Agave desmettiana variegata (Variegated Smooth Agave)

Agave desmettiana variegata

Agave desmettiana variegata, or variegated smooth agave, is an ornamental plant that looks stunning in any garden or landscape setting. This perennial succulent plant has long green leaves with bright yellow stripes and comes in many varieties, each with its own unique color pattern.

While agave desmettiana variegata flowers are quite rare, they’re so showy they’re worth waiting for! This guide covers everything you need to know about growing agave desmettiana variegata plants, from care instructions to best climate and conditions to tips on selecting the right variety.

The variegated smooth agave has marbled blue-green leaves with white striping and speckles of pink, purple, and yellow flowers that bloom in spring or summer.

These plants are native to Mexico, but they can be grown in full sun or partial shade with little water once established and hardy to minus five degrees Fahrenheit. Variegated smooth agaves can reach between 12 and 36 inches tall and 18 inches wide at maturity depending on the growing conditions.

Agave desmettiana variegata is a beautiful species of agave native to Mexico and Central America. Variegated smooth agave comes in two varieties, one with bluish leaves that turn yellow in the winter, and one with green leaves that turn bronze in the winter, and it’s widely cultivated as an ornamental plant due to its striking appearance and drought tolerance.

Origin and distribution

This species of agave is indigenous to Mexico and is commonly known as Variegated or Banded Agave. It naturally occurs in arid or semi-arid climates but has successfully adapted to many temperate regions. This striking flowering succulent can be seen in warm, Mediterranean climate gardens throughout California.

Variegated smooth agaves tolerate a wide range of growing conditions and require very little maintenance once established. The name desmetiana refers to Belgian botanist Charles Joseph Desmet who first described it in 1855. The specific epithet variegata means banded, referring to its distinctive leaf patterning that varies from plant to plant.

Agave desmettiana variegata propagation

Agave desmettiana variegata

Agave desmettiana variegata grow readily from cuttings taken at any time of year. The best time to take a cutting is during their period of dormancy, usually late autumn or winter.

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Take a cutting with at least one leaf attached and ensure that it has a good root system before potting into compost-rich soil. Repot every 2–3 years until they are well established and then can be repotted annually from then on in.

During the summer months, you should keep them outside where they will receive bright light but not direct sunlight. During colder months move them indoors to an unheated greenhouse or conservatory where temperatures do not fall below 12°C/54°F and water as necessary to keep the soil moist but not soggy.

It’s also important that you do not allow your plant to dry out completely during these periods; check your plant regularly for dryness and water if necessary.

Agave desmettiana variegata care information

Agave desmettiana variegata

Variegated smooth agaves should be watered when they are dry to the touch. This can be as often as once a week in hotter climates, but twice a month will suffice for those growing them in cooler temperatures.

To give your plant good drainage, consider adding more sand or other soil amendments that increase porosity. If you have no immediate plans to repot your agave, allow its roots to fill out their pot naturally and do not prune its leaves.

Light requirement

Agave desmettiana variegata requires a lot of light, but that doesn’t mean they like direct sunlight. Direct sunlight will burn their leaves and can eventually kill them if not acclimated to it slowly.

You should always try to place your agaves in full sun or partial shade if possible. They do not mind bright artificial lighting either and perform exceptionally well under grow lights.

Soil/potting mix

Agave desmettiana variegata plants are not picky about soil and can grow in very poor soil. But, to promote maximum growth, it’s best to plant them in a well-draining cactus mix. Also, be sure that your agave is planted in a pot only slightly larger than its root ball so that its roots do not have to stretch out further than they need to.

If you’re going to grow agaves outside, make sure they have great drainage. Like cacti, most agaves originate from rocky regions and need good drainage to grow. Most succulents can be grown in regular potting soil but some prefer a fast-draining mix of one part coarse sand and one part organic potting soil with perlite mixed in for better drainage.

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Watering

The variegated agave does not require as much water as some of its other relatives. It is a slow-growing plant, so it shouldn’t be watered often. Because of its slow growth rate, watering should not be done in excess and should never reach flood levels.

Only water when required to keep the soil moist at all times or every few weeks during hot weather conditions. When it needs water, make sure to soak thoroughly and allow excess water to drain from the pot after watering.

Fertilizer

Use a balanced, diluted fertilizer in your agave’s drip tray or bucket for best results. Water regularly with a liquid fertilizer during warmer months to avoid shock from excess salts.

Fertilize every six weeks during spring and summer, and once a month during fall and winter. Continue fertilizing about three times per year after planting until your plant reaches maturity. It is not necessary to fertilize mature plants more than once every two years.

Temperature

Agave desmettiana variegata plant can tolerate a wide range of temperatures from 10 degrees F up to 115 degrees F. They are particularly adaptable to direct sunlight, making them a good choice for outdoor container gardens and patio pots.

Be sure that there is adequate drainage in your containers, especially if you live in a more humid region. This agave will also do well indoors if you have it on display somewhere sunny or near an open window.

Humidity

There are many reasons why humidity levels in a room are not optimal, and it’s important to treat your agave so it can thrive in an appropriate environment. If your agave is struggling to grow and you feel that your home is too dry, place a humidifier near it. Don’t allow water to get on its leaves, you should mist them instead.

The ideal humidity range for agave desmettiana variegata is between 40 and 60 percent. If your home’s humidity level is too low, you can increase it by installing a humidifier or using a humidifier already in your home. If your home’s humidity level is too high, you can decrease it by running a dehumidifier or opening windows to allow fresh air to circulate through your home.

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In order to maintain an optimal level of humidity for your agave, monitor its leaves daily.

Pruning

Make sure to prune your agave after several years, when its trunk becomes too tall and thick. To do so, cut it back to only a few leaves from its tip; these leaves will then grow into new branches.

Once these branches are two or three years old, you can cut them back as well to help make room for more growth. These steps must be taken in order to keep your agave healthy and beautiful year after year.

When to repot

Repot agave desmettiana variegata in spring after leaves are well developed. Select a pot that is 4-5 times wider than the root ball, and fill it with a fresh cactus mix. Do not add topsoil to agaves or they will rot. Water thoroughly, then reduce the watering frequency until new growth stops; then resume the normal watering schedule.

In general, repotting should be done every 2 years for small plants and every 3-4 years for larger plants. Large specimens may require more frequent repotting. When growing in containers smaller than 12 inches you may want to move your plant into a slightly larger container periodically so that it does not become too root-bound.

Dormancy/Winter rest

Agave desmettiana variegata

During its dormant season, winter rest, or winter sleep, smooth agaves have a leafless and barren appearance. This is normal and expected; it helps to ensure that they don’t use too much of their stored energy reserves during their period of dormancy.

In frost-free climates where winter rest is not required for survival, a strong layer of mulch can be placed over the top of your plants to protect them from extreme cold and wind in winter.

As temperatures drop, so will your agave’s need for water. If you live in an area with heavy snowfall, you may want to consider bringing your plant indoors during the winter months until spring arrives again.

Agave desmettiana variegata flower & fragrance

This is an incredibly unique and versatile agave. It can be grown indoors or outdoors as a houseplant in colder regions, and even used to grow food! The flowers are pretty and resemble cactus blooms.

While in bloom, they emit a sweet fragrance like vanilla ice cream. In colder climates, you may want to bring it inside for extra protection over the winter months.

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Growth rate

Agave desmettiana variegata has a slow to moderate growth rate. This agave can grow about one foot per year. It takes a few years for it to reach mature size and even longer before it begins to flower.

Expect an overall height of 20 feet, although some of these plants have been known to reach 30 feet tall or more in ideal conditions. If you’re growing Variegated Smooth Agave indoors, your growth will be stunted, so keep that in mind when selecting your indoor space for placement.

Toxicity

While agave desmettiana variegata can be poisonous to dogs, cats, and other pets, they are not generally dangerous to humans.

However, if you have a small child or pet at home and are interested in purchasing an agave as a houseplant, we suggest that you first speak with your doctor about whether any of your family members or pets may be allergic to plant sap or latex.

USDA hardiness zones

Agave desmettiana variegata thrives best in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11. In areas with less than a 10-degree difference between summer and winter temperatures, agave desmettiana variegata will thrive.

However, in areas where there is a greater temperature fluctuation between summer and winter, agave desmettiana variegata will likely struggle to survive. The plant also requires full sun exposure. While it can tolerate partial shade, it may not grow as well or produce as many leaves.

Pests and diseases

Despite its fast growth, agave desmettiana variegata is susceptible to many pests and diseases. Mealybugs, whiteflies, and thrips can decimate an otherwise healthy plant.

When dealing with pests, check under leaves to find their breeding grounds, and remove them with a sharp pair of tweezers or a blast of water from your hose. Also, remember that some insects eat only certain parts of a plant; aphids might strip a stem but ignore leaves entirely, for example.

Conclusion

Agave desmettiana variegata is a great, low-maintenance houseplant that is also perfect for growing outdoors in frost-free climates. The plant will grow to be approximately 8 feet tall and wide when planted outside, but as an indoor plant, it can be kept smaller with regular pruning.

It will thrive under full sun or partial shade and requires very little water once established, making it a great choice for even novice gardeners.