The agave deserti (desert agave plant) also known as the desert century plant, has one of the most unique and interesting life cycles of any plant in the world. This succulent plant grows to about 3–4 meters tall, with thick, fleshy leaves growing in rosettes from the ground up to this height, and then grows no more.
Agave deserti comes in shades of soft yellow and pink, making them an excellent addition to any desert landscape or home garden.
This agave cactus species can grow to about 30 feet tall, with leaves that may reach up to three feet in length on each side of the trunk. If you’re interested in buying an agave deserti plant, be sure to purchase one that has been grown indoors since they are poisonous when eaten raw.
Because they thrive in full sunlight and hot temperatures, they make excellent houseplants if you live in the right climate!
Origin and distribution
Agave deserti, a native of Mexico and Texas, is found in Southwestern United States deserts. This species was thought to be extinct but was rediscovered by biologist Daniel Gluesenkamp in 1986. It grows along arroyos and arid streambeds at elevations between 1,500 and 2,000 meters.
The plant may form clumps of rosettes up to 0.5 m in diameter or grow erect stems up to 3 m tall. Flowers are white to yellowish-green with purple markings on their inner surfaces.
Flowering occurs from March through May. In late summer, plants produce large numbers of fruits that resemble pineapples; these fruits can weigh as much as 15 kg each and are consumed by humans and wildlife alike. Biologists have observed that agave deserti serves as an important food source for animals such as deer, jackrabbits, coyotes, bobcats, and javelinas.
It also provides shelter for birds such as owls and woodpeckers. Like other agaves, Agave deserti has been used extensively by indigenous peoples for medicinal purposes. The leaves are boiled and eaten as greens, while sap from cut leaves has been used to treat wounds. The sap has also been applied topically to treat burns, rashes, and skin infections.
Today, Agave deserti is cultivated throughout its range for use in landscaping and conservation projects aimed at restoring riparian habitats in arid regions of Arizona, California, and Nevada.
Agave deserti propagation
Sprouting agave seed is a simple process that can be carried out by home gardeners. The seeds are removed from ripe fruits, typically in late summer or early fall, then cleaned and placed in a bowl of water to soak for a few days to soften them up.
At that point, they’re ready to plant in their permanent homes, outdoors in full sun and well-drained soil. They should be planted at least 1 inch deep and as far apart as their width suggests. Once established, these plants require little care other than occasional watering during dry spells.
In fact, Agave deserti plants are so hardy that some species have been known to survive droughts lasting more than five years! However, too much water will kill an agave just as easily as too little.
In general, it’s best to let nature do its thing when it comes to rainfall rather than trying to force things with irrigation systems. If you must irrigate, do so sparingly.
A layer of mulch around your plants will help keep moisture in the soil while also reducing weeds and erosion. It also helps prevent roots from overheating on hot days.
Agave deserti care information
Desert agaves are quite resilient when it comes to care and maintenance. It is considered one of the most drought-tolerant plants out there, so no need to worry about whether or not it will survive your neglectful ways.
The only thing you should remember is to make sure that you are watering your agave properly, it doesn’t like a lot of water, but it does need some in order to stay healthy.
Agave deserti prefers full sun to part shade. Desert agaves flourish in full sun, but plants that receive some shade from taller trees or buildings live longer and grow more slowly than those in full sun. In areas with hot summers and mild winters, such as southern California, many people grow agaves as landscape plants.
Although they are not frost-hardy (and therefore don’t make good landscape plants for cold climates), a few varieties tolerate brief light frosts and low temperatures if grown in a protected location.
Prepare a potting mix consisting of 1 part sand, 2 parts loam, and 3 parts peat moss. The Desert Agave is drought-tolerant, so regular watering isn’t required, yet its root system requires adequate drainage. Therefore, your soil or potting mix should have excellent drainage properties.
In other words, it shouldn’t take long for water to drain through your potting mix once you pour water on it. If your potting mix takes longer than 5 minutes to drain, you may want to add more sand and/or loam. You can also add perlite if you want a lighter mixture that drains faster.
The agave deserti can be watered once a week or every two weeks, depending on how much you water your other plants. As long as your plant is getting some light, it should be able to stay alive without any water for up to three months.
If you want to keep your agave deserti looking vibrant and healthy, try to keep a regular watering schedule. This will also make it easier for you when caring for indoor plants in general.
Agave deserti is generally grown in warm climates and requires little to no fertilizer; however, a plant expert from Palomar College recommends giving your agave a dose of balanced fertilizer with phosphate rock as part of every watering cycle.
Be sure to wear gloves while handling phosphorus rock because it may be harmful if touched or ingested. Phosphorus works by increasing overall growth, including new leaves and flowers, by helping roots spread out more easily.
Agave deserti likes warm, sunny locations in tropical regions. Do not place agaves in direct sunlight; instead, select a location that receives dappled or morning light for part of the day.
Desert agaves should be kept slightly warmer than other types of agaves and can tolerate temperatures as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit before they become stressed. Temperatures that are too low can result in them dropping their leaves to conserve energy.
In extremely cold climates, these plants should be grown indoors. When grown outdoors, keep them away from drafts or vents and consider adding an insulating layer over their roots if your climate is especially cold. If you live in an area with harsh winters, bringing your plant inside will help it survive colder weather.
Agave deserti can only tolerate arid or semiarid environments. Because of their natural habitat in regions with mild winters and extreme temperatures, they don’t need extra care or protection from the cold winter months.
But if you live in a climate with harsh winters, you may want to add insulation to help protect your agave from frost damage during freezing temperatures.
The ideal humidity range is 40 to 60 percent. If your home falls outside of that range, you can use a humidifier or dehumidifier to adjust it.
If you’re using a humidifier, be sure to keep it away from your agave because they don’t like high levels of moisture. And if you have hard water, be aware that mineral deposits may build up in your humidifier and affect its performance over time. If possible, use distilled water or filtered water instead.
In late winter or early spring, cut back any suckers that formed at ground level in late summer or early fall. Remove no more than one-third of your plants’ leaves; otherwise, growth will be stunted.
Remove dead leaves to prevent disease and pest infestation. To avoid brown spots on your leaves, prune carefully so you do not damage your plant’s roots while doing so. Make sure to use sterile shears if you are cutting back infested plants.
When to repot
It’s time to repot your Agave deserti when it no longer looks healthy. Remove all soil from around its roots and examine them closely for signs of rot or other damage. Then prepare a potting mix that drains well and has roughly equal parts loam, peat moss, and sand; some gardeners also add perlite or vermiculite to their mixes.
To ensure that your new potting soil is sterile, you can pasteurize it in an oven at 170°F for 30 minutes. After adding fresh soil to your potting container, set your plant on top of it so that just a few inches of its base are still above ground level.
Fill in around its base with more soil, then water thoroughly until water comes out through drainage holes at the bottom of your container. Finally, give your plant plenty of sunlight and regular watering once you transfer it back outside—but be careful not to overwater or overfertilize as these conditions will lead to root rot.
It is a fact that many agaves will go dormant in winter and require no water or care. As long as they are not exposed to extreme cold, agaves can remain dormant for several months with little to no loss of vigor. They often emerge from dormancy, however, when temperatures climb above 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Growth patterns vary by species and weather conditions, but it generally takes two to three weeks for agave to regain full health after emerging from dormancy. In arid climates, you may notice your plant growing year-round; however, it is still important to provide adequate water during periods of active growth.
You should also be aware that most agaves prefer partial shade during their active growth period; direct sunlight can burn leaves and cause them to lose their coloration.
Agave deserti flower & fragrance
Agave deserti flower grows on top of a tall stalk and is completely unique, as it doesn’t have petals or sepals. Rather, it consists of numerous clusters of male flowers at the top and single female flowers in between.
The unfurling stamens create a dramatic display for pollinators, which are then led to one large seed pod containing thousands of seeds that eventually become ripe fruit when released by ants.
Agave deserti has a rapid growth rate of 4 to 6 feet per year. Adult Agave deserti plants may grow up to 7-12 feet in height and spread their rosette of leaves 12-24 inches across. It can be expected to live for 10-15 years.
These plants are warm-weather perennials. If a plant is moved, it should be brought inside before cold weather occurs as they are difficult to reestablish once the foliage has been lost.
Certain species of agaves contain a potentially harmful sap, so care should be taken while working with them. As long as you don’t ingest any part of an agave plant and take necessary precautions when handling it, there is little risk.
However, to be on the safe side, wear gloves and wash your hands after handling an agave plant.
USDA hardiness zones
Agave deserti grows well in USDA hardiness zones 8 through 11. It is not recommended for growing in USDA zone 7. If you live outside of these zones, you can grow agave deserti as a houseplant.
Keep it near a sunny window and water it when dry to keep your plant healthy and thriving. You will need to repot your agave every two years or so, as it will outgrow its pot with time.
Pests and diseases
Desert agave plants are often subject to a wide variety of pests and diseases. Aphids, mealybugs, thrips, leaf miners, mites, and scale insects, all like agaves. As do rabbits, deer, and elk that eat them. Spotted wilt virus is also common in agaves.
The Agave deserti is a succulent plant, meaning it is thick and fleshy and stores water to survive droughts. It has long, narrow leaves that form a rosette at its base. It grows in tropical areas of southern Mexico and Guatemala, but can also be found as far north as Texas. The plant produces large flower spikes that are up to 6 feet tall.