How to grow Agave

If you have ever travelled around the Mediterranean then you can help but be impressed by the enormous Agave specimens growing both wild along the beach-fronts and planted within smartly dressed, landscaped gardens. Of course, as associated as the agave is with the Mediterranean it is in fact a native of Mexico, although some of the 208 species within this genus can also be found in the southern and western United States and central and tropical South America.

How to grow Agave
There are a number of agaves which are surprisingly hardy, and they will even overwinter with very little work in the warmer, temperate regions of northern Europe. In fact the particularly robust Agave americana can be a common sight along the seaside properties of southern England.

The most popular and ornamental species include Agave americana, Agave angustifolia, Agave tequilana, Agave attenuata, Agave parviflora, Agave murpheyi, Agave vilmoriniana, Agave palmeri, Agave parryi and Agave victoriae-reginae, and with a little preparation they will grow quite happily with very little maintenance. The only problem that most people will have is trying to grow the more tender species in countries which experience temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius. However they are easily grown in pots and as such can be brought in under protection.

If growing in pots then agave will require a good quality, free-draining compost such as John Innes 'No2' however you may wish to add more horticultural grit to improve the drainage further.

The smallest specimens will only need a 3 inch pot and as they grow they can be potted on in succession to 12 inch pots. Any bigger and they will start to become too heavy to manoeuvre by hand.

How to grow Agave
During the summer these pot grown specimens can be grown in a warm, sunny position outside. Over the winter the plants must be kept at a temperature of over 5 degrees Celsius, smaller specimens can be brought indoors while larger specimens can be kept under greenhouse staging. Let containers dry out at least halfway in between watering but over the winter period watering may not even be necessary.

In the milder climates of northern Europe agave specimens will need to be grown outside in a sheltered, south facing position. They will be happy in most fertile soils except clay so long as it is extremely free-draining. If need be add plenty of organic matter and horticultural grit to the soil before planting. Raised beds or sloping borders are ideal. Some agave species such as the popular Agave americana can grow taller than 12 feet and can have a width of 6 feet, so position them in an area with little to no people traffic due to their sharp spines.

The most important thing is to make sure that the roots are not kept wet over the winter. If agave roots become waterlogged during long periods of cold they can easily perish. If you are concerned about the cold then you can always create a temporary polytunnel which will not only shelter it from strong winds and the worst of the cold it will also help to keep the soil dry.

For related articles click onto the following links:
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AGAVE PARRYI var. truncata
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