How to grow & care for Agave in a Cold Climate

Hi Guys 🙂

Here is a care guide on how to care for and grow Agave Succulent plants if living in a cold and wet climate during the Winter months like I do here in Ireland.

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A beautiful large Agave americana variegata growing inside the greenhouse at Winterbourne House and Gardens cacti and Succulent plant collection

If you are one of the lucky ones living in the Arid tropics like Arizona or Texas then you don’t have to worry about what to do when it comes to the Winter with your Agave’s, and you don’t have to worry whether you need to bring them into the house or not.

In this Blog I am sharing with you my tips on what I do to care for my Agave’s and also what advice I recommend for growing these beautiful plants both indoors and outdoors during the Winter months in a damp cold climate 🙂

What is an Agave ? 

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My Agave filifera planted in a Cactus and Succulent dish garden

Agave’s are succulent plants with beautiful rosette shaped succulent spiny leaves with sharp spines at the very tips of their leaves. There are around 300 different varieties of Agave and although there are a few that will flower several times during their lifetime, most of them will flower only once in their lifetime after many years sending out a large terminal flower spike and then die often leaving behind many offsetts at their base and seeds.

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An Agave victoria reginaea terminal flower spike at the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland, the Agave will die shortly after flowering but will leave many seeds to be propagated .

Agaves are mostly Mexican but occur also in the southern and western United States and in central and tropical South America.

Although Agave is often called a ‘Cactus’ due to its appearance and sharp spines it is not related to the Cactus family at all as it does not have areoles that the Cactus family have 🙂 Areoles are small cushion like structures with hairs and, in most varieties of cactus species, spines or barbed bristles.

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A close up of a areole on cactus, areoles are the small cushion like structures with hairs and in most varieties of cactus species spines. or barbed bristles. Succulents such as Agave do not have areoles, and therefore are not a cactus,

Agaves are closely related to the Lily plant and amaryllis families, and a genus within the family Agavaceae.

Agave’s are very easy to grow and are undemanding as both indoor and outdoor garden plants.

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A beautiful variegated Agave americana growing outdoors in Waterford City, Ireland and planted in a sandy well drained soil with two artificial but fun looking  cactus plants for a stunning outdoor display.

Here is a video that I have made for my You Tube channel Desert Plants of Avalon on How to care for and grow Agave in a cold climate and you can watch this video below :

Growing Agave’s in your garden

I have included a full list of many of the very hardy Agave plants that can be grown outdoors in a cold climate and I have listed them all at the bottom of this Blog 🙂

Many Agave’s are very hardy to grow outdoors all year round in Ireland and the U.K and in many states of the colder climates of the United States. Agave’s can look magnificent in the Garden planted out all year as long as they are growing in a sheltered spot and in a well drained garden or border or planted up on a slight mound so any excess rain drains off them and their roots very fast 🙂

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Frost on a Agave americana variegated growing outside in a garden in England, U.K

HOW TO CARE FOR AGAVE BOTH INDOORS AND OUTDOORS

Growing Agave in pots both indoors and outdoors:

Agave plants can look magnificent when potted up in beautiful glazed pots and placed in the garden or patio, they can take plenty of rain during the growing period from mid March until mid October as long as they are planted up in a well drained potting mix. I grow my Agave’s in pots and have them planted up into a cactus and succulent soil mix I make up myself of 3 equal parts of a soil based compost ( I like to use John Innes no2 or 3 ) horticultural sand and grit.

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My Agave’s that I have growing outdoors in my garden during the Spring, Summer and late Fall / Autumn. I bring them indoors during the Winter.

I have made a video for my You Tube Channel Desert Plants of Avalon on How to make Cactus and succulent plant  compost in 3 easy steps, this is exactly the same mix I use for potting up all of my Agave plants and other Succulents and cacti  too and you can watch this video below :

I re pot my Agave plants usually every 2-3 years and I find that this is suitable for them, however if they grow exceptionally fast and their roots start coming through the bottom of the pots or they grow top heavy then I will re pot then sooner than this 🙂

When re potting Agave be extra careful with the very sharp long spines that are on the end of each succulent leaf, they can sometimes be almost invisible to the eye but can be very painful if they stab you.

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My Agave filifera in my garden with its thread like stems and ultra sharp spines. these spines can be pruned off with no harm to the plant.

I fertilize my Agave’s with a Cactus and Succulent feed or Baby Bio, I normally use Tomato feed with my Cacti and Succulents because the high potassium helps to encourage extra blooming, but when it comes to Agave because they only flower once in their lifetime and only when they are very mature and then they die, flowering is not something I want to encourage with my Agave’s haha! so a normal Cactus and Succulent feed is best or Baby Bio does the trick and I would recommend to only fertilizer Agave once every couple of months from Spring up until early Fall / Autumn, this is with Agave’s in a pot, but if your Agave’s are planted outside in a border or bed you may not need to add any additional fertilizer unless your Agave’s show signs of yellowing due to insufficient nutrients.

The spines at the very end of the pointed leaves are very sharp and can be dangerous and care should be taken at all times when handling these plants. The spines can be cut off with a sharp and clean pair of pruning shears without any harm coming to the plants, but this is only necessary if you are growing Agave’s and you have young children or pets that could get harmed by the spines or you are growing Agave’s on a part of your garden that people walk close to and could get harmed by them.

Lighting requirements :

Spring and Summer :

From early Spring to mid Fall /Autumn Agave plants love as much sunshine as you can possible give them. If growing these plants indoors find them the sunniest window or position you can find preferably a South facing window, if growing these plants outdoors whether in a pot or in the border or bed place them in full sunshine or in the sunniest spot in your garden you can find.

I place my Agave’s in their pots into the garden in a south facing position where they receive plenty of rainwater during the Spring and Summer and right up until mid to end of Fall /Autumn where they receive plenty of sunshine.

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My Agave’s that I have growing outdoors in my garden during the Spring, Summer and late Fall / Autumn. I bring them indoors during the Winter.

Fall /Autumn and Winter :

From late Fall / Autumn and Winter Agave’s need to be kept as dry as possible to avoid stem and root rots and no water is needed to be given to them at all.

If growing Agave in pots they can be brought into the home and overwintered in a cool bright spare room, porch, conservatory or a cold greenhouse, Agave growing in pots can also be kept outside on the patio or balcony as long as they are the hardy type of Agave ( list at bottom of Blog on the cold hardy Agave’s ) and they can be protected from excess rains and severe frosts.

Cold hardiness with Agave depends on more than the air temperature. For most of the Agave varieties the most important factor besides the air temperature is how wet or dry the soil is when a frost or very cold spell occurs. Completely dry soil allows Agave plants to withstand much colder temperatures than they would be able to tolerate if their soil is wet.

To be able to grow hardy Agave plants outdoors in the garden successfully during the Winter months it is absolutely ESSENTIAL that  they must be placed or planted in a very well drained position such as a sloped rockery or border or bed and in a very sheltered spot away from excess rains.

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Cold hardy Agaves growing outside in England, U.K they have been planted in a well drained soil mix and on a high slope so any excess rainwater drains away freely.

Despite hardy Agaves being able to withstand many degrees of frost, I would strongly recommend that during spells of frosty weather or snow, that hardy Agave’s growing outdoors must be protected with the additional help of horticultural fleece cloths.

If all these conditions can be provided then there is a wonderful range of many Agave plants that can be grown both indoors and outdoors in a cold climate all year round, but please bear in mind that not all Agaves can survive Winters outdoors in cold climates but below is a list of 10 of the most commonest hardy Agave’s that are available to find in a lot of garden centres or online shops.

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A beautiful selection of Agave plants for sale at Urban Plant Life Garden Centre in Dublin, Ireland.

Recommended Agave’s to grow in cold Climates

1, Agave Americana

2, Agave Parryi

3, Agave Victoria reginea

4, Agave filifera

5, Agave bracteosa

6, Agave montana

7, Agave asperimma

8, Agave ovatifolia

9, Agave parrasana

10,Agave salmiana

Below are a couple of videos I made for my You Tube channel Desert Plants of Avalon of Agave’s growing outside in Birmingham City Centre in February and also a beautiful Agave in terminal flower spike at Dublin’s Botanical gardens here in Ireland in August and you can watch these videos below :

Cold Hardy Agave’s growing in the centre of Birmingham in February 2016

A beautiful Terminal Flower spike on a large Agave at The National Botanic Gardens of Ireland.

I hope that this Blog helps you guys if you love growing Agave and you live in a cold climate.

Thanks so much for reading guys and sending you all heaps of love and happy growing from Ireland 🙂

 

 

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