of their popularity among landscapers and homeowners, these plants can be found in many other regions including Florida, Arizona, and Southern California.

Agave vilmoriniana is an ornamental plant native to the Mexican states of Hidalgo and Querétaro, where it grows at high altitudes.

Origin and distribution

Octopus agave is native to central Mexico, where it inhabits dry, mountainous slopes. Also called octopus cactus or octopus agave, its specific epithet refers to an early 19th-century Mexican biologist named Francisco Ignacio Alcina.

It has escaped cultivation and naturalized in parts of Arizona and California, including a park in San Diego that’s close to Palomar College. The plant was first described by French botanist Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville in 1817.

The plants are very slow-growing, taking many years to mature into flowering specimens with large leaves, but can live for decades once they do flower.

They grow slowly from seed and are generally propagated through cuttings taken from young growths that have not yet flowered; if allowed to flower on their own accord, they will die after producing seed pods containing hundreds of tiny black seeds.

These seeds require hot temperatures in order to germinate, so it is necessary to either raise them indoors or sow them directly in their permanent location outside during late spring or early summer.

The octopus agave has been a popular ornamental plant since its introduction into cultivation in England in 1823 by William Lobb, a noted British botanist who introduced more than 5,000 species of tropical plants from Mexico and South America between 1816 and 1841.

Agave vilmoriniana propagation

Agave vilmoriniana

The agave vilmoriniana can be propagated via leaf cuttings, which are best planted in a cactus and succulent propagation medium. The plant produces offsets, or pups, at its base that can be removed to create new plants. To encourage offset production, pinch off leaves near their stems.

This removes energy from flower formation so that energy can instead go towards creating a plantlet at each leaf joint. Pups will form along any stem that is left unpinched. It is not necessary to remove all of these pups as they will not hinder growth if left on the mother plant.

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The pup should eventually fall away from the mother plant, but if it does not do so naturally you may need to gently pull it away by hand. After removing a pup you should water it thoroughly with distilled water and then place it in a sunny location until roots begin to develop.

Once established, your newly formed agave vilmoriniana can be transplanted into its own container where it will continue growing into an adult specimen.

Agave vilmoriniana care information

Agave vilmoriniana

The octopus agave, also known as octopus cactus or octopus agave, is part of a family of succulents that have fleshy leaves and grow vertically rather than horizontally. The following tips will help you care for your succulent properly, proper sunlight conditions, regular water supply, air circulation, and an occasional trim.

Light requirement

This succulent thrives in full sun, but partial shade will still allow it to thrive. However, it won’t have as much color if placed in partial shade, so keep that in mind when planning its location.

Soil/potting mix

Most succulents prefer well-draining soil, which can be achieved with a 1:1:1 mix of soil, perlite, and coarse sand. If you’re potting your octopus agave in a decorative container and don’t want to invest in specialized potting soil, a very simple solution is to use 1 part each of potting soil, perlite, and coarse sand.

You can also create a custom blend by mixing 2 parts potting soil, 1 part perlite, and 1 part coarse sand. This will ensure that your plant has enough drainage without being left with waterlogged roots after watering.

Watering

In order to ensure your octopus agave succulent stays healthy, it is important to water it regularly. Use a spray bottle and mist its leaves every three days or so, but be careful not to overwater.

Overwatering can cause root rot. Most importantly, never let your succulent’s soil dry out completely; that will kill it in less than 24 hours.

If you are away from home for an extended period of time, ask someone to check on your plant once a week and give it enough water to keep it alive. This should be sufficient until you return home.

This is also an ideal plant for gardeners in hot and arid climates, as it requires very little water or care. In fact, too much water will cause it to rot, so resist any urge you may have to over-water!

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Fertilizer

Like any succulent, Agave vilmoriniana thrives on fertilizer. In spring and summer, fertilize monthly with a 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer diluted by half. In fall and winter, fertilize monthly with a general-purpose granular fertilizer, like Osmocote; use one rounded teaspoon for every four to six inches of pot size per month.

If you’re using a slow-release product like Osmocote, apply it once in spring or early summer when you plant your octopus agave. The plant should not need fertilizer again until late fall or early winter.

Temperature

Keeping Agave vilmoriniana outside in temperatures below 60 degrees will cause them to stop growing, so keep them inside if you’re going to have freezing nights. But don’t keep them too warm, either.

Temperatures over 75 degrees will cause growth to slow and leave your plants susceptible to disease.

For these reasons, it’s best to store your agaves inside throughout their dormancy period during winter.

If you live in a warmer climate or want to bring an agave indoors for some other reason, be sure to bring it into a cool environment gradually, do not place it directly into a hot room or sun-filled window.

This sudden change can shock your plant and cause damage that could ultimately kill it.

Humidity

Agave vilmoriniana thrives in hot, dry climates. During winter, when temperatures drop and humidity increases, plants will shed their leaves to survive. If your agave’s leaves start turning yellow and drying out, it needs more water, even if temperatures are moderate.

When watering an octopus agave or any other succulent for that matter, be careful not to over-water. It’s easy to drown these plants since they store water in their fleshy leaves instead of in their roots.

The ideal humidity range is between 40 and 60 percent. If your home is too dry, consider using a humidifier or placing your agave on a tray of wet pebbles. If it’s too humid, open windows and uses fans to circulate the air.

Pruning

Leaves, branches, and flowers of Agave vilmoriniana can be cut at any time to shape them. Although cutting back is not necessary to keep them healthy, pruning will make them look tidier and might limit excessive flowering, which gives plants a leggy appearance and reduces flower production.

Prune only dead or damaged portions of leaves and stems. Use sharp shears or pruners to avoid tearing stems when you’re pruning large succulents such as octopus agaves. You may also want to wear gloves if your plant has thorns or prickles.

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The same advice applies for removing spent flowers, snip off old blooms with clean pruning shears just above where they join onto leafless stems; don’t pull them off by hand, because doing so could damage new growth.

When to repot

Agave vilmoriniana succulent is a low-maintenance houseplant, which means you can keep it in its pot without repotting it for several years. When repotting time comes, however, don’t go at it willy-nilly, the plant has a shallow root system and needs to be transplanted carefully.

Repot your Agave vilmoriniana when it outgrows its container or when its roots are growing through the drainage holes.

Use a soil mixture that drains well but retains moisture, such as one part cactus mix to two parts potting soil. Set your plant in place before filling in around it with soil, making sure not to bury any of its leaves under the dirt.

Dormancy/Winter rest

While you might not get a little brown leaf signaling that it’s time to bring your Agave vilmoriniana into dormancy, you will notice that it stops putting on new growth.

Be aware of your surrounding conditions, if your plant is in a very warm room with lots of light, it may need less dormancy than one in a cooler area with less light.

Give them as much natural sunlight as possible! I like to move mine outside for the summer and then back inside for winter. If you have an extremely short growing season, or if you can’t move yours outside at all, consider giving it some extra darkness and reduced water.

I also recommend cutting off any dead leaves or flower stalks once they have died back; they won’t hurt anything but they won’t do anything either and dead plants are just ugly!

Agave vilmoriniana flower & fragrance

Agave vilmoriniana has flowers that are unusually large for a succulent, up to 10 cm across, yellow with a red center. It produces its first flower at about four years of age and will flower annually thereafter.

The mature plant is easily propagated by breaking off an arm and replanting it in well-drained soil in full sun. In cultivation, plants require little water as long as they are kept dry during winter dormancy.

Growth rate

Agave vilmoriniana

Agave vilmoriniana is a slow-growing succulent. In ideal conditions, it will grow three to four inches per year. Once established, it will bloom sporadically and offset to form clusters. It takes about eight years for one to become fully mature.

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The larger you let your plant get before dividing it into multiple pieces, though, the more likely you are to damage or lose some of your offsets, so be prepared for that eventuality.

Toxicity

Agave vilmoriniana succulent plant contains saponins, which are toxic in high doses, causing vomiting and diarrhea. Ingestion of large amounts can lead to problems with breathing or even shock or death.

If you have pets, keep them away from it if they tend to chew on plants. You may also want to warn your neighbors if they have curious children who might want to play with it.

USDA hardiness zones

Agave vilmoriniana thrives in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11. In areas that experience temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s best to grow agave vilmoriniana as a houseplant.

Pests and diseases

Agave vilmoriniana has very few pests or diseases. However, there are some pests and fungal diseases that may affect your agave. Luckily, there are several ways to control these problems from spreading.

If you notice bugs or other signs of infestation, it’s best to check with a professional for help getting rid of them, you don’t want these pests infecting any other plants in your yard!

Like many succulents, Agave vilmoriniana are susceptible to mealybugs and scale. These common pests should be treated immediately with a mixture of mild dish soap and water applied with a soft brush.

For severe infestations, reach for an insecticidal soap or neem oil spray. To reduce damage from future pest invasions, thoroughly clean out plant debris at the end of each growing season.

If you’re growing octopus agave in colder climates, it is highly susceptible to fungal infections and rust caused by low humidity.

Over-watering can also cause root rot, so be sure not to overwater these plants in warm weather. Maintain consistent soil moisture without allowing your plant to become waterlogged.

If you’re still seeing signs of disease or pest damage despite using proper watering techniques, you may need to apply a fungicide or other chemical treatment.

Conclusion

Agave vilmoriniana is beautiful and hardy, so it’s no surprise that so many people have fallen in love with it. If you want to add something other than a cactus to your succulent collection, then I highly recommend considering adding an octopus agave plant to your home.

This plant provides some color and fun shape variation to any space while remaining incredibly easy to care for.