The Agave parryi var. neomexicana (commonly known as the New Mexico agave) is an evergreen succulent that belongs to the Asparagaceae family and the genus Agave, which contains approximately 1,200 different species.
The neomexicana variety of the species was first described by Schumann in 1825, so it’s not a newly discovered plant by any means, but that doesn’t mean it’s not impressive!
The new Mexico agave is a succulent plant native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Although there are many types of agave, the new Mexico agave has special properties that make it ideal for its use in landscaping and gardening.
Agave parryi var. neomexicana is a species of the genus Agave in the asparagus family, Asparagaceae, native to the Southwestern United States, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas; it grows at elevations of 100–3,300 m (330–10,800 ft).
A rosette of leaves 20–35 cm (8–14 in) long develops at ground level; there are no above-ground stalks and reproduction is by seed only.
Origin and distribution
Agave parryi var. neomexicana, also known as New Mexico Century Plant or Rock Century Plant, is endemic to northern and central New Mexico. It inhabits rocky outcrops in grasslands at elevations of 500–3,500 m.
The genus name derives from Greek and means pointed spike while agavoides refers to its similarity to a yucca or agave plant. Parryi honors William Hemsley Parry who collected one of its first specimens near Las Vegas, New Mexico in 1834.
The epithet neomexicana refers to where it was first collected. This species is related to two other plants: Agave americana and Agave pectinifera. All three are protected by law in some states because they are threatened by poaching for their fleshy stems which are eaten raw or cooked much like green beans when young, or used as an ornamental when mature.
Agave parryi var. neomexicana propagation
If you wish to propagate your Agave parryi var. neomexicana, take cuttings from a healthy, mature plant and remove leaves from three-quarters of each cutting.
Place in a well-drained potting soil mix, or on a warm south-facing windowsill if you do not have access to a propagator, which is necessary for ideal growing conditions. Do not place in direct sunlight or allow them to dry out for any period of time, as they will die quickly without their natural habitat.
Keep at room temperature, with temperatures ranging between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Water sparingly until roots begin to form; once roots appear, water more frequently.
The best way to tell when it’s time to water is by touching your agave: if it feels spongy or soft, it needs water; if it feels hard like wood, then it does not need water.
Agave parryi var. neomexicana care information
Agave parryi var. neomexicana is an incredibly durable, easy-to-care-for plant that requires little attention to keep looking its best, making it a great houseplant for beginners. In summer, it should be watered deeply two or three times per week; when winter arrives and days shorten and temperatures drop, it can be watered as infrequently as once every two weeks.
Overwatering leads to root rot so take care not to overwater at any time of year.
Agave parryi var. neomexicana plants are typically grown in full sun but can tolerate some shade. Try and find a sunny location for them, as they will require at least 6 hours of sunlight per day to thrive in your garden. They do not grow well if planted in hot climates because of their slow growth rate.
The first thing to know about soil or potting mix is that they are not interchangeable. Both are mixtures of various types of ingredients, but each has a very different function: Soil provides nutrients for plant growth and potting mix drains water away from roots so that roots don’t rot.
This means that if you put Agave parryi var. neomexicana in a pot with only soil, it will eventually die because it can’t drain properly. On the other hand, if you put agave in a pot with only potting mix, it will likely grow mold and fungus on its roots because there isn’t enough moisture for them to thrive.
A good mixture is one part soil and two parts potting mix, but always be sure to check your specific plant instructions before planting!
While a lot of attention is given to keeping your Agave parryi var. neomexicana healthy, it is also important to keep your plant well-hydrated.
Be sure to water any new plants thoroughly and ensure they are getting enough water while they adjust to their new environment; furthermore, be on alert for brown leaves that indicate dehydration and could lead to collapse or stunted growth if not treated immediately.
Finally, make sure you know when your Agave parryi var. neomexicana needs to be watered. If you can’t tell by looking at it, try sticking a finger into the soil about an inch down, if it feels dry there, give it some water!
Fertilize Agave parryi var. neomexicana once a year in early spring with organic, general-purpose fertilizer, such as 10-10-10. If your local soil is deficient in phosphorus, add 2 to 3 cups of bone meal per plant at the time of fertilization.
Do not fertilize plants that flower annually with compost or rotted manure; you may burn them with too much nitrogen. Keep plants watered during dry spells. Avoid overfertilizing and overwatering, which can lead to root rot and eventual death.
This plant does not tolerate freezing temperatures, so it must be kept indoors when temperatures drop below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
The low-temperature requirement also means that you can’t leave New Mexico agave outdoors during winter months if you live in a place with cold winters, like Zone 6 or above.
If your climate doesn’t go below 10 degrees F, then you should be able to keep New Mexico agave outside year-round and enjoy its purple flower spikes in early summer and late summer/early fall.
Agave parryi var. neomexicana doesn’t tolerate humidity well and does best in arid climates with low levels of moisture in the air. If you live in a humid area, keep New Mexico agaves outside or bring them inside only during winter months when humidity is lower and temperatures are below freezing, which will slow down their growth considerably.
The ideal humidity range is between 30 and 50 percent, but it’s best to keep agaves out of environments with high levels of moisture in order to prevent root rot.
The New Mexico agave has a thick, succulent stem that grows up to 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide and can be kept indoors year-round in areas with mild winters and low humidity. Keep plants away from heat sources such as fireplaces or radiators, which will cause them to dry out too quickly.
Often confused with its closest look-alike, Mexican agave (Agave salmiana), Agave parryi var. neomexicana is commonly used as a substitute for that species due to its similarity in looks and use as a food source for livestock and native peoples of North America.
Due to these factors, it can be cultivated with much less care than other species of agaves, though still should be taken into consideration when propagating or pruning your new plants so you don’t maim them beyond repair.
The best time to do any maintenance on your Agave parryi var. neomexicana is during dormancy, which occurs in the winter months. During dormancy, growth slows significantly, but it will not die if pruned then; however, if you must prune an actively growing plant during warmer months, say June through September, make sure to take only dead leaves off at ground level.
If done correctly and carefully enough, even large sections of leaves can be removed without injuring new growth coming up from below ground level.
When to repot
Repotting is a critical step to keeping your agave healthy and producing new plants, known as pups or offsets. You should repot an Agave parryi var. neomexicana when it becomes too large for its pot, or if roots have broken through the bottom of its container.
The best time to repot depends on where you live: In warmer climates, you can generally repot your agave in late winter or early spring; in cooler areas, wait until summer.
To complete its life cycle, an Agave parryi var. neomexicana must first reproduce sexually. It has a very short flowering period and once done it enters a state of dormancy or winter rest and then dies.
This provides protection against both freezing temperatures in winter and intense summer heat, which can damage or kill young plants. The plant uses photosynthesis to create food during its active growing season but when dormant stores enough energy to survive until spring.
The long-term survival of individual plants is facilitated by their being able to form large colonies with multiple heads sprouting from a single root system.
Dormant individuals serve as a backup if one head fails to grow again after dying back in winter. They are also able to colonize new areas by sending out shoots that develop into new heads independently from their original root system.
Agave parryi var. neomexicana flower & fragrance
Attractive flowers of yellow to orange. Like most agaves, Agave parryi var. neomexicana has a pleasant scent that comes from its volatile oils, which are released as a defense mechanism against grazing animals such as deer or cattle.
Agave parryi var. neomexicana grows up to 3-4 inches in its first year. Since it is a slow grower, it can take up to 15 years before producing blooms, but when mature will grow up to 25 feet tall and 10 feet wide. It is typically mature enough to start flowering after 12-15 years of growth; however, there are rare exceptions where specimens have flowered at 8 or 9 years old.
New Mexico agaves may be mildly toxic to horses and sheep if consumed in large quantities over time. There is a report of livestock poisoning after animals had been allowed to graze on agaves planted as ornamentals, but no deaths were reported (Jacobson et al., 1982).
In California, poisoning incidents occurred with Cylindropuntia spp., Opuntia spp., and Sclerocactus acanthurus after they were pruned too closely by landscapers and homeowners.
USDA hardiness zones
Agave parryi var. neomexicana thrives best in USDA hardiness zones 7 and 8, but can survive temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit if planted in a sheltered location. It is most commonly found growing along roadsides and on rocky slopes at elevations between 4,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level.
Pests and diseases
If you live in New Mexico, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to worry about pests and diseases affecting your Agave parryi var. neomexicana. These plants hail from arid regions and are able to withstand a wide range of conditions.
In general, no pesticides or fertilizers are needed for these hardy plants, although some growers choose to use them because they help boost yield and speed up growth cycles.
With these tips, you will have a healthier Agave parryi var. neomexicana in no time! A lot of people worry about how to care for their agaves, but it’s really quite simple as long as you follow what I said above. You’ll find your new agave thriving and looking better than ever!
There are a few other things that need to be considered when taking care of an agave plant, such as where to place it and how much light is needed, but those can wait until next time.