Agave Plant Care: 9 Easy Tips for a Happy Agave

Agave plants are native to Mexico and can be grown as a houseplant or in your gardens. They like lots of sun, well-draining soil and are very drought tolerant. Agave can’t tolerate the cold or being overwatered. I’ve owned these plants for over a decade so you can trust that I’ve made every mistake in the book and I’m ready to share that all with you. 

Here’s a quick walk through of how agave plant care if you don’t have time to read the article:

Scientific NameAgave americana 
Common NamesCentury Plant, Maguey, Agave or American Aloe 
Light NeedsLots of bright, direct Light 
Watering NeedsVery minimal watering 
Best Soil Type and pHSandy, acidic soil that doesn’t retain much moisture 
Native toMexico
Toxicity level Toxic to people and pets
agave plant care

Table of Contents

What Are Care Fundamentals For Your Agave Plant?

Bright Sunlight Makes a Happy Agave 

The agave plant loves neglect and ample sunlight, ideally you want to position your agave in full sun. That means a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight, where the sun can actually cast a distinct shadow.

Most likely this will be a south facing window, though some agave plants will tolerate a bit more shade. A good general rule is that if the temperature is hotter, they can stand a bit more shade.

To know if your plant is getting a suitable amount of light, check for signs of too much or too little sun. The agave leaves will scorch and have brown, crisp spots on the leaves and stems when they get too much light. The pot will also feel really light and the soil will be dry even though you watered it recently. 

If you find your agave plant isn’t growing much or the soil stays very soggy for a long time, they probably need more light. If it isn’t possible to move them closer to the source of light, you could supplement the sunshine with a grow light. They tend to come in a range of sizes and aesthetics. 

agave ariel view
Photo taken by Erol Ahmed on Upsplash

Minimal Water Is Key for Agave 

Adult plants are generally more drought tolerant than young plants, and this is no different in agave. The younger plantlets could even need watering every three – five days. But after they have established you should start to reduce how much water they get.

I like to do this gradually as it is less stressful for the plant. So I might water once a week for a month, then every other week, then once a month, depending on the weather and home environment. 

Too much water can lead to root rot and pest problems. Too little watering and the plant will suffer. However, it’s always better to under-water than overwater since you can water but you can’t un-water! 

You’ll know when your agave needs watering because the pot will feel lighter than usual, the soil looks dry, the plant looks more flaccid or the soil feels dry when you stick your finger into it.

agave in terracotta pot gray background

Here’s how to check if the soil is dry / needs watering:

When the top 2-3 inches of the soil feel dry and your finger comes out of the soil clean (the wet soil sticks, the dry soil falls off) it’s time to water your plant. If you don’t want to use your finger just use a stick or similar for the same process. Or you might have a moisture meter. In which case, keep your moisture meter in the soil at all times. Or stick it in to test the moisture levels every week or so. When the soil is dry, give the plant a drink. Make sure to not have the moisture meter too deep in the soil or the plant will end up under-watered. 

If you are increasing the humidity surrounding the plant then make sure to decrease the frequency of watering as plants lose less water in a humid environment. If the light levels or temperatures are going to increase then it can be beneficial to water your plant slightly more often.

Always Water Your Agave With Room Temperature Water

People seem to forget that plants are just like us. They don’t want freezing water or boiling hot water. When it’s warm out try some cool water and when it’s cold, try the water at a lukewarm temperature.

Never use cold water as it will shock the roots of the plant, meaning they can’t absorb water or nutrients as well, which is often fatal. 

If you are trying to fix having under-watered your plant then you could consider bottom watering. It will help to saturate the soil more evenly. Fill a tray or the sink with some room temp water and pop the plant in the water for around 20 minutes or as long as it takes to absorb.

One extra pro tip: before watering your agave plant, aerate the soil by breaking up any compacted chunks of soil. This will help with drainage and moisture retention in order to avoid root rot. 

Never Use Pebbles for Drainage 

So many ‘experts’ claim that putting rocks or gravel at the bottom of your plant pot will help to improve drainage, or is useful to stop soil from coming out of the drainage hole. This started when all plant pots were made of terracotta and only had one large drainage hole. As the water exited through the same drainage hole it could become waterlogged. By adding pebbles the water trickled through the hole more slowly and prevented water logging. Now our plant pots are much better and this is truly unnecessary. Ultimately this does not work and will actually worsen the conditions for the plant.

Agave Americana are Light Feeders

It isn’t necessary or recommended to fertilize your agave plants, when you feed them it can encourage them to bloom. This might be some people’s objective but actually, agave plants are monocarpic meaning they will die after flowering. However, if it’s been a long time since the plant got new soil you might want to start fertilizing. I like to use something with an even N-P-K ratio and dilute it. Follow the instructions on the individual fertilizing you use, if in doubt, dilute it further. 

Repotting With Coarse Soil and a Good Pot 

The best choice for a pot will be something with great drainage. I like to use terracotta or ceramic pots instead of plastic. Plastic pots are a lot less breathable and therefore the soil stays wet for longer periods of time. 

Plant Pots Compared by Material 
PlasticCeramic Terracotta 
Super cheap More expensive Super duper cheap 
Less breathable Breathable Extra breathable 
Least sustainable Sustainability varies Most sustainable 

The other thing to consider is your choice of soil. It’s best to use something super chunky and coarse which will drain well. Mix perlite or chunky bark in with your potting mix. This increases the air spaces in the medium which reduces the water left behind which can cause root rot.

Repot Your Agave Every Few Years

You should repot the agave plant roughly every two to three years. I would always recommend repotting during the active growth season which is spring to summer because it is much easier for the plant to adapt to the new pot. 

You’ll know if it’s time to repot when:

  • The roots have grown out of the drainage hole or are circling inside the pot (root bound)
  • The soil has dried out super fast, like it’s completely dry just a few hours after being watered
  • The succulents get top heavy and are falling over, repotting them helps to provide support

Propagate an Agave Using a Baby Plantlet

agave in wooden pot outside in the garden

If you’ve got tall leggy succulents, succulents on the verge of death, or want more plants for free then try propagating. Propagating succulents is super easy and quick, you can quickly expand your collection with minimal effort.

Propagating just means creating new plants from parts of the plant that are already grown. It happens naturally in the wild as pieces of the parent stock are divided off. The fact that plants are so easy to clone is obviously advantageous in terms of survival. More importantly, it’s fun to share my plants with friends and is one of the best things about owning houseplants.

There’s many ways you can propagate the agave plant, but you can read about those here.

For me, I prefer plantlets so I’m going to recommend the following method: 

Propagating by Plantlet Removal

This is by far the easiest way to turn one plant into two but cannot be done at all times. Baby plants often spring up under succulents or between the leaves and often appear once the plant is more mature.  Since these succulents are formed and rooted they can be separated and replanted immediately. 

You can either gently twist and pull the baby plants or you can use a sharp knife. If you use a tool, make sure to thoroughly clean it beforehand. You could risk the health of the mother plant if bacteria is introduced to the open wound. These little succulents are often called pups. Sometimes these pups are dropped into surrounding soil which then root where they fall. The plant basically does all the work for you.

agave outside in the sunshine

How to Deal With Common Agave Problems? 

Leaves falling off: extra water can cause the leaf to swell and fall off when first planted. It’s simple to remedy, just water the succulent less and the leaves will regrow soon. Leaves sometimes also fall off when it is super hot out. The extreme heat signals that there will be limited water so they drop leaves to preserve energy. Move the plant to a shadier spot and the plant should recover quickly.

Yellow leaves: yellowing leaves are a sure sign of a watering issue. Unfortunately the issue could be overwatering or under-watering. The way to tell is by checking the soil and inspecting the leaves. If they are shriveling and dry or wilting and the soil is dry too it’s probably an issue of under-watering. If the leaves are mushy and the soil is super wet, you’ve overwatered.

What Are Some Types of Agave Plants?

One thing to know about agave is that there is a very high level of variability even within clones of the plants, so it can be harder to identify which plant is which type because there’s such a variance.

agave attenuata on a wall outside

Agave Attenuata

Agave attenuata is a super popular variety of agave, it is commonly referred to as the foxtail plant or dragon-tree agave. It is a little bit larger than other varieties, generally around four or five feet tall and roughly six feet wide. The A. attenuata is completely spineless too which is quite unique within this family. Additionally, this is one of the agave which is polycarpic.

agave tequilana roots in the ground

Agave Tequilana

Agave tequilana is a very important variety of agave to talk about. This plant is super important for the economy in Mexico where its sugary core is used as the main ingredient in tequila. The plant produces sugars, primarily fructose which is harvested and used in the production of the spirit. This cultivar is characterized by its thin, turgid blue leaves. 

agave with white hairs spiralling

Agave Albopilosa

Agave albopilosa is commonly referred to as the white hair agave, if you see one it’s clear why! It is a super tiny variety of the agave plants made up of lots of thin leaves which form a cluster. The Agave albopilosa is a very slow growing succulent and never grows very large.

agave guiengola outside in the sun

Agave Guiengola

Agave guiengola is More commonly called Agave Creme Brulee, this succulent is one of the most visually striking from the genus and just of succulents generally. The Agave Creme Brulee is native to Mexico and grows much quicker than the albopilosa, it also grows a lot larger and can reach a height of 22” and can be up to 16” wide.The flowers of this plant tend to bloom near the base of the plant instead of from the middle which is what we tend to expect from monocarpic plants. The flowers are usually quite light but can grow fruit that sits in dark pods. The plant grows actively between early spring to autumn but the flowers tend to bloom when the weather is warmer in the summer.

FAQs About How to Look After an Agave Americana

Do Agave plants need direct sunlight?

If your agave plant is younger and less developed, then they will need a bit more shade, the older plants need a bit more direct sunlight.

Do Agave plants do well in pots?

Agave plants work really well in all sorts of forms, pots or gardens alike. They’re well suited to growing in pots or containers because they have a small root system so won’t end up uncomfortably crowded. It’s easy to keep the agave happy because you can move the pot around to be in the best position for sun and away from the rain.

Can Agave plants survive winter?

Plenty of the types of agave available are cold resistant and will be happy over the winter. Remember to move it away from any radiators or cold breezes from windows and doors. 

With These Tips It Is Easy To Grow a Happy Agave

The key thing to remember for any plant is to adapt your home’s environment to be as close to their natural environment as possible. For agave plants this means lots of long periods of drought followed by a very heavy watering, minimal to no fertilizing and lots of bright, direct sunlight. 

Any questions? Just leave us a comment and we can try our best to help you out!

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Photo of author
Katie Riggs
Katie’s love of plants began at a young age, in fact it was the first time she went camping and discovered the medicinal wonders of a dock leaf that the fascination with all things botanical took hold. Spending time in nature and frequently visiting the Kew Gardens, she became obsessed with the diversity of plants you could grow at home. Her favorite things to grow are herbs and vegetables outdoors as well as her prized fiddle leaf fig and calathea orbifolia. Hundreds of mistakes later she has become well versed in how not to kill a houseplant. Her passions now involve sharing her love of nature and all things green to help other people keep their plants happy and healthy.

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