Agave stricta (The Hedgehog Agave)

Agave stricta

Agave stricta, also known as the hedgehog agave, is an excellent example of an agave that belongs to the family Asparagaceae and the genus Agave. They are also called foxtail agaves because of their sword-like leaves that curve like the tail of a fox, which makes them quite popular in landscaping among gardeners and horticulturists alike.

It may be one of the most popular members of the agave family and genus, but it’s very important to understand how to grow this plant properly to make sure you get good results.

A common misconception about agave plants is that they’re always large and tall. While agave plants like the Agave americana (the blue or century plant) are commonly over ten feet tall, many other types of agave are much smaller, including the hedgehog agave (Agave stricta). At three to five feet tall, the hedgehog agave requires little attention, making it an ideal addition to the novice gardener’s collection.

Agave stricta can grow to be quite large and live for decades, and can reach heights of over 10 feet tall. A native of Mexico and the United States, the hedgehog agave can tolerate cold weather in zones 5-10 and requires very little water when established in its natural habitat. In this article, you’ll learn about how to grow an Agave stricta yourself, as well as some of the best ways to use this plant in your landscape or home garden.

Origin and distribution

As its name implies, agave stricta is native to Mexico. Its native range extends throughout northeastern and central Mexico from northern Nuevo León in the north to southern Oaxaca in the south. In these states, it can be found on both slopes of Sierra Madre Oriental as well as in a number of isolated mountain ranges, including Sierra de Amula, Sierra de Huautla, and Los Tuxtlas.

It has also been introduced into Texas, where it grows primarily in Hidalgo County. This species is known by several common names, including Mexican aloe and pineapple agave. Like other members of its genus, Agave stricta produces an underground bulb that stores nutrients and water for drought conditions.

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As its name suggests, Agave stricta has an appearance that makes it look like a hedgehog. The plant is covered in sharp prickles. Although they’re not dangerous, if you rub up against one, you might have trouble washing them off your skin.

Interestingly enough, some people believe that consuming these prickles can help promote better hair growth! This isn’t recommended by professional horticulturists because of how toxic some parts of the plant are.

Agave stricta propagation

Agave stricta

The hedgehog agave is often propagated by cuttings. These cuttings should be placed in bright sunlight and with loose, well-drained soil. Give them just enough water to keep them from dying of thirst, but not so much that their roots get saturated.

Once they start sprouting roots of their own, transplant them into a pot. They may take a few months to reach maturity, but once they do you can pop off pieces to be planted in other pots or directly into your garden! If you don’t want to bother waiting for them to grow up, however, it’s possible to root agave cuttings in water instead. Just make sure they have good drainage and plenty of light.

Then stick them in a big bowl of warm water, about 90 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal, and wait for them to take root. Transplant them when they’re ready. It could take anywhere from three weeks to six months, depending on how many leaves are on each cutting and how fast your particular plant grows.

Agave stricta care information

Agave stricta

The Agave stricta is a great candidate for those who don’t have a lot of space but still want to grow agaves. It only grows about 1 foot tall and 3 feet wide, so it’s ideal for small indoor spaces, like apartments and patios.

The hedgehog agave is native to Mexico and prefers dry areas with full sun. As with most other agaves, it likes lots of water when it first starts growing but can easily survive on little water after that.

Light requirement

Hedgehog agaves grow at a wide range of elevations and prefer full sun. However, they can survive in partial shade, as long as there is not a lot of competition from other plants.

Soil/potting mix

As any agave lover knows, most agaves do best in very well-drained soil and not too much water. In fact, overwatering is one of the most common causes of failure with agaves.

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When planting your Agave stricta, select a well-draining potting mix that has some organic material in it for nutrients. Once you have planted your new hedgehog and it is outgrowing its current container, transplant it into a larger pot to give it more space for its roots to grow.

Watering

It is succulent, so water it lightly and infrequently. It should be kept on soil that dries out between watering. In fact, over-watering can cause root rot, as it has no way to get rid of excess water as non-succulent plants do. You want to keep it in an area where its roots will not sit in water for long periods of time.

If you notice your plant’s leaves turning yellow or brown, you are probably overwatering it.

When you first bring your agave home from a nursery or garden center, don’t worry about watering it for several weeks; let its roots adjust to their new environment before watering them again.

Fertilizer

If you want to use fertilizer on your Agave stricta, we recommend using a product that is high in nitrogen. Products high in nitrogen are excellent for producing foliage and are often sold as bloom fertilizers.

Don’t overdo it with nitrogen, though; too much will cause excess foliage and prevent flowering, which is what you want if you’re trying to produce an agave bloom! It’s also important to note that you should not fertilize after August 1st or before July 15th, as these dates mark when growth begins and ends for most plants.

Temperature

In order to grow it outdoors, it should be planted in a protected area that offers full sun exposure and protection from wind. It is possible to grow them indoors as well but they should have full sunlight at least five hours a day.

They do best with temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit during their active growth period. Temperatures should remain between 40 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit during their dormant period which is typical during the winter months.

Humidity

The hedgehog agave doesn’t like too much water, but it does need a good amount of moisture to survive. This means that you should look for a soil mixture that drains well and provides plenty of air in order to avoid overwatering. The soil can be sandy or well-draining clay loam, although gardeners will usually mix in more organic matter with their clay soil. Make sure that your plant doesn’t dry out!

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The ideal humidity range is 40 to 60 percent. In order to maintain these levels, you should mist your plant every day or two. You can also set up a humidifier nearby, but make sure that it doesn’t drip onto your plant and rot its roots.

Pruning

It is generally agreed that Agave stricta should be severely pruned back every few years, most likely in late winter or early spring. This can be a somewhat harrowing task since many of these plants develop very hard, sharp leaves as they mature.

Since you may need to climb a ladder to reach some of them, take care when working around these species and wear heavy leather gloves if possible. The long-term benefit is worth it; without regular pruning, these plants are prone to severe stress or death from rot or injury.

When to repot

Agave stricta

Agave stricta is a slow-growing plant that needs repotting every few years. You should repot it when new growth slows or ceases and roots have become tatty.

This plant will tolerate several years of neglect and can be neglected for long periods without ill effects, making it perfect for those who want to keep plants but can’t always look after them properly. It’s best to prune away any damaged roots before replanting.

Dormancy/Winter rest

The hedgehog agave’s flowering stalk emerges from its center during winter dormancy. This is called winter rest and is a natural occurrence in some species of agaves, giving rise to their common name hedgehog agaves.

The most important thing to know about these plants, however, is that they do not bloom year-round like many other agaves. Instead, they must go through a period of growth before sending up a flower stalk as seen above.

As such, don’t expect any blooms for at least 2 years after planting! After that time, if you have provided it with proper care, you should be rewarded with a dramatic floral display.

Agave stricta flower & fragrance

Like all agaves, the flowers of Agave stricta are borne on tall spikes that emerge from an underground stem. Flowering is triggered by exposure to increased day length; following flowering, a plant will produce several thousand seeds and then die. Seeds may remain viable in their red fruits for up to eight years if stored in cool conditions, enabling plants to disperse widely before dying.

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Growth rate

The hedgehog agave grows at a medium rate. It can take two years for it to produce its first leaves, but after that, it grows rapidly. You can expect it to grow about 3 inches per year if cared for properly. The plant will reach 2 feet in height after its first year and may reach as much as 4 feet within five years.

Toxicity

The sap of all parts of Agave stricta is acrid and causes severe irritation and dermatitis when in contact with skin. Contact should be avoided.

When honeybees forage on Agave stricta, it has been observed that they become dizzy, cease activity, and fall from their hives; some die outright from apparent circulatory failure while others recover in several hours but take no further part in-hive activities.

USDA hardiness zones

Agave stricta thrives best in USDA hardiness zones 8 through 11. If you live outside of these areas, you can still grow an agave, but it may require more attention and care. In colder climates, be sure to protect your agave from frost and temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also grow an agave indoors if you live in a cold climate.

Pests and diseases

As a succulent, Agave stricta is susceptible to pest and disease issues. Spider mites are one such problem, the little critters can result in yellow leaves with brown or red spots. Also keep an eye out for mealybugs, which tend to live in between plant leaves.

Thorough washing of your plant should dislodge both pests from their hiding places. If not, try reaching for insecticidal soap or dusting with sulfur to rid your agave of these tiny pests before they kill it!

Conclusion

Agave stricta is a nice addition to any garden, but it needs more light than some other varieties. And due to its rapid growth rate, you’ll need to trim back a hedgehog agave at least every year or two. These tips will help you grow your new agave and take care of it once it’s planted in your garden! If you do decide to keep one as a houseplant, place it in an area with lots of sunlight.