Habitat: Central America
Cultivation: They require a full sun environment, with ideal temperature ranging from 20 ° C to 30 ° C. However they also resist to short periods below 0. We recommend scarce but regular watering, when the soil is completely dry.
Curiosity: The Mesoamerican civilizations have long exploited the agave properties: it was used to get drinks, syrups, animal feed, textile fibers, medicinal packs. Some of these uses are still standing: the tequila, for example, is made by Agave Blue
AGAVE KEY FEATURES
Agaves are from Central America and they have played a central role in the economy of the local people for centuries: textiles, foods, tools made from fibers or from agave leaves were part of everyday life. Later, the European conquerors have imported them on our continent and here these plants have spread especially in the warmer regions of the Mediterranean area. Today the agaves are so present in southern Italy to be one of the most common plants. For their beauty and strength (resistant to almost all parasites) are grown as decorative plants also in many public gardens and parks.
The main characteristic of these succulents are the leaves, long and fleshy, that directly radiate from the base of the plant. For this characteristic they are similar to another kind of succulent: aloe. But while the aloe leaves are born immediately with an open layout, star shape, the agave are born vertically and then “open up” gradually to make room for new ones. This little trick can help to distinguish the two kinds much better than characteristics such as color or type of thorns, considering that both agave and aloe have a great variety in this regard. The agave plants are very long-lived, perennial and grow quite big: even two meters in height.
They need many years to reach full maturity depending on the species, they may be 3, 5 or even 50 years. Once achieved it , however, each plant pours a unique, spectacular flower – then gradually loses its force and dies. For this reason the agave flower is called “flower of death.” It is a multiple inflorescence and can be up to five meters high; for its grandeur and particular shape, it may look like a small sapling.
VARIETY AND TYPES
The Agave genus has nearly 200 species as well as many subspecies. They are distinguished by the coloring of the leaves, the color, the type of thorns; they have often developed in different climates and therefore have different needs concerning watering and sun exposure. Because of the impossibility, in this space, to list all of them, we just remember some of the most common or particular species:
- Agave Americana – Unlike what is commonly thought it is present in different varieties; the most cultivated are those which have leaves with very sharp yellow streaks, with a great chromatic effect.
- Atrovirens – The leaves are very wide and thick at the base. It is an extremely resistan plant: in a dry ground it even survives at temperatures below 0.
- Filifera – it gets its name to the white filaments that grow along the sides of the leaves, a curious transformation of thorns. It reaches a maximum height of about one meter, lower than that of other agaves.
- Victoria-Reginae – It has a very rounded shape and trigonali leaves with white lines. The growth is very slow and this allows the cultivation in pots also for many years.
- Tequilana (also known as the Blue Agave) – Used even today for the famous Mexican drink, it has dark green leaves, a characteristic color and very special.
Other varieties are the following:
- Agave Americana Marginata
- A. Desmetiana
- A. Gypsophyla
- A. Lophanta
- A. Nigra
- A. Toumeyana
- A. Potatorum Verschaffeltii
TIPS FOR GROWING
The many varieties of agave present on the market share resistance and adaptability.
In general, they need the following attentions:
- Exposure to full sun.
- The ideal temperature is between 20 ° C and 30 ° C. For short periods it can also resist at temperatures of several degrees below zero (some varieties, such as the Atrovirens, even down to -8 ° C) but the soil has to be dried.
- Watering scarce but regular, approximately every 15 days and in any case only when the soil is completely dry.
- The agave fears the stagnant water more than other succulents, and for this reason we always recommend draining soils, such as those specific for cacti. If the plant is grown in pots, use only clay pots to let the soil breath.
- Agave can grow up to two meters in height and, when planted in pots, they will need frequent repotting to grow well.
The Agave Multiplication is usually by suckers, or shoots. The suckers born near the base of the mother plant can be allowed to grow until they reach a size of about 10 cm. At that point they can be cut; it is important to dry the wound for a few days and then you repot in a soil which has to be the same of the one used for the adult plant.